Posts Tagged With: Village

Toumboudrane, an old place of healing and knowledge

As it was then, so it is now!

Toumboudrane, a village of old Africa. A place of healing and great knowledge.

Toumboudrane was founded over 110 years ago. When I started working in Nara in the 1990’s the chief of the village had already reached the honorable age of 88 years. To be old is good in Mali. Old age is an honorable state that deserves respect.

When I paid my first visit to the village to introduce myself to the chief of the village, a representative for the village chief had already been chosen to replace and assist him in decision-making concerning the affairs of the village. His advanced age and the fact that he was not capable anymore to attend to all the demands and situations that arose in the village and  that he was not well physically made this measure necessary.

Toumboudrane was also famous in the cercle de Nara for its Koranic school and for the healing capacities of the old chief of the village. Mentally ill and people with psychological issues were brought frequently to Toumboudrane and handed over to the care of the chief of the village. He had the gift to heal the ill by reciting the koran in their presence.

And people did get well again.

Like a hundred years ago. Houses are built still in the traditional way in the villages by using handmade mud bricks.

At the time of the projects interventions Toumboudrane counted 1115 inhabitants. Today according to a more recent census from 2003 it counts 1662 inhabitants. All the villages in the cercle de Nara have an old history but Toumboudrane was a village known for its spiritual and religious tradition as well.

It belonged also to the interventions zone of the Project LAG. Being the third biggest village of the municipality of  Nara it was chosen as one of the first villages where a “centre d’alphabetisation” was build in the 1980’s. This adult education center taught the people of Toumboudrane with the help of two local teachers, that were paid by the LAG, to read and write in their own language, Sarakolle.

Centre d'Alphabetisation in Toumboudrane

Interesting was that there existed now two educational institutions next to each other in the same village. The one was a koranic school with hundreds of years tradition and a reputation reaching far based on the Muslim faith, exploring the human soul and the many ways how to serve god and to become a better human being.

Koranic teachings under the shade of a tree. The old village chief sitting on the left.

The other one an educational institution based on Western principles trying to empower people by giving them the gift to read and write in their own native languages.

And it has to be said they co-existed well.

I can say it was a good thing that I kept a hand written diary through all those years. Looking at the photographs now brings back the intensity of these moments and encounters. I know now that I have met some great spiritual people and leaders in my life. Even if some of the encounters were short.

One comment I have written in that year caught my eye again. My conclusion at the time was, that both schools had so much to say and to give and that their knowledge and tradition combined could indeed help you to become a more humble, less pretentious, wiser and spiritually richer human being.


Categories: Africa, Development Aid, Islam, Koranic School, Mali, Nara, Nature, Participatory Development, People, Sahel, Tradition, Traditional Healer, West Africa | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Child of the North – L’Enfant Du Nord

Child of the North of Mali

A true child of the North of Mali.  Seen in Tichlatt, a Moor village in the Cercle de Nara.

Photography is my all absorbing passion since childhood. There is great beauty in documenting life for later. Mali and Nara belong to the few places on this earth were I often forgot to take pictures because life was so fascinating and intense.

So I just lived, dreamed and did not think about later. Like that I did not miss out on great moments.

Mali has to be thanked.

Categories: Africa, Berber, Mali, People, Sahel, West Africa | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Mousoolou – Women And Life

Women in a meeting in Keybane Soninke sitting on traditional wood carved stools

” Muso ” is the word in the Bambara language for woman.

Salif Keita, the famous Malian Griot with a voice from another world, has written a song ” Moussooloo”, a brilliant tribute to the women of Mali and to all the women of this world. I heard this song for the first time during my stay in Mali. Since then the melody and the words have stayed with me. Driving through the villages and seeing the mothers occupied with their daily work, was like seeing the song taking on form in front of my eyes instead of hearing it.

Africa is the mother of all nations and in this song he salutes the mother of all mother’s. Salif Keita sings about our mother’s and that we have to honor them and not to forget to visit them. That is important, because they do miss us.

We have to visit them soon because we do not understand the extent of our suffering yet to come if they are gone. Visit them soon is the message. Honor them and value them in their life time.

In Nara and the surrounding villages, women and men never joined projects meetings together. Things were discussed separately. When we had a meeting with the women of a village to discuss a topic with them that concerned their lives, an elder would sit with us and listen attentively to what was said, so that he could communicate the outcome to the men later.

A decision would only be made once the men had been informed and asked for their opinion. Although this seemed to foreigners often like a supressive tactic, the women had enormous power in their family and in their home.

Categories: Africa, Nara, Tradition, women | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nara au Sahel

Nara Main Street On A Week Day

The city Nara is situated at a distance of approximately 380 km North from the capital of Mali Bamako. Nara could be reached within a days travel, if lucky, which meant if there were no incidents like broken axles and several flat tires. In a worst case scenario it meant an overnight stay in the bush.

Nara is situated in a region called ” The Sahel “.

For centuries, the Sahel boasted some of Africa’s most influential civilizations. A narrow band of semi-arid land south of the Sahara, the Sahel attracted both Arab people in search for gold from the Sudan as well as Europeans looking for slaves from West Africa. The two influences merged with native cultures and traditions, creating a culturally complex and fascinating area. The Sahel is widely French-speaking and Islamic. The name Sahel comes from the Arabic language and means “shore”. Villages like Tombouctou, Djenne and Koumbi Saleh are famous today by historians and Trans Africa travelers.

Today the region is one of the poorest and environmentally most damaged in the world. The advance of desertification in large areas and the transformation from Sahel regions into “Sahara like” environments has seen the arrival and departure of many development projects and programmes.

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Where is Nara ?

Wooden Fence In A Village

The answer you would get when asking a Malian would be: up north !

Categories: Africa, Nara | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Way Home

Going back to the village after a long market day in Nara

At the time when I was living in Nara the weekly market in Nara was one of the most important cross-border markets between Mali and Mauretania. Every Monday people traveled in the very early morning hours from the surrounding villages to Nara.

Many used as means of transport  “charettes” – commonly called donkey carts. Some came with cars from as far as Nouakchott in Mauretania. Goods that had been produced in the villages were sold or exchanged against consumer necessities that came from the capital Bamako or from Mauretania.

I was in the favourite position that I was living in the  house at the end of the road on the right hand side. I just had to look over the mud wall and could see ” the villageois ” traveling back and forth.

Categories: Africa, Nara | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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