I love Mali. I don’t speak Bambara or any of the local languages. My French is just as pathetic as my grandma’s Azonto but none of that stops me from enjoying that beautiful country.
My first trip to Mali was on assignment for Novartis Foundation. I was smitten by the gracefulness of the people. The ease with which they lived life. The slow tempo and casualness of their existence. The purity of their hospitality. I didn’t meet a single person who seemed to lack self confidence. Yes, I photographed sick, dying, malnourished children as part of the assignment but that is not what stayed with me. Mali is one of the places I still go to in my head when I want to achieve tranquility.
But Mali was a ticking time bomb for a long time. It was a festering sore carefully bandaged, not to heal but to conceal a weak, failing, ailing government, an indisciplined and discontent army, a colony of disgruntled tuaregs contaminated with a good dose of extremists. As the bomb was busily ticking, the country still sat as a pauper with her calabash outstretched, constantly gazing into Gadaffi’s face and eating the crumbs from his elaborate feasts. It stayed as the ever-obedient puppy of the French, not even aware it could actually choose its own path.