Part Four - April, 2004
This is the orphanage where Andre and I taught. The 15
trainers we were teaching were in turn responsible for teaching circus
arts to the younger kids twice a week. This aspect of giving back to the
community, of becoming teachers and role models themselves, is an
essential part of Cirque du Monde, and a key to its success.
Dialosso: Moussa and I took a 5 hour bus ride to get here, the second
largest city in Burkina and his home town. This morning we just missed
the 08:00 bus, so we walked around the large and bustling market nearby
for an hour or so before taking the 10:30.
Incredible day. Astonishing day. We walked through
la vielle quartiere (the old town). This is where Moussa grew up, and he
knows everybody, and is related to every second person. We walked
through the old town, the original town, still inhabited after…well, I
wasn't quite sure. Was it 500 years, 1,000 years? The first house in the
village was still there, still inhabited, and by direct descendants of
the original residents. Here the streets are far too narrow for
vehicles, and the people walk with unhurried, sedate movements
Moussa had promised me that I would see a different side, the
traditional society, and it is different indeed from the scrabbling,
capital city. I would find it very difficult to live in Ouaga, but Bobo
had a real attraction. Giant, leafless banyan trees line the streets. As
everywhere, comme un blanc, I'm a target for every vendor, taxi driver,
and urchin who see me as an ambulatory money dispensing machine. A quick
"Non, merci'" takes care of all but the most persistent.
Today I saw a couple holding hands. Displays of affection in public are
common among males (they can hold hands), females (they can hold hands),
but infrequent to the point of non-existence among opposite gender
I'm drawing every day, sitting in meditation every day. Travel's always
good for resuming the essential habits, my refuge in otherwise
unfamiliar surroundings, new customs and uprooted routines.
Today is the Muslim holiday, Tabaski, which signifies the end of
Ramadan. Yesterday there were goats being herded everywhere, this
morning there are no ambulatory ones, but many being turned on spits in
preparation for tonight's festivities. Tonight is a special celebration,
where family's dress in their best, and visit with friends and
relatives. Later in the evening crowds gathered by the river that runs
through Bobo, waiting for the Sacred Crocodile that resides there to
emerge (apparently an auspicious omen should it occur).
We walked again through the Vielle Quartiere, with Basile and Evelyne
who were also visiting. Because of the holiday and Moussa's family
connections, we visited several houses. In one we sat and drank home
brewed beer out of a calabash. In another, we ate a meal of rice out of
a large common bowl. These are extraordinarily warm and welcoming people
centre of the city is an awe-inspiring, ancient mosque, with wooden
beams jutting out in all directions from the bleached earthen walls. We
were invited inside, and after removing our shoes, walked quietly
through on the hard packed floor. The extrusions are part of a series of
regularly spaced stress bearing columns made of earth, and the roof is
packed onto de-barked long poles. This is one of the earliest structures
in the city, and the feeling of enclosed space and mystery was palpable.
Meanwhile, I'm dealing with carnivores of a different variety, and
celebrating the holiday by playing the nightly game, "Slap the
Mosquito." The small, inelegant hotel I'm staying in costs 3,000 F,
much less that what I pay in Ouaga. The shower drenches the whole
desultory bathroom with its tepid spray, the bed sags alarmingly in the
middle, and the décor is Early Monastic, but I have a mosquitaire. This
is mosquito netting which completely covers the bed and in which I'm
ensconced for the night, reading comfortably while the insects natter in
tiny mosquito drones about my puzzling inaccessibility.
Here I have a late cosmopolitan dinner of a baguette and The Laughing
Cow cheese; it's not my favourite, but it is available everywhere. As is
instant Nescafe coffee, but fresh brewed is rare. So, my coffee jones is…gone.
I've had three cups since arriving here; the potential consequences of
drinking local water's just not worth the risk.
uneventful trip back yesterday from Bobo, with little to do on the bus
but sleep, read "Alice in Wonderland" in translation, nap,
look out the window, and rest. The bus stopped twice at designated
places where all descending passengers were mobbed by vendors selling
the same sesame cakes, carbonized beverages, water in plastic bags, and
Mama: On returning I finally got in
touch with my old friend and fellow graduate from the Lecoq School in
Paris (1984-86), Mama Kouyate, who I hadn't seen for 17 years. She looks
exactly the same, and it was as if I'd just seen her yesterday at the
school in Paris. She's doing work similar to Jeunesse du Monde, and runs
an arts-based school for orphans.
Mama then drove me to her village des artisans. This small village,
which she's been creating, building and nourishing since 1988, is an
amazing accomplishment.. Kids without parents live there full time, and
the basis of the education is artistic. When I arrived the older kids
were in rehearsal on an outdoor stage, about 20 of them performing a
complex choreographed drumming and dancing show.
coordinator/founder/director, Mama was much in demand and I was left on
my own much of the time. I talked with the kids about their rehearsal
schedule and performances, and did a juggling demonstration. I had hoped
to come back the next day, but Mama's aunt had died, and so she'll be
away for the next 3 days (Mama, not the aunt; well, the aunt too, but
she'll be away longer).
kids tour their show, which generates money for the school, which has
clean, modern structures, and ateliers where the kids learn batik,
weaving, dyeing, dance and music. There must be about 150 kids of all
ages here. It's so good to see Mama again after 18 years, and so
involved in such a worthwhile and important project. It's impossible to
see all this without comparing it to the freedom and choices we enjoy in
Canada, the enormous wealth and resources of our country, and the
political stability and readily available, free medical treatment.
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