Our next day in Segou was full of encounters…really cool encounters. First we went next door (literally) to meet a world renowned sculptor. His name is Almaghire Dolo and though he studied painting, he’s better known for his sculptures. Originally from Dogon country, his work reflects some of the Dogon people’s cultural beliefs as well as the country itself. He has created several series of small sculptures, which are abstracted Dogon villages. Much of his work also reflects nature, and he stressed to us that while he often creates abstracted natural images, he always tries to respect their natural form. In short, he was totally fascinating and I adored his work. Here are some examples:A mother and child, showing their relationship and the enveloping protection motherhood offers. One of his paintings showing a natural landscape with camels and termites (he really loves/is fascinated by termites and has several works inspired by their mounds). One of his sculptures depicting an (abstracted) Dogon village. He described this work as showing the transition from the visible to invisible world (i.e. the spirit world – which is more connected with the bush) – I’ve been playing with photo editing, so this pics doctored a bit…but I think it’s cool.)
Next we visited the mayor and learned about Segou’s history (particularly during the colonial era) and current situation before exploring the government building and having our photo taken with him. He was very nice and accommodating, and payed us every attention. Almost too much attention for comfort. His phone kept ringing during our meeting and every time he ignored it I thought “But what if someone important needs you? What if there’s an emergency?” But it was kind of him, and clearly the world didn’t fall apart while he was with us.
Afterwards we visited the Niger and talked about how the French colonists headed the construction of a huge damn – the first of it’s kind – on the river. As one would expect, they really just forced the Malians to build it, and naturally people weren’t happy about it. And, again as one would think, the forced laborers were poorly fed and many died during construction. The damn is still working and people cross the bridge often and police officers guard both ends of it, warning tourists not to take pictures. As we were leaving, however, they were under the impression that some of us had, in fact, taken pictures. They stopped our bus and proceeded to flip through all the pictures on one of the girls’ camera. Luckily they didn’t find anything and let us go. As we were leaving, however, an incensed Cherif hurried by the bus calling “We’re going to teach them a little lesson.”. He was not especially pleased when we saw him next. Apparently he gave them a piece of his mind – told them they were abusing their power to intimidate and that he could find all the measurements (down to the smallest screw) online. It’s kind of hard to imagine Cherif – who is indubitably one of the most energetic and jovial people I know – teaching this sort of lesson, but I hope I never get it.
Our evening was full and enjoyable. We ate that fabulous fish and were serenaded by some chasseurs. Then we were invited by the mayor to a gathering where music, contemporary art and a tress competition were shown. The tress competition was especially cool – women wore all manner of outfits and paraded in front of the audience and judges, bowing down to reveal the artistry of their coiffures. Some were incredibly complex and all were specific to different types of women (nationality, race, stage in life were the three most important defining features). It was really interesting and very flattering to have been invited.
As I said before, no one really wanted to head home…all of us had found something to interest them, be it the music, the art, the history, or just the calmer and more temperate climate. Nonetheless, return we did and we hurried gratefully to our houses after the long drive.