In northern Mali the sale scratches a sandy plain up to Burkina Faso. Here some 250 kilometers of falaise are home to the Dogon people, an ethnic group that lives generally undisturbed by civilization like they have been for a millennia, since they have settled here trying to escape Islam.
Risking to be forced to shorten our trip later on, we decided to invest an initially unplanned and quite significant amount of cash in a 3 day tour through Dogon Country. We teamed up with 2 swiss overloading by 4x4 and hired a guide to one of the best preserved ethnographic regions in Africa.
First we had to survive the road to Mopti, through the most dramatic sand storm so far.
The particularly strong lateral wind was blowing in sequences, we rode at less than 50 km/h. The wind preceded the rain, which was lucky, cause keeping a steady balance on a very wet road would have been difficult.
In Mopti we stock on food and water for the next 2 days and we negotiate the guide's fee.
Mopti is a semi-industrial fishing town and a tourist stopover, with shady touts and an unpleasant vibe to it. Give it a miss, except for the scenic port
Our itinerary was: Bandiagara, Djiguibombo, Kani-Kombole, Teli, Ennde, Indelou, Begnimato, Yabacalou, with 2 days of trekking and 1 day on our own vehicles.
All Dogon buildings are made of mud in the plain villages and of stone up on the cliff. The room on the right is the kitchen, the pots are actual chimneys.
Spices are dried on the terrace.
Typical Dogon ladder
Tree trunks are used for draining rain water.
The Dogon are a distinct ethnographic group, originated from the Siby area (Pays Mandingue) and settled here in the IX-XI cent., after the demise of the native pygmy population (the Tellem). The Dogon culture was first contactated by a french ethnologist in 1931. There is no Dogon alphabet or written documents, they record their history through elaborated mask ceremonies (the most important is organized every 60 years, the equivalent of a centenary, as the Dogon observe a 5 days week); the Dogon are animists and practice polygamy.
The Dogon elders enjoy chewing on cola nut (from Cote d'Ivoire); this is a bitter stimulant and appetite suppresser and the shape of the nut can be interpreted by the initiated.
Ropes are made from the bark of the baobab
Our guide in traditional attire, near a door decorated with animist symbols (the sacred animals are: the cayman, the turtle, the fox, the snake)
Some window blinds are decorated with elements from the Dogon cosmogony (the 8 ancestors, the fox divination etc)
Dogon art is manipulated to ornate functional details or to mark a sacred spot
The Kani-Kombole mosque. Even if some Dogons have embraced Islam, they keep their fetishes and rituals swell.
The pot where women make millet flour.
The ancient Tellem houses are used for cereals storage. The Dogon women keep their valuables in the newly built grainiers. The number of these building indicates the number of wives one has.
The bushcamp - amazing view of the Bandiagara cliff
The traditional hat can be worn in 3 different ways according to use
Togouna - some sort of covered agora of the Dogon people, exclusively used by men to discuss public issues under the guidance of the eldest member of the village (the hogon). It is only 1,20 m hight, thus preventing any attempt to stand up and quarrel.
A Dogon pepiniere
The house of the hogon in Indelou
Sometimes the elders are just chillin' in the togouna
Animist altar: the stone represents Amma, the divine god
School in Teli, on thé board a quintessential African line: "Elle porte des oefs sur sa tete"
Almost every village has a water source financed with European money
The climax of the tour was arriving and overnighting in Begnimato, a magical village up on the falaise
Natural togouna in Begnimato
Landscape artists are are jobless in Dogon Country
Ana the hunter and his big guns. He has 20 kids, is a christian and the brother of Begnimato chief
Ana & Roger looking into the abyss
Food for the tourists: chicken with rice. The Dogon believe that the whites survive on a diet of canned foods and spaghetti. We had to insist to even taste their food: to (millet mash with baobab leaves)
We say goodbye to the fabulous Bandiagara cliff and set off to Burkina.