Writing the Journey Bobo Dioulasso to Bamako

Posted: November 13, 2009 at 7:43 pm

direction Bamako, photo by Unoma Giese

Monday 9th November 2009
Monday morning; and we are all up, dressed and ready to roll by 5:30am. We leave and head for the bus terminal in Bobo-Dioulasso. Formalities proceed as in interstate travel with luxury buses back home. Our luggage is tagged and stowed away. We commence our journey at 9.00am. All goes well until we begin to receive all manner of visitors as “attachment” passengers. We allow none in our part of the aisle as our laptops are stowed there and we want no damage to them.

The sun is an ever constant force, in this part of the continent. The sky is free of clouds and the sun bursts through in radiant glory. The sun’s energy zaps our energy. We sleep. We wake. We alight for border checks. We board the bus again. We pick up more passengers on the route including a ram. We can’t wait to arrive Bamako.

Expectations rise, dip, rise, dip… Bamako Bamako, where art thou Bamako? Almost twelve hours tick by and then, we arrive the outskirts of Bamako. Brightly shinning orange street lights announce the city. Tired, and tense, Bamako elicits different things to different people. For Chicken Feathers, “It is almost an anticlimax, having paid so high a price in time to reach it.” She is however willing to explore the surprises that the 2009 Biennale Africaine de la Photographie will unfurl.

Bamako looks like old, old Lagos trapped in a time warp. The buildings look as tired as we are. Immediately, one notices the flashing of a green neon crosses as one drive into town. It is Bamako’s way of designating its pharmaceutical stores. The flashing green neon breaks the monotony of the night.

photo by Lucy Azubuike

We have missed the opening ceremonies of the Biennale. But we are in time for the evening get together. We dash into our hotel for a quick check in and rush off to the Musee National -the National Museum – venue of the PUMA Creative sponsored get-together. Photographers of all hues across Africa are munching, drinking, dancing, chatting, hugging, and reminiscing.

Ah ha! Ah ha! We see a number of our compatriots – Bisi Silva – Art Curator and Director of the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos, George Osodi , Bode Akinbiyi, Andrew Esiobo, Abraham Oghobase- photographers, Mr. Ozolua of the Nation Newspapers. There’s also Antwyn Bryd, our adopted brother and Fulbright Scholar currently on a stint with the CCA.

From other places, there’s Sita Valloni of Congo- Brazza(ville), Pieter Hugo, Billy Bijoka of Cameroon who has flown in from France, Claude Agnel of the Foundation Jean Paul Blachere, Kenneth Montague of Wedge Curatorial Projects, the lovely Lucy Taiya of Cultures Finance, Simeon Ndjame from Cameroon, And so many other great people.

We get compliments about our blog- a surprise because we didn’t know so many people were following
our journey. We feel honoured and encouraged.
The party goes on and winds down about midnight. Later, we drift off to the BlaBla restaurant. The place is pulsating with the sound of photographers- among them George Osodi who insists on buying us food and drinks. We accept. George regales us with exciting tales about his evolution as a farmer, banker, and now a photographer. He flips through the store house of memory and exclaims,“I will do photography for life!” He is quick to add that he still retains a soft spot for farming. Billy Bijouka comes around to crack a joke or two; other merry friends drop by and off again. It has been a pleasant, though tiring day. We haven’t all slept enough and some of us begin to nod in agreement with sleep as though drugged. It’s time to leave BlaBla for BlaSleep… Zzzzzzzzz…

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