Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Dirty Linens by Uche Okpa-Iroha

Ten photographers and a writer left Lagos on a quest supposedly “to save the west coast of Africa from unnecessary divisions of geography, trade and human interaction, using photography as a platform.” The region is full of potentials both in human capital, energy and God- given natural resources, yet in self-imposed shackles.

The photographers’ mission was herculean: prodded by the confidence of their last adventure to Bamako in 2009, they sought to break all the obstacles presented by the physical borders imposed - courtesy of our colonial masters in 1884. Aware of the unseen problems along their path, they christened themselves the “INVISIBLE BORDERS TEAM”.

They travelled by road .First, the BLACK MARIA that conveyed them on their maiden voyage to Bamako. Unfortunately, poor little BLACK MARIA is still convalescing somewhere in the capital of one of the West African countries…waiting to awake from her partial coma.

Now, a new beauty named, SNOW WHITE, was commissioned for the trip. She glittered under the African sun too difficult to go unnoticed. Racing past rusty towns, fine cities and remote villages, it looked fit and sound. The beauty, initially ignorant of the characters in her belly, became agitated. The occupants rumbled, fumbled and agiter (a French word from agitate). Sick enough, SNOW WHITE had her first purge in BoboDioulasso because the dwarfs’ (as the occupants now referred to themselves) linens had become very dirty. So DIRTY LINENS comically called “Dirty LINENS “had to be washed. The dwarfs became less by one: that one couldn’t stand it, was stretched to the limits and decided to ABANDON SHIP. What a pity!!!.

The dwarfs had choked SNOW WHITE with a lot of Iyalamiyas and Gbalagbala filokes (please read our earlier blogs for enlightenment on these peculiar terms). The space became so choked, it couldn’t contain them and consequently linens had to be washed in public! Yes in public! At several intervals.

In Africa, eras and epochs come and go, rise and fall. It was now evident amongst the dwarfs that the era of washing of DIRTY LINENS had just begun. SNOW WHITES thought-pattern had now become a bit suspect and warped: “Am I having engine fatigue or malaria” She asked? The hallucinations continued as the dwarfs washed more DIRTY LINENS in her belly.

Egos clashed and tempers flared. SNOW WHITE sneezed, coughed and became feverish but still, managed to coast along her trajectory targeting the 3142km that she set for her self. If only the dwarfs would wash their LINENS privately…

The dirty linens set us thinking: Are Africa’s problems due to DIRTY LINENS that are washed by the leaders and permeated to her people? Could it be that DIRTY LINENS were planned and instituted by the WEST to put the continent in some state of disunity, or are they self-inflicted wahala ?

“DIRTY LINENS” now become an INVISIBLE BORDER for the IB 2010 team as they zoomed into Dakar. Where have respect, dignity, love and camaraderie gone? SNOW WHITE was trying to rationalize this when two particularly close dwarfs erupted again in gbalagbala after a very pleasant dinner with one of our finest hosts in Dakar. The Eyfjallalokul (the Icelandic Volcano) could not compare to it. One threat after another lead to seniority and juniority claims which were now are tabled ungracefully before the other dwarfs. MR. CHAIRMAN had an onerous task before him. Thank God, he proved his mettle.

The IB team is still young, just in its second year, and expectedly, a lot of rough edges still need to be chipped off. The Invisible Borders Project is already turning into a beautiful bride, attracting a lot of suitors. The team is becoming more cohesive and focused. LINENS are a lot cleaner now as the very dirty ones have been already washed.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Images Of Dakar

"Nescafe Mobile" by Ray Daniels Okeugo

"A... Dakar" by Ray Daniels Okeugo

 "Posing Tree" by Ray Daniels Okeugo

"Super Hero X8 II" by Chidinma Nnorom

"Not Alone II" by Chidinma Nnorom

"All for You II" by Chidinma Nnorom

"Where Do You Choose" by Lucy Azubuike

"See the Sea" by Lucy Azubuike

"Flower Changed to Blood" by Lucy Azubuike

"Tyre Tire" by Lucy Azubuike

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Journey Through The Invisible by Emeka Okereke

For about ten days we’ve been on the road. Ten Nigerians – photographers and a writer, traveling across cities, towns and villages on the West of this beautiful continent!

When this idea first struck me sometime in March 2009, it came with a deep urge to experience the raw lands and diverse landscapes of the countries of Africa. Finally, this dream came through in November of the same year.

Today, here we are making the dream more and more real.

It has been an overwhelming experience, one that makes it inevitable to see ourselves as the proverbial guinea pig for an idea and vision we all share at different degrees.

I see it as a performance in which we are the performers, surrendering ourselves to uncertainty in other to ascertain the certain, leaving our chosen life behind for a one of fiction in other people’s reality, self-inflicted parenthesis of a sort.

Our physical and emotional limits constantly stretched.

Some are more elastic than others while one of us got to her yielding point halfway in the journey and took her leave back to Lagos.

This is social art

Like some cases in art creation, though the process might be a fiction, more like a staged act, the resulting experience is real.

It is this real experiencing that keeps me going when certain moments or incidents seem delusional.

When I see the end products of this project, namely: images, written materials, and numerous individuals met through networking, I can’t help but foresee the role this initiative will play in the reshaping of 21st-century Africa if only we remain consistent.

I have no doubt that this is a good thing. The question is: how good are we willing to make it?

Therefore as I sit at the front seat beside Sam the driver, watching the long roads which at some point seem infinite, reveal landscapes, villages towns and cities, I say to myself “Nothing is further than one’s determination to get there”.

No matter how far the journey is, it will reveal a destination!

One day we will look back and reminisce on how it all began and it will seem so far away.

As if the past too is infinite.

...And Then There Was DAKAR!

Kayes .Tambocunda .Dakar

Kayes (pronounced kai) is a transit town. It looks like a rural area that has been forced quickly to live up to new responsibilities; so that while a sturdy bridge leads into the town, and an Ecobank branch sits prettily on the road leading to the town, and mini satellite dishes and communication masts adorn the roof of some of its buildings, and one can spot vestiges of the colonial incursion into this city, and the town even has a rural radio station of its own, one will just as sooner find, untarred roads, ancient looking buildings with crumbling mud walls, grazing donkeys, open sewage and other icons of rustic living.

We enter this ambivalent town- rural, but not quite, modern but not quite- and begin to search for a hotel with Wifi. We ask around and are told that there is no hotel with an internet connection in Kayes. Unbelievable! We continue our search until we are directed to the shop of a Nigerian, Joseph- a polite young man. He is not there, but his wife is. She is preparing food on an open hearth right in front of her restaurant, but calls her husband to come to the shop. Some Nigerians are here. ‘Restaurant Africana”. Restaurant Africana‘s doors are painted in the colour of the Nigerian flag with “Nigerian Restaurant “scrawled on them. Chriss comes to inform those of us still waiting in the bus that,” if anyone wants to eat hot Eba, they had better come now”.

Joseph is on his way; but in the meantime, we get the chance to eat another round of authentic ‘home” food. Joseph arrives on his bike and we greet and him, introduce ourselves and explain our mission. Joseph receives us politely and offers to lead us to a suitable rest house. After a drive to one or two places, we eventually settle for the rest houses at the Rural Radio House on the Kayes Plateau, across the old train station. The building is a refurbished-colonial -type house with chunks of granite quilted together as walls. The roof is garrisoned with strong iron frames and the flooring is made of solid wood panels. It now serves as the residence of workers at the audio –vision project at Kaynes , with left over rooms hired to guests like us. Behind this colonial building are newer, modern bungalows serving the same purpose and nearby, the Centre for Media and Communication – a cyber café overseen by Mike, an American working with the Rural Radio at Kayes.

Tales of the Unlikely

Mike was an unlikely surprise in the hot and hardy environment of Kayes. There he was greeting us respectfully, offering great customer service as best he could within all the inhibiting conditions of his environment – power trip-off in some of the rooms, water trip-off in others, and the underutilization of the cybercafé, plus breaking out in sweat because of the heat waves that keep Kayes as warm as a furnace, for several hours, even after sunset. Every observation we made, he said he would bring to the notice of the management of Radio Kayes. When we asked for water in buckets to enable our early take off from Kayes very early the next day, Mike personally fetched and delivered buckets of water to no less than of 4 us- and this well after midnight. His service delivery was quite impressive. Chriss noted aloud later, that the commitment to service delivery was an outstanding differentiator of European-American marketing culture.

The other odd surprise of our trip was Mark, a Londoner that we had found sticking out like a sore thumb at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle Bus Park in Accra. On sighting him, I drew nearer to explore the phenomenon. It turned out that Mark was a Baptist Minister signed on to do 5 years of evangelistic work in a nearby church in the Circle area. He had put in two so far, and was selling socks to earn a stipend, to keep body and soul together, because he did not like to accept handouts. He said he was aligning with the biblical injunction that says “he who does not work, ought not to eat.” Asked if he would accept a token from one of us, he simply smiled saying there was no need for that as it would end up being given away by him anyway. An interesting fellow who seemed to have crossed the borders of needs and wants, Mark was still pretty human: he will be heading to SA in June to watch the 2010 World Cup, “just for a change” he said, smiling shyly. To have no needs, other than for the bare essentials, is an invisible border that many of us are unable to cross, as Mark seems to have done.

Next morning is Saturday 8th May, and we set off very early, determined to enter Dakar. We move fast though the road is not so great in parts. Kamankole. Danfanbougou, Dylla. Bongonou. Alatina. Dar es Salem. Same Oluf. In no time, we reach the Diboli border at 7.05Am. The regular trio disembarks to do formalities. They return 25 minutes later. The border boys were somewhat soliciting for the “usual but unofficial”, but our team explained that they wouldn’t be able to play ball. They explained the project to the officers. One of them asked perplexed: ‘You haven’t swept your own homes, and you are here, trying to sweep others’.

Chriss thought it was a statement on point, but some of us disagreed: The Nigerian government had set up the EFCC and the ICPC to checkmate corrupt persons and these agencies had recorded a measure of success, in jailing some high profile persons, - that was governmental ‘ home sweeping’. We also thought it already apparent that the Invisible Borders Project was in aid of “sweeping our homes.’ We made no concessions to our country’s officials at the border: we made it clear that we would give no bribes. Back home, we had already observed that unlike our experience during the IB 2009, laudable changes had been effected at the Lagos end of the Seme Border. The stubborn request for corruption money seemed been receiving good attention. As noted in our earlier blog, a public service announcement by the Nigerian Customs Service was now being loudly relayed at intervals ,urging travelers not to patronize touts, or pay illegal charges, and listing authorized agencies at the border. Uche remarked that the admonition was probably working: he recalled that he saw no one being openly propositioned, or unduly delayed in a bid to wrest illegal fees from them whilst conducting border formalities on our way out of Lagos- a departure from our experience in the preceding year.

The truth that we have learnt from our own experiences crossing the borders or checkpoints from Lagos, Cotonou, Lome, Accra, Hamile, Kouri, Diboli to Kidira is that if a West African has correct travel documents, and is not carrying contraband goods, s(he) can choose and insist on not paying a penny in bribes. Corrupt officials will have no choice but fall in line once they perceive that one is adamant about NOT paying, and will have no choice than to perhaps sulk, but definitely let them through. Our insistence on getting receipts for EVERY payment made at the borders certainly helped to checkmate all corrupt intents. In the end, we only gave our post cards and posters which were received with friendly and respectful thanks.

The task ahead therefore, as we perceive it, is for governments and civil society organizations, to educate, educate and educate, the general public on the need to apply for, and get their genuine travel papers; this done, they would be on a good footing to stand their grounds not to do any bribe- giving.

We breakfast at Kidira where trailers line the road, and then move on, to Fete Nimbe, and Gourdry, about 12 kilometers to Tambocunda where SnowWhite suffers a flat tyre. We change to the spare, and use that chance to take pictures. At 12 noon, we enter Tambocunda. We need to buy a new tyre so we hunt for a brand new one. Tambocunda tyre sellers have mainly second-hand tyres for sale. We are out of CFA and must find an ATM. It takes all of three hours to find and buy a good tyre, fit it, get cash, and move on.

At Sinthou Maleme, the road becomes shiny with well-laid asphalt. We drive past Kafferune where a Rasta-drummer is frenetically beating his drum to submission at a wedding ceremony. Gaily dressed people are in the streets, attending weddings and other ceremonies.

A waddle of pigs trundle across the road and the driver’s voice rises in exasperated disgust: ‘Nothing wey we no go see o! Even pig dey run cross road! ’ The bus erupts in laughter. Nike says that the road is an invisible border of which the animals are oblivious, so the poor creatures should not be blamed for crossing the road at will, or expecting vehicles to concede the right of way to them, a though they were royalty.

We reach Sibasso, and then on we go through Gamboul, Bill, Mbelo, Nguith, Kuer Alphas, to Factick. We have already glimpsed the sea and know that we will soon be in Dakar. We drive on to Mbour and eventually, we arrive Dakar, meander our way, in stops and starts, to the Centre Culturel Blaise Senghor and meet the cultural elite who have converged on the city from all over the world, for the 9th edition of the Dak’ Art Festival.

By Adenike Ojeikere

Images of Bamako and en Route Dakar

"Red" by Lucy Azubuike

"Well Welcome" by Lucy Azubuike

"National Colour I" by Chidinma Nnorom

"National Colour II" by Chidinma Nnorom

"National Colour III" by Chidinma Nnorom

"Interconnection" by Chidinma Nnorom

"Bamako,Mali 112" by Charles Okereke

"Bamako, Mali 020" by Charles Okereke

"Bamako,Mali 094" by Charles Okereke

"Bamako,Mali 083" by Charles Okereke

"Bamako - Dakar" by Amaize Ojeikere

"Point of Blur Series - fast than camera" by Emeka Okereke

"Point of Blur Series - Tree and a dozen of Malus" by Emeka Okereke

"Point of Blur Series - The Chariot" by Emeka Okereke

"Finding Rest Series -Bamako" by Uche Okpa-Iroha

"A Great Hero" by Amaize Ojeikere

"Part of a Journey " by Amaize Ojeikere

"Obama en Bus" by Ray Daniels Okeugo

"Orange Transfer" by Ray Daniels Okeugo

"Best Coiffure" by Ray Daniels Okeugo

"But We are Close...Light at the End of the Tunnel" by Lucy Azubuike.

"Untitled" by Adenike Ojeikere

"Dangling Lights" by Adenike Ojeikere

"Butterfly Dreams" by Adenike Ojeikere

The Last Frontier by Uche Okpa-Iroha

He left his fatherland to somewhere called Saudi Arabia (they said) it was for the "Lesser Hajj" and medical check up. Lo, it ended up being a National Health Crisis (they said it was acute perica-something) or whatever.

It became a national quagmire; Oh, poor Nigerians! As concerned as they were and cried to see their beloved RULER (correction, leader). He was announced dead by the western media…confusion and more chaos. Poor little countrymen boiled; had he been kidnapped? No, only “receiving medical treatment”. Could it be that he is still on the ‘LESSER’?

Some people used the opportunity of his absence to take over the country; put it right in their armpit (they said it was the CABAL). Yes the inglorious. Fire and brimstone let loose, and poor countrymen were disheartened.

Some people refused to obey the dicta of that big piece of paper (they said it is called our CONSTITUTION). Crazy people! Na wah oh! (As they say).

Day after day, week after week, month after month, finally our beloved RULER (sorry, servant -leader) spoke to a western media house, just for a few seconds (sorry, MINUTES).

More confusion and wahala. That group called the CABAL devised a plan, hatched it and more confusion (they said he is playing squash and jogging for 15 seconds (sorry again, 15 MINUTES).

A ray of hope appeared when some ‘tomato and lily-livered ‘Ogas’ and ‘Madams’ could not act. A Lioness, bold and fearless sprung up. She single-handedly saved the Nation. She spoke her mind. No ox was gored (but some cried LYNCH HER!). This Country na wah oh!

Coup? Coup? The CABAL took over the airport. With immediate effect, airport lights were lowered and Oga 1 is brought in under the cover of darkness. Haba!

Another twist to the whole macabre story then began. Haba! A country so blessed and endowed yet wallowing in poverty cried FOUL! Scheme after scheme, tact after tact, they plotted, but eventually, the CABAL collapsed. Oga-Madam 1 refused to vacate the PALACE but now has no choice. God na God.

Let me save you the time; I too am ‘FINDING REST’, crossing invisible frontiers hoping to make a difference.

The Country is moving forward again, hopefully towards GENUINE NATIONHOOD AND GREATNESS. Could this be THE LAST FRONTIER we have to cross as a people towards a unified, peaceful and prosperous Nation? I HOPE!

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Our Stay in Bamako/ Journey to Dakar

The Road To Kayes (07/05/2010)

At Diema, IB team with Nigerian girls selling who sold us food. photo by Amaize Ojeikere

Today we hit the road quite early. We leave the Tamana Hotel before 6AM. Snow white heads out of Amical Cabral Street and winds its way through the Dossolo Tràoré market which is just stirring awake. A stench overhangs the market trail that is reminiscent of the Iddo Market in Lagos. Traders are beginning to set up their wares.

We go past the Parc National du Mali. Nearby, where a police road shelter is serving as a canteen where early risers are catching a meal on their way to work. The Musee Nationale Du Mali flits past, then the Zoological and Botanical Gardens. We mount the “Presidential Hill” where the residence of the President is located and its walls decorated with a string of orange lights that have the glow of fire from afar off. From this hill you can look down on Bamako.

The road sign shows that Kita is the next major city as we head out of Bamako. A policeman is checking papers. He tells us asks us about certain unstamped portion Snowwhite’s Laisse Passe . We are unaware of that, and say so. The man is adamant. Something should have been stamped. He asks us to follow him to the building to the right of the road. Uche, Emeka and Chriss alight and follow. We wait impatiently for about 30 minutes wondering about the delay. Traders are milling around with trays bearing expensive apples, bread and some locally made cakes. Arab-looking people and when they return, they inform us there had been a suggestion to pay a little cash for the stamp, but this being out of synch with our set principles for the journey, they declined. The alternative is to drive back into Kita to get the document signed. We are glad to do so. We enter Kita and find the station, get the document stamped without ceremony in less than 5 minutes, thank the officers in charge and continue our journey.

Ngalafounga. Taotome. Wolokaro. Didiem. Diema. Segue. Siradou .The expressway is full of sharp bends and the crossing of cattle, sheep, and donkeys. Some have been hit by speeding vehicles and we occasionally, encounter their carcasses on the road. We drive and drive sometimes seeing nothing, save herds of cattle. The heat is immense. Everyone falls asleep except Uche the Navigator, Charles the Provost and I. The vegetation is a terribly scorched wilderness.

At Diema, where we stop to refresh ourselves after about 6 hours of continuous journeying, we encounter a sight for sore eyes: three Nigerian girls aged between 16-25 who run a roadside restaurant business! We has alighted wondering which of the canteens to enter, when someone blurted out under her breath to Charles, “I beg o, Broda, I get food for here o!”

What? Pidgin English in Diema?! We can hardly believe our ears! Everyone is excited. We troop happily into the shack that served as restaurant. It is spick and span, easily the most decent roadside ‘shack’ we have seen thus far. Blue food warmers sit pretty on a table laid with blue nylon “tablecloth”. Flowery blue fabric has been draped around the shack walls lending a cool and calming ambience to the shack. It is unbelievably cool inside. It is noon and the sun is directly overhead.

The proprietor is…. jet black, bubbly and funny. She is the most senior and ‘mother’ to two other young girls - Agnes and Promise. She serves us home style rice (long-grained and parboiled, thank you!) and well-fried stew with BEEF! We are delighted beyond words. But what in the world were these girls doing here in Mali, selling rice and stew, in the middle of nowhere ? They replied us with a question: “Wetin go bring person come here again na? Na money we find come na! Money! Na money we dey find.” These are certainly Nigerians, if that joke about Nigerians answering questions with questions is anything to go by.

They are free-spirited and jocular, quick on the uptake and have lost the traditional shyness that younger people display before unfamiliar seniors. A Malian youth stands by the door winking and pouting silent kisses to the one called Agnes. She gets up, unashamedly before us, throws her arms around him and gives him a peck close to the lips and goes back to her seat to continue the discussions that was interrupted.

According to them, that they were on their way to Spain from Benin City, Edo State when their ‘trafficker” Okey got arrested by the authorities. The proprietor, Jetblack, says her mum paid a N50, 000.00 advances to Okey to help ferry her to Spain. They have no clue whether he is dead or alive and haven’t seen him in the 3 years that they have lived here. After Okey’s arrest, they became marooned in Mali and got to start this food making business through the help of a nameless “good- Samaritan”. They hope to go home in December but only one of them has a valid Nigerian passport. Are their parents aware of their predicament? Yes, said Jet-black, “we dey call them for phone”. We dey lucky o; many people from Naija dey come here o, and them just dey die, dey die!

“So why una come stay for dis kin’ dry place wey hot like so? Shuo, na money we dey gather na! If we gather am finish, we go come go Naija.” blurted Agnes. “And again, accommodation cheap well well for here”, added Happy.

We know that a lot more has not been said: they are another unknown statistic in the number of those who leave the country sometimes starry-eyed , sometimes hard-nosed, but all victims to the lust for money made, ‘by any means possible”.

Time to leave, so we take photos and give them our posters; some of us give them token gifts of money. They are happy and grateful and ask us to inform them about our next scheduled transit through the village so that they can cook us a delicious Nigerian dish. We exchange numbers, say goodbye and move on discussing human trafficking all the way to the Mali- Senegal border, till we enter Kayes where we meet Joseph and his Calabar wife from whose restaurant we eat yet another authentic Nigerian meal: Egusi and vegetable soup, cowleg, meat accompanied with Eba or Foofoo. Clearly, today is our lucky day.

by Nike Ojeikere

Traipsing Bamako (06/05/2010)

The Tamana is in essence like Bogobiri House in Lagos; only perhaps, larger- with a swimming pool in the courtyard. Its outdoors is shaded by a canopy of leaves from mature old trees; its entire space punctuated by traditional African décor and utilities: sturdy and neat bamboo wardrobes, basket bins, cute raffia lampshades, mirrors, traditional floor accessories that are all complemented by great cleanliness and neatness; a well-appointed kitchen, air-conditioning and good old hot water. What more could we have asked for? We feel at home immediately. The owner and his staff are agreeable.

The morning is cool after the rains of yesterday, and the very green environment of the Tamana adds cool to cool. Bamako seems at peace, the dust and heat of the previous day all washed away. Peace scents the air, but Bamako is not its only beneficiary: we awaken to the day to learn from that peace has come at last upon ailing President Musa Yar’Adua in the late hours of yesterday, March 5th…. RIP.

Still, the news breeds in some, a discourse of indifferent shoulders, raised eyebrows, hard knotty questions; followed by goodly admonitions, cynic laughter, an appeal for understanding and a new look at Nigeria’s future, with exasperated prayers said.

Financial Borders

Adama Bamba and Fatoumata Diabaté, winner of the Sekou Toure Grand Prix at the 2005 Bamako Biennale, appear at Tamana. They are taking us on a photographic excursion. They wait patiently whist we catch up with breakfast, picture-editing, blogging, and general discussions. We change FOREX to the local CFA currency. One of us, Emeka, needs a refund of the Ghana Cedis that he graciously loaned the team to help it evade change hassles. Amaize goes in search of a money changer. How many Euros equal a Ghanaian Cedi in Bamako? The money changer has no clue. He goes off to find an answer and returns soon after. There is no answer. Euros do not to Ghana Cedis in Bamako. What! screams Amaize melodramatically, as he begins to take the man to task about the ludicrousness of his statement: ‘You mean Euros can exchange for CFA but CFA cannot be changed to Ghanaian Cedis? In Bamako? In WEST Africa? Where then is the so called African unity, free trade and movement across the sub-region? That is a great pity indeed!

The poor money changer understands it all, he admits that it’s a sad matter indeed, but thinks the governments of the sub region are perhaps responsible. “There you have it!Blame it on the AU! Or abi na ECOWAS? Said Nik e. Uche Okpa Iroha is concurring with amusement. Amaize continues to gesticulate to make his point, “In fact, that is the topic of the next blog that I will write!” Chriss is laughing, jocularly hailing “Chairmoonu!” “Chairmonnu!” a comic pronunciations of the word “Chairman”.

We go out to town led by the patient Adama and Fatoumata, through the old market adjoining the Grand Marche. Colours are jumping at us from every side. Much of Bamako, and indeed Mali, is painted, dusted or coloured by drab, brown earth tones and though a few buildings do break the monotony with cream or milk hues, the ubiquitous dusty brown colour is the prime hue of the ancient looking houses. But what Bamako lacks in architectural colours,, it amply makes up for in the bright colours of its “things”: gas cylinders come in beautiful colours –red, lovely greens, brilliant blues and even yellow; barrows are painted in bold blues or sweet-sensation green with orange, woven carrier bags in saffron, brocades that are dyed fuchsia, pneumatic machines that are gleaming with vital orange- you name it, if it’s a bright, head-turning colour, Bamako’s got it! We ply the streets, taking photos of things bright and beautiful. We have to ask a lot of permission to take the most mundane items on the market trail. The market people seem suspicious of cameras and love to dodge them….We hop unto the local bus which takes us to the outskirts of Bamako.

Missabougou , Pond de Sotiba & the Babilikoroni Bridge

Missabougou. Fatoumata lives here with her parents Mr. and Mrs. Diabaté, a pleasant couple. We meet them, greet them, receive a warm welcome, rest our feet a while and go off to the long walk to the Pond de Sotiba. Mr. Jabate tunes his radio to BBC London and we catch a whiff of news relating to the late President. It is a relief to hear English being spoken with fluency.

The Pond de Sotiba has been created by the after-waters of the Niger River which flows through its natural course to form this Pond where the water does not care to hurry on. Bamako is enjoying a lovely sundown, the liquid evening sun dripping like watery magma. Children are playing soccer in the street. A herd of goats advance and go past. Next follows another herd of cattle. We walk through Missabougou, making photos. We have come to the power generation station that serves all of Bamako. The thundering waters of the Niger are rushing over one another to gush through the dam below. A little beyond, a huge construction collaboration between the Chinese and Malian Governments is ongoing. This is the New Babilolikoroni Bridge. Huge cement pillars rise to the skies like classical Greco-Roman architecture. We then proceed on a long walk across the old bridge, now lacklustre in the shadow of the new. People trudge to and fro. On both sides, glistening jet black rock formations have been sculpted to submission by the gushing River Niger at high tide. It’s a beautiful, sight with the black rocks giving off a surreal appeal as suns’ reflection bounces off the pockets of water collected on its pockmarked surfaces. Emeka notes that this would be a great site to shoot a musical video. Ray- Daniels concurs. The team takes great portraits of itself and the riveting river course, but not without a 9-minute quizzing from a ‘big man’ who is chauffeuring a Chinese construction worker in the back seat of his car.

Portrait of the team at Biblikoroni- pont de Sotiba, Bamako. photo by Fatoumata Diabaté

We walk and talk, awed by the landscape. A tangle of nylons, caught on the branches of nearby shrubs, some, taller than human beings, flutter in the wing blowing across the bridge. It is a beautifully sad sight. We are wondering how the pollution of nylon and other non-biodegradable rubbish , so common across African cities, towns and even villages will ever end?

We trudge on, hungry, tired but cheerful as Adama and Fatimata encourage us along the way. Finally, we see the road. We have probably walked for about 6 kilometer s today. Fatimata gives a cherry goodbye and we hop yet again on a Good Samaritan’s bus- that has no seats - to commence the ride back to the Tamana Chambres. It has been a great day and we have made treasured pictures depicting the invisibility of several borders…

by Nike Ojeikere