News From Mali

Mali has been too much in the news these days, after decades of never appearing in the western press except by proxy as the location of Timbuktu, the most remote end of a travel route in the imagination.  Now we read of radical Islamists,  splits between factions and leaders, Tuareg tribesmen allying with the rebels and then back to the government, refugees pouring across the borders and uncertainty screwed down tight by approaching death. All this you can read about.

Here is something else: a letter from a Malian artist who has lived in Portland, Oregon for years, traveling back in his homeland.

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Today is January 16Friends in Malith 2013.  I have just returned from Baroueli visiting the Kone family that I met through David, Kay and Sasha Pollack. It was a spectacular time that Gaoussou Kone and his family showed me.

Gaoussou is a type of person my mother would describe as “A man with an extra eye in the back of his head.”  Despite his intense hard work in their little family restaurant, he also seems to be the ambassador of the town. He is the head of the farmers association and takes part in every small organization for the betterment of Baroueli. Gaousou Kone is also a respectful butcher in town because of his expertise in recognizing the healthiest animals.

Being with this man in his native town is like watching a problem solver at work. What really impressed me the most is the fact that he seems to have time for everyone, small or big. Although Gaoussou does not carry the credentials of a western formal education, he certainly has many great qualities that the town of Baroueli needs. He and I share the same philosophy– that other people are simply our own reflection. Kindness and honesty to them gives us wellness and stability. During my time there, Gaoussou ordered all of his children to show their school work to me daily. It turns out that those children are excelling in school.

Part of my journey to Baroueli was also to work on my project of preserving Malian stories. I met with a woman cooperative for one day to show me their talents in spinning cotton into thread for weaving blankets, and their storytelling abilities. The Idea of preserving Malian stories has been endorsed by all the groups of people and individuals I have met.

I also met with Alassane Diarra the leader of our poetry exchange program here in Bamako. He said that his students are more dedicated than ever to exchange poems with schools in the U.S.A.

Last night during my travel from Baroueli to Bamako, our bus was pulled to the road side to clear the way for the most crazy looking weaponry and war machines I’ve ever seen. Also, I was traveling with my Oregon international driver’s license since that seemed a little safer than my easily recognizable American passport. Yet I was always the longest held person on the bus at checkpoints, because they wanted to make sure it was a valid identity. Sometimes I felt bad, but other times I was understanding of it. This was the first time I was ever asked to prove my identity in Mali –so folks, the war is officially on.

I have decided not to go to Soni Cegni; instead to give the school supplies to someone else to deliver. Though I will not make it to Soni Cegni this year, one parent named Ntchi from one of the 7 villages whose children benefit from our KoFalen aid at the Soni Cegni school, has come to me and talked on behalf of all the 7 surrounding villages. He noted that these many years of KoFalen activities has cast light on not only the youngsters that go to school in Soni Cegni, but even the adults of the 7 villages. For them to write a simple letter, they no longer have to travel to Bamako or Kati, since their children can now do it for them. All this is due to the good things KoFalen has done to educate youth. He also said that they no longer pay school tuition because KoFalen already buys the textbooks, copy books, pens and many other things. The only thing parents of Soni Cegni and its 7 surrounding villages pay is 5 dollars a year for their soccer team and to support students from Soni Cegni to attend high schools across Mali.

Ntchi also said that the KoFalen interest in mask and cultural dance has encouraged a preservation program to grow. All the 7 surrounding villages of Soni Cegni have also started their own conservation of art and culture. Ntchi also said the girl circumcision education has taken root in at least the 7 villages surrounding Soni Cegni. Like I mentioned last week, they thank Ronna who talked with the scouts on this subject several years ago. Also the adobe stove building program has been helping many families. Ntchi ended his comments on KoFalen by saying, “From the celebration of Penda’s naming day 20 years ago, we have become one family.  This is one of the reasons others join me to regard children as symbols of peace and prosperity.”

Balafon of Beledougou 2007People in our neighborhood in Bamako gathered together to play the Ngoussoun balla of Beledougou (Balafon of Beledougou) to show their appreciation for the 15 Families Program. But they were notified by authorities that it is now illegal to hold events that attract children and adults at one place, as the country is trying to prevent spies locating and targeting people. The lead to this gathering was our dear friend Chebba Diarra the Balafon woman. However, the gathering will take place somehow to make a video for all in America to see their appreciation….. You can see why I decided not to go to Soni Cegni.

Here in Mali, things are getting more dangerous day by day. The infiltration by rebels into the South is real; bad guys are caught all the time. At the post of entrance of Bamako, upon my return from Baroueli, 13 people were caught with stockpiles of weapons heading north. After witnessing this reality, there is no more unnecessary roaming around town for me. Unfortunately, people are not well informed of what is going on around them; most are eluded from reality by what they hear from neighbors, friends and from the many radio stations whose purpose is to calm people down. But the minority listening to VOA, RFI, and BBC are correct with what they say to others.  For an example, people of Baroueli believed that we had won the war just a few days ago, and I was also starting to believe it until I heard the RFI station. That was the exact time when Segou was under a great threat.  I am really worried about this kind of communication.

Our tutoring program is back in session, and going really well here at the Ko-Falen Center. When I first arrived, the class was crowded with 43 students; we had to bring some regular benches for children to sit. But after Ronna sent $ 200 from KoFalen’s budget, we built 5 more student benches with desktops for them, plus new books for the tutoring program. Our education programs here and in Soni Cegni, the Youth Association program, and our program of preserving art and culture are giving me lots of hope.  They give me hope because I can see not only our early students going to college, but also the kind of positive influence we have been leaving in the minds of people about us as Americans. The chief of the village of Soni Cegni once said “The fruit that you enjoy from a tree that is far away from your continent, is only possible through the flight of the bat.”  Thank KoFalen for taking the role of the bat.

Love from Mali.

Wague

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And here is a lilting song of peace, sung by Singer Fatoumata Diawara [and] a group of more than 40 Malian musicians in Bamako to record a song calling for peace in face of the Islamist insurgence in the country.

“The Malian people look to us,” the 30-year-old said earlier this week. “They have lost hope in politics. But music has always brought hope inMali. Music has always been strong and spiritual, and has had a very important role in the country, so when it comes to the current situation, people are looking up to musicians for a sense of direction.”

The song, Mali-ko, which translates as Peace, brings together artists including kora player Toumani Diabaté, guitarist and singer-songwriter Habib Koité and the great Oumou Sangaré.

Diawara launched the song at a press conference in Bamako on Thursday as the battle for control of the north of the country appeared to be drawing nearer to the capital.

“What is going on in Mali?” she sings. “Do we really want to kill each other? Do we really want to betray one another? Allow ourselves to be divided?”

 

The lyrics, and in translation:
Refrain 1 :
Il est temps que nous nous exprimions.
Il est temps que nous les artistes parlions du cœur. Notre Mali
THE TIME HAS COME FOR US TO SPEAK UP ABOUT THE CRISIS IN MALI; WE, THE ARTISTS MUST NOW SPEAK FROM THE HEART ABOUT WHAT IS HAPPENING TO OUR MALI.

Haira Harby : 2
Maliens et Maliennes, donnons-nous la main car ce pays n’est pas un pays de guerre. MEN & WOMEN OF MALI, STAND TOGETHER ! OUR MALI NEVER WANTED A WAR.

Fatoumata Diawara : 3
Que se passe-t-il au Mali ? Paraît-il que nous sommes en train de nous entretuer, de nous trahir, de nous diviser. N’oublions pas que nous sommes tous du même sang (Rouge), de la même mère. Le jour que nous nous donnerons la main, le continent africain sera plus fort.
WHAT’S GOING ON IN MALI ?
DO WE REALLY WANT TO KILL EACH OTHER? DO WE REALLY WANT TO BETRAY ONE ANOTHER? ALLOW OURSELVES TO BE DIVIDED ? REMEMBER, WE ARE ALL CHILDREN OF THE SAME MOTHER COUNTRY WHEN WE STAND TOGETHER, ALL OF AFRICA IS STRONGER

Amkoullel : 4
Mettons nous ensemble, Maliens, Maliennes pour être encore plus fort.
Maliens, Maliennes, unissons-nous pour être encore plus fort.
MEN & WOMEN OF MALI, LET US UNITE AND STAND STRONG!

Doussou Bakayoko : 5
Le Mali n’appartiendra pas à ces gens-là. Ce grand pays ne sera la proie de personne. OUR MALI WILL NEVER BELONG TO THOSE PEOPLE,
THIS GREAT NATION WILL NOT BE THEIR VICTIM.

Kasse Mady : 6
Montrons au monde entier que le Mali est un pays de paix.
Nous sommes tous du même père et de la même mère
WE’LL SHOW THE WORLD THAT OUR MALI IS A COUNTRY WHERE PEACE REIGNS. WE STAND TOGETHER, WE ARE ALL CHILDREN OF THE SAME MOTHER COUNTRY

Sadio Sidibé : 7 Le Mali mon beau pays, qu’est-il devenu ?
WHAT HAS BECOME OF MY BEAUTIFUL MALI?

Baba Salah : 8
Tu as été le soleil qui a illuminé les 4 coins du monde. Notre Mali, sèche tes larmes, nous t’aimons!!!
ONCE YOU WERE THE SUN THAT SHONE ‘ROUND THE WORLD. OUR MALI, WE ARE PROUD OF YOU -DRY YOUR TEARS! WE LOVE YOU !!!!

Refrain 1 : les artistes
Il est temps que nous nous exprimions.
Il est temps que nous les artistes parlions du cœur!!!! Notre Mali

THE TIME HAS COME FOR US TO SPEAK UP ABOUT THE CRISIS IN MALI ; WE, THE ARTISTS, MUST NOW SPEAK FROM THE HEART ABOUT WHAT IS HAPPENING TO OUR MALI.

Soumaila Kanouté : 9
Je n’ai jamais vu de situation aussi désolante, de catastrophique. Ils veulent nous imposer la Charia. Allez leur dire que le Mali est indivisible mais aussi inchangeable!! NEVER HAVE I SEEN SUCH CATASTROPHE, SUCH DESOLATION. THEY WANT TO IMPOSE SHARIA LAW ON US. TELL THE NORTH THAT OUR MALI IS ONE NATION, INDIVISIBLE!!

Master Soumi : 10
Hier, le Mali est devenu comme un mégot de cigarette qu’on jette politiquement, on a tous pleuré, on s’est tous inquiété. Chaque jour, on attend que de mauvaises nouvelles, c’est déplorable. Il faut se ressaisir, peuple malien, sinon on sera la risée du monde.
OF LATE, OUR MALI HAS BEEN LIKE A POLITICAL CIGARETTE BUTT THROWN IN THE GUTTER. WE CRY, WE WORRY. EVERY DAY WE AWAIT ONLY MORE BAD NEWS, THIS CANNOT LAST! WE MUST REACT OR MALI WILL BECOME THE BUTT OF THE WORLD’S BAD JOKE

M’baou Tounkara : 11
Le Mali est un pays hospitalier et accueillant, la guerre nous fait perdre toutes nos valeurs et aussi beaucoup de temps.
OUR MALI IS A COUNTRY OF WARM WELCOME, WAR DEPRIVES US OF OUR VALUES. WE ARE LOSING TIME
Oumou Sangare : 12
Ecoutez-moi bien! Prenons garde, sinon, nos petits enfants n’apprendront pas la vraie histoire de notre Pays. On risque de le perdre.
LISTEN TO ME :
WE MUST TAKE CARE NOW, OR OUR CHILDREN WILL NEVER KNOW THE REAL STORY OF OUR COUNTRY. WE MIGHT LOSE IT.
CAREFUL NOW, OR OUR CHILDREN WILL SUFFER TOMORROW.

Koko Dembelé : 13
Tant qu’il y a de la vie, il y a de l’espoir. Enfants du Mali, levons-nous!!!
AS LONG AS WE LIVE, WE SHALL HAVE HOPE. RISE UP, CHILDREN OF MALI !

Babani Koné : 14
Je suis inquiète, j’ai peur. Nous sommes du même sang donc ne parlons pas de guerre. Quel avenir pour les femmes et les enfants dans ce pays ?
I AM TROUBLED, I AM AFRAID. WE ARE ALL OF THE SAME BLOOD SO LET US NOT SPEAK OF WAR. WHAT FUTURE CAN THERE BE FOR OUR WOMEN, FOR OUR CHILDREN IN THIS COUNTRY?

Afel Bocoum : 15 Le seul chemin de sortie de cette crise est le chemin de la paix.
THE ONLY WAY OUT OF THIS CRISIS IS THE WAY OF PEACE

Iba one : 16
Soyons unis, peuple malien, l’union fait la force. Arrêtons tous nos divergences, la guerre n’a jamais été une solution.
UNITE AS ONE, MALIANS ! UNION MAKES US STRONG. STOP FIGHTING EACH OTHER, WAR HAS NEVER BEEN A SOLUTION

Tiken Jah : 17
Mali, tous ensemble, Mali indivisible, Mali tous unis, la paix n’a pas de prix!!!
MALI UNITED, MALI INDIVISIBLE, MALI UNITED, MALI INDIVISIBLE. PEACE HAS NO PRICE!

Fati Kouyaté : 18
La guerre ne connaît ni femme, ni enfant, ni les personnes âgées. Cela ne nous ressemble pas!!!
WAR KNOWS NO CHILD, NO WOMAN, NO ELDER. OUR COUNTRY DOES NOT ACT LIKE THIS!

Kisto Dem : 19
Qui pouvait imaginer une telle situation au Mal i? Au moment où les Maliens pensaient à leur stabilité, d’autres cherchent à nous bouleverser. Dans le nord, la population a faim, nos femmes sont devenues des marchandises, elles sont battues et violées!!!!
WHO WOULD HAVE IMAGINED OUR COUNTRY THIS WAY? JUST AS WE MALIANS WERE REACHING STABILITY, OTHERS TRY TO DESTABILIZE US. IN THE NORTH, PEOPLE ARE STARVING, WOMEN ARE GOODS TO BE TRADED, THEY ARE BEATEN AND RAPED!

Nahawa Doumbia : 20
Nous ne voulons pas de guerre!!!! Non, pas chez nous!!!! Elle détruit tout sur son chemin.
WE DON’T WANT WAR !!!!! NOT IN OUR MALI!!!! WAR DESTROYS EVERYTHING IN ITS PATH.

Mamadou Diabate « 21 DG » : Maliba, comme l’a toujours appelé nos ancêtres, ne reste pas à genoux, relève toi et bat toi pour honorer les ancêtres
“MALIBA” AS OUR ANCESTORS ALWAYS CALLED YOU, DON’T STAY ON YOUR KNEES, RISE UP AND FIGHT FOR THE HONOUR OF THOSE ANCESTORS

Amadou et Mariam: 22
Ensemble, l’Afrique ne sera que plus forte !!!!! Avec plus d’avenir!
WHEN WE STAND TOGETHER AFRICA IS STRONGER .WHEN WE STAND UNITED WE HAVE A FUTURE!

Tamachek: 23 Le Mali notre grand pays, qui a été toujours un pays de paix et d’hospitalité, soyons unis.
MALI OUR GREAT COUNTRY, WHICH HAS ALWAYS BEEN A LAND OF PEACE AND HOSPITALITY, LET US UNITE.

Oumou Sangare : 23
Faisons attention, pour ne pas perdre notre pays. Faites attention, sinon nos enfants et nos petits enfants ne pourront pas lever la tête. Je m’adresse aux politiciens et aux militaires !!!
WE MUST TAKE CARE, THAT WE DON’T LOSE OUR COUNTRY.TAKE CARE, OR OUR CHILDREN WILL HANG THEIR HEADS IN SHAME.

I’M TALKING TO YOU, MILITARY LEADERS!
I’M TALKING TO YOU, POLITICIANS !

Habib Koite : 24
Maliens, c’est l’union qui fait la force !!! Ne laissons pas notre grand pays nous échapper !!!! Terre des grands hommes !!!!
MALIANS, UNION MAKES US STRONG. WE CANNOT LET OUR GREAT COUNTRY SLIP THROUGH OUR FINGERS. OUR LAND OF GREAT MEN!

Djeneba Seck : 25
Maliens, Maliennes, le monde entier nous observe, unissons-nous pour retrouver notre stabilité dans l’harmonie.
MEN & WOMEN OF MALI, THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING. UNITE TO BRING BACK STABILITY AND HARMONY.

Vieux Farka Toure: 26
Réveillons-nous ! Nous sommes du même sang, donnons-nous la main.
WAKE UP!!! WE ARE ALL FAMILY, LET’S STAND TOGETHER

Mylmo : 27
On est si apprécié dans du monde entier, pourquoi s’entredéchirer devant ces mêmes personnes ? Soundjata Keita et les héros de notre pays nous ont légué des valeurs, ne les bafouons pas.
THE WORLD ADORED OUR COUNTRY, SO WHY NOW ARE WE TEARING EACH OTHER APART BEFORE THEIR VERY EYES? SOUNDJATA KEITA AND OUR OTHER HEROES OF LORE TAUGHT US OUR VALUES WHICH SHALL REMAIN STEADY.

Amadou et Mariam : 27 L’union fait la force!!! Donnons-nous la main!!!
UNION MAKES US STRONG!!!!! LET US STAND TOGETHER!!!

Amadou Bakayoko : 28
Dans l’entente, le pays peut se développer!! Personne ne viendra nous déstabiliser et nos enfants auront un avenir.
IN HARMONY, OUR COUNTRY CAN DEVELOP. NOBODY CAN DESTABILIZE US, OUR CHILDREN WILL HAVE A FUTURE.

Nahawa Doumbia: 28
On veut la paix, la paix.
En Afrique la paix ! Dans le monde entier la paix !
WE WANT PEACE,
PEACE PEACE IN AFRICA !
PEACE IN THE WORLD!

La paix, la paix
PEACE, PEACE

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