African Food

To Remember You Is Easy – My Malian Father

Isaac Traore – To Remember YOU Is Easy

Some things are hard to talk about. But to remember you is easy. You have left this world already, though you were young. But I pretend I am going  to write a letter to you. How could I know that you would leave so early? Or should I have known ? I should, because the statistics tell you about it. But you also think it is the person next to the one who is next and close to you!

The average life expectancy for a male in Mali is 49 years. Some statistics show figures up to 54,5 years.

Life expectancy has been defined as: The average number of years to be lived by a group of people born in the same year, if mortality at each age remains constant in the future. The entry includes total population as well as the male and female components. Life expectancy at birth is also a measure of overall quality of life in a country and summarizes the mortality at all ages. It can also be thought of as indicating the potential return on investment in human capital and is necessary for the calculation of various actuarial measures.

That sound so strange to me.

I think you were a little bit older than 50 years. So you just made it. And many others that I have known so well, are gone like you. Because the life expectancy of a male in Mali is 49 years. And it is what it is!

I know you so well because I spend each and every day with you. I spend hours in the car with you and I spend hours at your house with your lovely wife Assa, who always prepared a meal for us. You spend hours at my house. You were assigned to the project to help me coordinate the logistics and to drive when I was tired. Since I was tired so often, you  always drove. You knew everything but you were humble about it.

You drove me to the villages. You drove me from Nara to Bamako, you drove me back. You drove me on this road. Didieni was half way to Nara and it was the last village where you could buy something to eat and drink. We always stopped to buy sheep meat from the roast and ate it with onions from torn out cement bag paper. It was so good! The meat and the coffe with condensed, sweetend milk.

Didieni, Half Way To Nara

“You must eat”, you said to me, ” because you are really “pekele” ( thin) and you will not find a husband in Mali like that!” You laughed.

Boy, I  got fat later.

La Rotisserie Marocaine

La Rotisserie Marocaine had the best sheep and goats meat in Didieni. It rosted and baked for hours in the traditional oven. We took our meals in the little shack in the back. I bet you knew all the rotisseries marocaine in the whole of Mali. You have been around.

You said to me:  “You are so young. Is this not hard for you”. I replied: ” Very”

” Eat” you said, ” am gonna get that coffee of yours”.

It was logic that you became the Malian father for me. because you were so experienced, so calm and so outstanding as a human being. You could shed a tear from time to time and that was most unusual for a Malian man. You saw me fall in love, get sick, get well, you saw me cry and wipe my tears, you saw me work. You saw more of me than many others. Yes you did.

Issa And Daouda

You were loved by all. You and Daouda were friends.

You drove me all the way. And we passed by many others whose trip was so much harder than ours.

You made it easy for me and because of you I travelled well and safe. You drove all of us.

The Others On The Road

You drove me until I was home

My Home

You are what one calls “late now”. And I am late with my letter. But I imagine you are safe and travelling well now on God’s great road.

May Allah guide all your moves!

All I can say it is so easy to remember you.

Categories: African Food, Mali, Mali Villages, Nara, People, Sahel, Transport, Travel, West Africa | 1 Comment

The Bar Kouame – A Very Honest Place

Bar Kouame a truly honest bar

The Bar Kouame is situated close to the market in Nara.

I lived in the “quartier liberte” (the suburb of freedom) also called the “Maure quarter” because most of the residents were of Maure origin.  It was a two minute walk from my house to the Bar Kouame, whose owners came originally from Ghana. A pleasant and most of all very short walk under the last rays of the Sahel sun.

I have spend more evenings and nights of my life at Kouame than in any other bar or establishment on this world.

At the back room were aligned four old paraffin fridges with cold cooldrinks, water, water frozen in clear plastic shopping bags that when smashed against the wall made perfect ice cubes, beer and some very suspicious looking other drinks, a sort of Gin, already portioned  and filled in small plastic bags.

When entering the bar for the first time with my brother Chris Aka Ccideron he said ” This is a very honest place “.

The view from inside the Kouame Bar when looking over the Nara market

And indeed it was. A little bit archaic in appearance, it was however the place where all essential news of Nara and it’s surroundings were exchanged. It was the place ” where you could find out about somthing “.  An African palaver hut of a different kind.

Mali politics and world politics were discussed here. I was part of some of the most heated and interesting discussion I have ever witnessed. Nara gossip was turning like a whirl wind inside the airy, thatch-covered bar chambers. Music was played and match making was attempted all the time. And there were several corners were visitors could withdraw entirely and were not seen for the rest of the evening.

During the day Kouame was frequented openly by many of the soldiers of the Tamachek (Touareg) batallion that was based in Nara. I had come to Nara in the late 1990’s after the so called Tuareg rebellion had just calmed down and a fragile peace had been established in the Northern regions of Mali.

The Touareg ” rebels ” had been incorporated into the Malian military. About 200 soldiers were living at the time in Nara, many with their families. They were there to secure the region and keep banditism under control. A curfew was still active and everybody had to be inside Nara town at sundown. In practice this was taken more loosely of course.

But the Kouame Bar was the place to relax. In the evening many other non military citizens and Nara locals would sneak into the bar under the veil of darkness, drink, talk, observe othes and listen to music. The Kouame Bar deserves a book of it’s own and slowly with time I will tell you more of what happened there.

Categories: Africa, African Food, Bar Kouame, Mali, Nara, People, Sahel, Street Life, West Africa | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Preparing Dinner

Preparing dinner for your family is a laborious task in Nara. From a very early age young girls are trained and taught how to do it right.

In this picture mother and daughter are working together. When the ” mil ” is stamped and crushed in the mortar, it has to be done with rhtymn. Everything in Africa is about rhtymn. The women are in perfect harmony clapping their hands inbetween.

Categories: Africa, African Food, Berber, People, Tradition, women | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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