Forum/Conference: The multiple functions of the Niger river.
Parallel to the cultural/artistic festivities, a conference/forum.
Segou's soul is quite clearly the river. The Niger River and its resources feed millions of Malians and Africans. The Niger river though is on the list of disappearing rivers. Nothing could be nearer than making the Niger River the topic of the 2006 Forum.
The impressive thing is that it springs just 300km off the Atlantic coast in region of High Guinea and then runs more the 4,000km to reach the very same ocean. Already when leaving Guinea it flows at an altitude off 350m and still has nearly 4,000km to go (wiki).
What can I say. I like their intellectual, contemporary approach of raising awareness of important issues that are all too often neglected elsewhere in Africa. A very interesting read, the 2006 Forum.
A conference, a meeting place.
The idea is to bring the important people to Segou. Governors, three Malian ministers and other Malian and international officials, representatives, ambassadors attend at different times the festival. Nothing better then start with a conference.
I don't know many of the people I have taken pictures of. Where I have names I tag the pictures.
But a conference is to meet, shake hands, exchange views, discuss local or international matters or business, show your face, or simply have a chat and a laugh.
Would we have expected this here? Is it jute? Anyway it is not plastic. Plastic bags, disposed off just about everywhere are just one big ugly issue in Africa. Tourists usually are amused by the sight of goats eating plastic bags, but such is the situation. Addressing issues of the environment is a main point of the festival.
BTW, the theme of next year's forum will be "Young people and Employment".
Evening under the Balanzan
A conference in the morning, relaxing in the afternoon, the tale of Caanaba is being told at the Delta Hotel in the evening.
It is the story of two boys, twins from the Fulani (an ethnic nomadic group found all over the Sahel), one a human being, the other a snake with a human face, Caanaba. After some squabble involving his brother's wife Caanaba leaves with his oxen for the interior delta of the Niger river. "Wherever I go will be enough to graze and drink" he says when he leaves.
Caanaba crosses the river with all his oxen to reach the pastures of the other bank. Still today this river crossing is of great symbolism for the Fulani people (just as in the Caanaba tale). The story is one of the big legends for all of Segou, the river Niger, the success of rearing animals and prosperity in Mali in general.
It is being told near a huge lightening fire and accompanied by traditional dance and music. Legends are told under the Balanzan which is a tree of the Segou region. I could not establish whether we actually sat under a Balanzan.