Archive for October, 2010

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 26-10-2010

(click here to see original site)

You see, Africa is a very big place! Some projections of world maps (particularly the Marcator) make Africa look smaller than Greenland, even though it’s around 14 times larger. That’s why I’m a fan of the Peters Projection

One time, a friend contacted me saying “My son’s in South Africa, how easy would it be for him to pop over to Mali for a visit?” I didn’t like to point out that London is actually nearer to Mali than South Africa. It’s a big continent! Oh, and remember this blog post about how the world sees Africa? It is, sadly, a misunderstood continent in many ways.

Filed Under (Malian culture) by Rob on 22-10-2010

It is not uncommon to see words misspelt in West Africa. Remember the Champion d’Afrique bike and the Timberland bag? Well, here’s another one:

It’s meant to say “Interdit d’uriner” which means “no peeing” (against the wall). I like the arrow, which runs along the wall, just in case you thought the message only applied directly below the writing. Mind you, that would mean I could wee to the left of the writing, where there’s no arrow, right?!?

Meanwhile, the ‘dark patches’ on the lower part of the wall are, I hope, due to dampness from the rain…

Filed Under (Things to do in Bamako) by Rob on 19-10-2010

Visit the Place des Nations and brush up on your vexillology

It’s a pleasant drive up the hillside from the city and a great view from the top as well. Now, the flags are not always flying, so you may be disappointed on this account. However, there are well over 100 flags from all over the world when they are up, so you can have fun looking round them all and guessing the countries! It’s very quiet and peaceful up there and you can even sit in the gardens and have a rest.

To get there, take the road past the National Museum and zoo all the way up to the top, then turn left (towards the President’s house). The place is on the right – you can’t miss it! Here’s it is from above, courtesy of Tim’s Bamako Map:

View Tim’s Bamako map in a larger map

Now, we did find that some of the flags were on the wrong poles for their labels, but finding these is part of the fun trip, right?! Oh, and Poland was actually displayed as Indonesia (as it was upside down). Other vexillophiles will understand this, are you one?

Let’s here it for flag-lovers everywhere!

Filed Under (Malian culture) by Rob on 15-10-2010

…but not when they cut my hair!

It’s the fascinating and original designs and names I’m talking about. They often contain painted images of people with various haircuts, are brighly coloured or interestingly decorated and have unusual and entertaining names. All in all, African hair salons are interesting places to spot!

However, in my experience it is not always wise for folks such as myself to have a haircut at these places; it’s not necessarily that they cannot cut hair well, but more that many are just not used to our straight, fine hair! One time, I was in a salon for 1 hour 15 minutes, but came out looking like a scarecrow!

Now, that’s a nice one! And if there’s a queue, you can always pop next door for a coffee! And this somewhat ramshackle one is named after “Snoop Dog”! One wonders how many customers actually knows who he is:

Thanks for reading!

Filed Under (Malian culture, Things to do in Bamako) by Rob on 12-10-2010

Visit the AMAZING, newly-opened, 42 acre ‘Parc National du Mali’.

We did so last weekend and it is well worth the effort/money (1,500cfa entry for adults, 1,000 for kids under 12).

I must say I had to ‘pinch myself’ more than a couple of times; somewhere as well turned-out, as peaceful and as naturally beautiful is often hard to come by in West Africa (described by one friend of mine as “one big rubbish dump”).

Not only are their neatly-gravelled paths, fountains, waterfalls and a wide range of trees and shrubs (including a herb garden); the park also includes a tea room, a café and a very posh restaurant! Then there’s a sports centre and various keep fit apparatus around the park too!

The Aga Khan, whose Trust for Culture helped finance the park, also officially inaugurated the park on 22nd September, 2010. In his speech, he said:

“Creating green spaces in urban areas constitutes a significant improvement in the quality of the environment and people’s living conditions. They are leisure spaces and meeting places for all ages and all social categories, encouraging different sectors of the population to mix and integrate. And they have proved to be catalysts for economic activity and a source of employment, both directly and indirectly, particularly through the services provided for visitors.”

See the full speech transcript here.

Click here for a neat francophone article about the park (with some nice photos). Here’s the park (prior to renovation) viewed from above on Tim’s Bamako map:

View Tim’s Bamako map in a larger map

I also put a load more photos on Facebook (visible to all), so click here to see the album of 24 photos, showing the beauty of this park in more detail. Meanwhile, what are you waiting for? Take a picnic and have a fun family day out at the Parc National du Mali!

Filed Under (Malian culture) by Rob on 08-10-2010

…this one:

Yes, probably even more popular than Obama’s is the face of the late Argentinian Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara. Not really sure why – maybe Africans just like the image of a rugged-looking military type, maybe because Africans feel he stands for the rights of the poor or perhaps because of his involvement in the Congo in the 60’s.

In Bamako, you’ll see pictures of Che on the back of sotramas, on motorbikes and on sale at markets. I don’t wish to make any political comments about Che, but here’s one thing he said, which I like:

“Those who kill their own children and discriminate daily against them because of the color of their skin; those who let the murderers of blacks remain free, protecting them, and furthermore punishing the black population because they demand their legitimate rights as free men — how can those who do this consider themselves guardians of freedom?”

I notice a number of films have been made about Che, including this 4+ hour-long epic.

He’s certainly easy to draw – longish hair and a beret with a star on and everyone knows who it is!

Filed Under (Malian culture) by Rob on 01-10-2010

A few months back, I was privileged to see the blind music duo, Amadou et Mariam in concert in their native Bamako. It was, I must say, an entertaining, energetic and uplifting evening.

Now, I have to say that, compared to other Malian musicians, such as Toumani Diabaté, Bassekou Kouyaté or Ali Farka Toure, I didn’t find them as technically impressive or indeed as authentically ‘ethnic’ in their sound. Nevertheless, these are two very charismatic musicians who know how to keep their audience enthused!

They sing some great songs, including the famous “Beaux Dimanches”, “Senegal Fast Food” and “Taxi Bamako”.
Their latest album is called “Welcome to Mali”. Click here to see them performing the title song at the Fifa World Cup opening ceremony. They’ve also met Barack Obama, Stevie Wonder and have performed with Manu Chao and many others.

Other links:

Here’s their MySpace page – full of lots of treats!
Click here for their official website.
Here are their albums for sale on Amazon.
And here’s some more info about them on Wikipedia.