tata bambu and dekou
This is Tata Bambu, on the right, and Dékou to her left. The scene is an engagement party I was dragged to. I obviously did not mind, it was just that I had no idea what was going on until we got there – which is often the case in this simultaneously relaxed and wild country.
Dékou dressed me up in a turquoise creation with lots of little birds on it, and stuffed me in the car. I didn't find out until the evening after that it was in fact the engagement party of the daughter of Mali's president that we attended!
Dékou is the aunt of a friend named Moussa, whose grandmother's house I am living in. She is a big griot, and very generous with her voice, and you can tell just by how much money people stick to her during ceremonies.
Griots are the keys to the past here in Mali. In a place where history has mostly been passed down through generations orally, they sing about happenings in the past, and about personalities in the present. I read somewhere that they are sort of like a librarian, a gossipy grandmother, and a sidewalk folksinger all wrapped into one. Not too far off.
Bamako, Mali, November 2006