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  • Brian D. Hinson

Dogon Country in Mali



First in a series on Africa travel. Black Lives Matter.


Heading west-north-west from Bamako, the tropical capital of Mali that hugs the banks of the Niger, you eventually hit rocky desert of Dogon Country. Trees and brush are sparse, stony outcrops and mesas are common, and the air is dry and hot.


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Mali is one of the poorest nations of the world, and out in the rural areas it becomes more evident. But what the nation is not short on is smiles and laughter, music and dance.

This rocky place dotted with villages abounds with history. In the cliffs are stone dwellings of their culture from hundreds of years ago, easily defensible from invading enemies. Now the people live in peaceful thatch villages in their shadow.


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Outside income flows from their traditional theatrical masquerade dances and music. These rituals still have significance for them on their sacred days, which generally outsiders are not allowed. But they perform a version of their costumed stilt-walking, dancing, and drumming for the tourists.


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Art is part of the soul of the Dogon people. They are the only culture that continues to paint rock art. In reds, whites and blacks their snakes, lizards, and human figures dance on the cliff walls, on house walls. Some are brightly and freshly done, others wearing away under the sun, and still more are constantly repainted over and over again. In a shop, I purchased a carved wooden mask that still hangs over the entry to the kitchen.


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This trip through Mali was done in 2008 as part of an adventure group with local guides that took us out to the Festival au Desert, a celebration of music in the Sahara which will be the subject of a future blog.



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