Pays Dogon

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Yawa, Pays Dogon, Mali, January 2007. Converser, blaguer, expliquer font toute la différence avec la population locale.

I took this close-up thanks to Gerhard. He was not the least shy, and he would talk, and tease, and joke with the people he photographed. They say you always find Germans anywhere you travel to, but those who go to these off the beaten track places are not the noisy types, they are nice, much better than the French. Our guide told us he had the latter in small groups who were bickering and not agreeing on itineraries and other communal matters, they specialize in cheap jokes at the expense of other nationalities, local people included, they think they and their country are the best, well, I hate them ! Just kidding, but I do prefer to struggle with my poor German (sorry GrandMa Gertrud!) than use my mother tongue with those other people.

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Nomburi, Pays Dogon, Mali, January 2007. La dance annuelle pour remercier les divinités de la bonne récolte.

Here, no problem with photographing, it was a kind of Thanksgiving ceremony for the harvest, all the villagers and the visitors were there. I shot four rolls of the colorful affair, masks, dancers, a complete orchestra, men on stilts, a young woman singing, a large audience, many, many kids watching in awe their elders reproduce the legends of their ancestors with the use of lots of masks. The event was closed by the solo dance of an elder, all dressed in black and wearing a funny cloth hat, he was followed by a plethora of women, many in dark blue attire, and those danced and danced, endlessly, tirelessly, well past dusk.

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Teli, Pays Dogon, Mali, January 2007. Le Pays Dogon était une des plus belles parties de notre tour du Sahara. Un paysage très spécial, la plaine avec les baobabs, la falaise avec les anciennes habitations des Tellems (qui ont précédé les Dogons), les sentiers se faufilant dans les rochers, un spectacle de danse traditionnelle, un temps clair et sec, une balade de trois jours avec des Allemands très sympas.

The Pays Dogon was a highlight of our Sahara loop, and for once we used our legs, a lot, about twenty kilometers a day, we were light, had left our luggage in Bandiagara, weather was great, as expected in January, sky clear, and up and down we went, up to the cliff dwellings of the Tellem (who preceded the Dogon) that extend on the 135 km-long falaise, down through very narrow and steep ravines, on the flat parts we would pass by vegetable plots amongst the rocks.

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Nomburi, Pays Dogon, Mali, January 2007. Garçon emportant une bouteille en plastique vide, à travers une plantation d’oignons et de laitues, principalement destinés l’exportation.

Kid passing by an onion and lettuce plot, carrying an empty plastic bottle a European hiker has given him. During that 3-day walk we ate pasta, rice, potatoes, with sometimes bits of unidentified meat, and everything was steeped in the Dogon sauce, with onions – they produce tons of them in those plots, and export them – tomatoes, and the inevitable Maggi cubes, except at our first overnight in Yabatalou, Mamadou le Magnifique, our guide, puts casually a small bottle of red sauce on the table, it’s hot he says, Gerhard drops a generous serving on his macaronis and eats beaming, my companion is all for hot sauce, she follows suite and takes a bite, I have never seen her face become red like that, tears instantly start running down her cheeks, and she cannot stop them, nor us from laughing.

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Nomburi, Pays Dogon, Mali, January 2007. La danse servait aussi récolter des fonds et les visiteurs étaient plumés à souhait, les adultes prélevaient des taxes, sur le spectacle, le logement, les boissons, la visite des anciennes habitations, les enfants réclamaient des cadeaux, des stylos, des bouteilles vides.

The dance was also meant to thank us, the white visitors, indeed into the late evening the drums continued near our huts, while a boy was passing with a book of donations, we had already shelled out 4,000 CFA for the festival, I don’t know how much for the beers, food, and accommodation, and a 20% overcharge for that particular village, and now they wanted more!Not only them, in those two days and a half of walk in Pays Dogon, we were assaulted by easily over one thousand children, no exaggeration, each yelling “cadeau” ad infinitum, even ignoring them and walking briskly they would stick to you and buzz around you like a fly for a kilometer or so outside their village, I was worse off, they would see the pen I always carry on my front pocket and all besiege me with shouts of “stylo”, how so self-centered man can be, especially when at survival mode, it is only me, me, me, it would never occur to them that there are hundreds more kids who want that stylo, let alone that I need it to take all those notes! I tried a couple of times to reason them, at the end they would just say, “but I need it”, I, I, I, in Chinguetti too, these three women surrounding my companion with their baskets full of handicraft junk, to please them we got a small bracelet and thought they would leave us alone, they became frenzy, the two others yelling “You have to buy from me too!” (not that the lucky one was not trying to sell us more). Here in Dogon, kids would even kick each other hard to get the empty water bottle a tourist throws away. Sad humanity, those transatlantic morons are dropping multi-million military equipment on deserts and cities, and killing thousands in the process, while here kids are fighting for an empty plastic bottle.

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