Join Maridee BonaDea as she explores the culture and countryside of Mali in West Africa. Starting in the town where she lived, Koutiala, known as “the white gold capital” for its production of cotton, she travels by boat up the Niger River to Timbuktu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In its golden days it served as one of the major centers of Islamic learning in the African world, along with various aspects of science, medicine, astronomy, and law. Timbuktu’s mythological status sharply contrasts with today’s influences of widespread poverty, desertification and Islamic militants.
Maridee explores the city of Djenné, one that is closely linked with Timbuktu and the trans-Saharan trade in goods such as salt and gold. It is famous for its distinctive adobe architecture, most notably that of the Great Mosque. Each year the entire community participates in a festival that repairs the damage caused by erosion from annual rains, and changes in temperature and humidity. Constructed in 1907 upon the site of a former mosque built around the 13th century, is the most prominent symbol of the Mali nation.
Maridee investigates the process of making Shea butter and the manufacturing of a textile called bogolan, a handmade cotton fabric traditionally dyed with fermented mud, both indigenous crafts of Mali. She then searches out the dancers from Dogan Country, people living in a terrain that has isolated and protected them from outside invasion and cultural pollution for centuries. One’s imagination is stoked through images of their unique architecture perched on prominent outcrops as the escarpment drops steeply to the plains below. Join Maridee as she explores Mali and the road to Timbuktu.