Mali: How You Can Help

Mali MusicHello People,

I hope you can join me at this event I would love to see you there! Dana
As you know Mali, West Africa is at war. The eternally peaceful people of this country are in need .
Yoga Union and Ko-Falen are hosting a yoga class fundraiser to help the people of Mali through this tragic time.

We have the power to directly serve these families.

Ko-Falen is an organization based in Portland and Bamako, Mali which runs a rich cultural center for artists, musicians, and storytellers in Mali. They also run tutoring programs for children of the artisans year round. For each $200 we raise, they will personally deliver food and medical supplies to support a family.

In acknowledgment of their commitment to the global community, Todd Vogt of Yoga Union is leading a flow practice with special Malian music. This practice is dedicated to the support of the peaceful people of Mali and union with all.

Saturday, February 2. 5 – 6:30pm
Yoga Union 2043 SE 50th Portland 97215

Suggested donation $10
For more information <>

NOTE: and of course, if you’re not in Portland, your generosity can be there. Follow the link.  [wbk]

News from Mali: “If one forgets where he comes from, trouble will follow them to where they’re going.”

Dear KoFalen members and friends,

Things are much calmer in the Capital of Bamako.  French and Malian troops have taken back the city of Gao in the North, and they are heading to Timbuktu as I write.  We hope that this important historical city is returned to Mali without tragedy.  Despite the return to calm, life is still not back to normal.  The struggles to place an interim government in motion has made daily life a difficult task. Food and fuel prices have soared, making it hard for businesses and families.  After ten months of this, peoples’ resources are exhausted.  I am so thankful we can help in our small way, with our 15 Families food and medical aid, one neighborhood at a time.  But today, I will continue my story of visiting the village of Soni Tieni to deliver school supplies raised by donors to Ko-Falen Cultural Center.  Read more of this post

News from Mail: Poetry

Though war and armed assaults in Mali have been much in the news lately good things continue to happen. Here, a letter from a friend in Portland, Oregon.

 “I wanted to share with you a project we began this year in Bamako, Mail,  linking a Malian high school class learning English with an American class learning French.  They are exchanging poetry written in their 2nd language (actually for the Malians their 3rd or 4th language).  Mali is a land of song, poetry, proverb, where the major language bambara is filled with metaphors and proverbs in everyday exchanges.  So it was a natural to suggest this exchange of poetry.
“Attached are 3 poems from KoFalen’s  “A Fo!  Say It!” project.  Alassane Diarra’s class of Fili Dabo Sissoko High School in BKO participating in the poetry exchange with (Return Peace Corps Mali Volunteer) Stephen Lambert’s class of Metropolitan Learning Center High School in Portland, OR.  This will culminate in a Poetry Reading in April in Directors Park, downtown Portland free and open to the public.”
Mali 1

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Mali in the Maelstrom

I’ve been posting letters from a Malian friend who has been back in his homeland visiting from his current home in Portland, Oregon.  This opinion piece by Karima Bennoune. a legal scholar with wide-ranging experience in the Arab world, draws a a grim picture of what has been happening in Timbuktoo and other parts of Mali.

She also reminds us that the surge in assaults in northern Mali began as Kadafi mercenaries fled Libya with his downfall, and that although the covering rhetoric of the raiders is Islam and sharia, the behavior — assaults and rape of women– contradicts their claims entirely.


Since the jihadist takeover, Gao’s economy has come to a standstill. Every Thursday, there are theocratic show trials in Arabic, a language many residents do not speak. The fundamentalists focus on teaching the predominantly Muslim population of Gao “how to be Muslim.” Like Al Shabab in Somalia and the Taliban in Afghanistan, they have a morality brigade that patrols the city, checking who is not wearing a sufficient veil and whose telephone sins with a musical ringtone. Speaking to a woman in public is an offense; this ban has caused such terror that some men flee in fear if they simply see a woman on the street.

The principal had been attending public punishments to document the atrocities. This meant repeatedly watching his fellow citizens get flogged. He has seen what it looks like when a “convict” has his foot sawed off. Close to tears, he said: “No one can stand it, but it is imposed on us. Those of us who attend, we cry.”


NY Times


News from Mali

Baba Wague Diakite sends this from Mali where he is visiting projects he’s initiated over the years, from his home in Portland, Oregon.

Dear friends,

Don’t be sad for Malian people and the circumstance in Mali at this time.

Mali is here and will remain here.

Don’t cry yet–for you are the hope and the hope is the root and the root is the strongest part of anything.
So don’t cry, for you are to be the one that cries last.

Turn around to witness the task that is well done. Recognize we have been blessed by your positive human spirit and never ending friendship that you have given us.

We are grateful for the empathy of other countries.

If you feel angry, drop the anger and sadness and recognize all the great things you have done through Ko-Falen over the last 15 years.

One village–2 classrooms of 30 students–is now 7 villages–18 classrooms with 1700 students.
Some are going to high school; others are going to college.

At the Ko-Falen Center, our tutoring program gives hope to the kids of artisans and gardeners that otherwise would not have had the chance of an education.

We help sustain a group of young scouts that are taking leadership roles of their own.

My mother once said, “Never close your eyes because of one bad incident, as you may miss seeing all the good things around you.”

Make sure you also appreciate yourselves for the 15 Families Program that ended up helping 20 families for food and medical expenses. You have no idea how blessed and grateful everyone here feels about that.

I am already a believer of human inspiration and yet this is the most positive one.

There was a night that I did not really sleep, thinking about how respectfully people responded when Ronna and I called for help for my fellow Malians. I had desert tea with friends and my brother Madou. We chatted all afternoon into the night. I am sure all the caffeine did not help me. Here is what I felt that night.

The head of my bed faces a window open to the neighborhood’s little creek. Already at 6 pm the frogs begin croaking; by 10 pm crickets and other insects join in creating the sound of harmony. Then a donkey brays to announce 12 am to the dogs, so they can begin barking. By 1 am, an occasional rooster pitches in with their “Kokoriko” until 2:40 am. The donkey brays again and soon after, the night is filled with harmonious chanting.
The donkey brays again around 4:30 am–the same time I can hear the mosque calling and the noise fades into a different type of noise. The Faithful rousing to perform ablutions before prayer. Crying sounds of babies, and their mothers comforting them; then occasional passers by holding conversations, their sandals crunching small grains of red sand.

Dawn comes.

By 6 am I hear the pumping sounds at the well, and cars passing by. By 7 am you can see women walking to the market with their little girls holding onto their pagna skirts, youngsters trying to keep up. School girls walking in groups, with littler sisters crying to their older sibling to wait for them! And the boys come along, looking up at the height of my mango trees, hoping one mango will fall. But the mangoes have not yet ripened so I say,

“Hey, don’t even think about it!”

The Boys will turn their faces toward me, respectfully greeting, “Ini sogoma, Tonton Wague.” I respond, “Good morning,” back to them as they continue their walk around the corner, kicking up the dust of the dirt streets.

Then I realize at this time that Mali is still here and well. I renew my world citizenship and say “No matter where you are in the world, hearing these sounds of nature and babies and watching children just as they have always been, gives me a great deal of hope.”

So the greatness of Mali and Malian people are still here and hopefully you will witness this when you come one day. If you are the hope for someone, you are the spiritual guidance. In Mali the djelibaw/griots/oral historians often sing, “When you are the hope to others, do not start crying, no matter how difficult things seem: simply because you are the root that holds everything together. This makes you the strongest part of the event. So your time to cry is after all of the others.”

I structured this writing from the words I hear from my elders, and if I might have used them wrongly, may their souls forgive me, because I am just Malian.
May love be our tying vines,

Baba Wague Diakite

Ko-Falen Cultural Center

Baba Wagué Diakité at

News from Mali

I’ve posted a few communiques from a Malian friend, now living in Portland, OR, who has been back home during much of the recent violence there.  Here is the most recent.

For the time being things have calmed down here in Mali. Although normal daily life seems to be returning at government and private sectors, the market place rumors are still on about the scattering of insurgents that are now navigating though the Niger river Southward.The Africa cup in soccer has started this week. As usual, people gather around televisions everywhere–even in the middle of the street. This has been shifting people’s mind from the war and brings a bit of calmness.

I went to meet Djeneba (The young blind girl from the village of Soni Cegni that a Ko-Falen member sponsored to go the the Institute for the Blind in BKO last year). It was great to meet her. She is awfully quiet but seems to be a bright little girl. I asked her if she liked her school and she said yes, but would like to visit home more often. I told her to bear with the school policies for now and that she will have a bright future. I also promised to her that I will pay another year of her school fee. She is very happy.

On Thursday, I will be visiting a school by request to meet and teach drawing through story telling.

I may want to find a place in Portland to share my experiences of this travel all at once.  Any ideas?


You can see Wague’s work and learn more about him at his site, here. 

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.

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.

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