Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The River Where We Live

While we were in Toronto, we caught a couple of the films at HotDocs, Canada's international documentary film festival.

We were fortunate to see The River Where We Live, by Sylvain d'Esperance. This meditative view of the river, the land, and the people living along the Niger Inland Delta (in the region of Mopti in Mali) paints a remarkable story of a people struggling to continue their traditional lives in the face of increasing desertification that is steadily eroding that possibility.

For me the most poignant interview was with a Bozo fisherman who said he was agonized that he could not arrange to get an education for his children, and had tried hard to find a family who would keep them in Mopti so they could go to school. He knew there was no future for them as fishermen as the catch steadily declined. And he had seen how his lack of education had made it impossible for him to get a job in the city. But on the other hand, the family always felt terrible when they stayed in town, and were so happy and healthy when they returned to their encampment on the river.

We had a nice chat with the filmmaker afterwards. One thing he told us that really struck me was that he really understood only very little of the interviews when he was in Mali shooting -- he let his interpreter conduct them in Bambara and Peul. Only when he was back in Montreal having his African friends there translate them did he begin to see the whole picture that he had captured.

Weekend in Toronto

We spent last weekend in Toronto, where we went to visit our old friends Jamie Radner and Polly Wells, and their great kids George and Claire.

Mostly a yack-yack sort of catching-up visit, there wasn't a lot of time to see the city and snap photos. But I was charmed by all the beautiful architecture from the Victorian and first half on the 20th century. I'm not sure what this grand house is being used for these days.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Les Moutons

Doria loves this picture she took just before the Eid in Bamako... everyone who had sheep to sell was trying to unload them for the holiday...

In other sheep news, this was our cousins' ram - I'm pretty sure he made it through the holidays as they've been breeding him for several years. Perhaps he's no intellectual, but he was quite interested in my camera.

These guys are not cheap. In the market at Mopti, I watched a woman bargaining for meat - she bought at around 12 thousand CFA per kilo - about 12 dollars a pound. Here in DC I just picked up some New Zealand lamb chops for half of that.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Don't need to go to exotic places...

to see truly remarkable sights. Here's a triple rainbow (hard to see the third arc in this photo - but it was there) over the Esopus Creek at the Ashokan Field Campus of the State University of New York. Took this a couple summers ago at Fiddle and Dance... that's George Touchstone in front of me snapping away.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Stu and me in the Jardin

Here's a moment from our trip that never ocurred until Rebecca got back home and fired up photoshop. Wonder what else we're missing?

Friday, February 9, 2007

This is where I came to be!

Every now and then when travelling you have a moment that reminds you of the images you had of the place before you'd seen it. I coined a saying that Doria agreed really captured this: "There is where I came to be". Here are three of those moments.

First, a glimpse out the window of our riad in Marakesh.

A stroll through the high Atlas. This is just an hour's drive from the intensity of Marakesh.

Well, maybe Marakesh can seem crazy and crowded, but the garden of the 12-century Katubiya mosque always filled me with a sense of peace. This is where I came to be!

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Djenne and Djenne jenno

The city of Djenne is known first and foremost for its magnificent mud mosque, built in 1906 on the site of several more ancient mosques dating back to the thirteen century. It's hard to communicate the experience of standing in front of this building - its sheer size coupled with the otherworldliness of its aesthetics...

Only a few kilometers away is the Djenne Jenno - Old Djenne. It's the original site of the city, abandoned when the town moved to its current site in the early thirteenth century. In the 1990's there was an active dig here, but work stopped in 1999. The site is remarkable - it is absolutely covered in potshards.

Here's a photo of Sarah taking a photo of one ...

We spent a couple hours wandering around, and could have stayed longer. But we were accompanied by the director of the little archeology museum on the site, who wanted to get back. I have a hunch he was along primarily to make sure we did not remove any artifacts.

Here is a fragment of a black pot with elaborate desgins etched into the surface...

Further along we came upon the ruins of the cemetery. Burial was in large urns, in foetal position. I was startled to see the occupant of this one so plainly visible. At first I thought it rude to photograph him-or-her, but then seeing how he was tucked in so cosy and sleeping comfortably all these hundreds of years, I took a photo anyhow.

But let's not leave Djenne on a note of death. It's a very lively town. We spent new years eve there - Doria and I downed quite a few Grand Castels, the Malian beer in the the big, big bottle. On New Year's day Sarah took this shot, which shows how the life of the town goes on not indoors, but on its rooftops and in its courtyards.