What a group! What a trip!
This whole experience started out by me talking with Ginger about someday visiting Mali to research bogolanfini. She promptly got enthused to return to Africa and to a country she has visited multiple times already. Her main interest has been gourds and how they are used.
Last year about this time it suddenly hit me that there was no reason why someday couldn’t be now! We started to slowly research tour companies, finding Toguna Adventure by June. They seemed willing to accommodate our interest in visiting as many bogolan artists as possible. When we discovered the Segou Music Festival with its promotion of bogolan, it seemed like a perfect way to end the trip.
We were content to go just by ourselves, but did open the trip up to anyone interested. A few nibbles, but no takers out of all our friends/students interested in mudcloth.
Suddenly, in October, as Ginger and I were buying tickets and putting money down, there was some interest from fellow Weavers Guild members. It seemed like every two weeks someone else joined the group. A California friend of Ginger’s signed on, too, and we were up to eight women by Christmas when Toguna Adventure emailed to say there was a woman in England interested in joining the group. She mostly wanted to get to the music festival, but would like to travel with us beforehand, too.
Our band of nine “beautiful ladies” (as our guide would call us) met up at the Paris airport and headed into the heat of Mali. An amazing amount of bonding can happen in 19 days in the heat.
The majority of our meals were held in common. Definitely our rooftop lodgings were communal. And we all helped each other in the course of bartering and shopping and hiking.
Everyone stayed fairly healthy aside from minor gastric problems, an earache, some blisters and, oh yes, the split toe incident (which I hear is healing nicely).
The van reflected our daily movements and purchases – luggage expanded, doubled and got heavier. I felt sorry for our driver and guide every time we moved to a new hotel.
BUT – No luggage was lost, no one got sunburned, very few mosquito bites, all the cameras worked (some better and more often than others!), the meals were quite hearty and tasty, we didn’t run out of water, peanuts were plentiful, we all learned some French and Bambara and Dogon words, the combined bogolan experiences were grand, the music quite enjoyable, little kids in Mali are like little kids everywhere, people were very gracious for the most part while we traipsed curiously through their homes, we generously expanded the economy of the country, and we all learned that there is a lot more to learn about Mali.
There may need to be a repeat of this trip!