Poetry in sand in Mali


migPoetry in sand

They are desert nomads who don’t accept frontiers of countries, a population without any place to belong. Like gypsies of the desert they live a harsh and lonesome life in this dry isolated wilderness.

It seems that one’s sense of time and orientation disappears – only the sun and the nuance of the scenery is a landmark. It feels like being absorbed by a mysterious creature, which holds you tight in its grip – and don’t let you leave – seducing and hypnotizing and carry one away – without you discover it.

Ahmed is praying in the soft late afternoon light. He gets down the camel, kneeling humble with his weather-beaten face towards Mecca. Silent sounds and mumbling comes out between his lips. We observe him with a kind of awe. The camels expel a gargling sound all the way from the stomach.

We arrive in the camp in the dusk. We are not able to see the town anymore – there is no light, except from a pale moon. Sand dunes with dry vegetation in pale green and brown colors bathed in strange light. The darkness appears and the fogged gigantic star constellation of the Milky Way is unfolded in all its grace.

I am listening to the foreign sounds, shiver and move myself closer to my friend, who is right next to me in his feather sleeping back. A touch of fear shows its face – what and who is walking around in the desert in the dark night? What do we know about desert nomads and star navigation?

We are on foreign ground in a foreign environment. These people are born here – the desert is their home, their territory, their “childhood town”, childhood memories – their whole soul. Close to the creation, close to the nature and this deafening silence, which is only to be found in deserts and the huge mountain ranges around the world. A land without frontiers, outside time and space – another dimension.

Ahmed saddles his camels with the same gentle touch and care as he was nursing a newborn child. One feels a very deep love to the animals out here; they know their worth and that one cannot manage life in the desert without their riding and cargo camels. The ship of the desert has meant everything to these people for centuries, ever since they started the transport of salt of the caravan routes in this outpost, on the edge of the enormous Sahara desert.

Slowly we ride in the lonely desert, leaving to a place with a small lonely bush, which is not much more than a couple of dry branches coming up from the sand. A narrow fringe of shadow is found on one side of the tree.

In this place Ahmed arrange a camp and he starts to collect twigs to a modest bonfire. He prepares the food and we get a simple meal consists of boiled rice and fish in a steel bowl. We share the same bowl. It’s intimate to share the same bowl.

My friend takes a photo in sepia. He sets the camera and captures a magical moment of a crackle bone dry little tree on a rise in the sand. The photo looks like an antique photography from a moment long time ago. A short second, a moment in the world history, which will never return.

Ahmed makes tea in a little dark blue enamel teapot. We witness a tea ceremony prepared and made with an almost royal dignity. He mixes sugar in the strong syrup like drink. Let it wait for a while and offers us the tea in a little single glass. The boiling strong tea hurts in the throat and gives a second taste like strong pepper pricking on the tongue. The third time the tea is being mixed with boiling water it’s more tasteful, more soft, gentle and delicious.

Suddenly out of nothing there is a man standing in the sand. He has appeared silent as ghost; he has been floating over the sand dunes. A young Tuareg man in a bright blue fluttering dress that blows in the gentle wind. Times stand still – words are unnecessary. He is being offered tea in the little glass. They talk so silent, that it feels just like a whispering. “The words are carried by the wind,” my friend says.

A ghost creature is emerging from nowhere in the sand, drink a tea, says ten words so low as the wind blowing in the dry bushes and leaves us again as silent as he has arrived. I follow him with the eyes, moved and fascinated until he is gone behind the dunes. I am closer to the universe and closer to understand. What is serenity? What is harmony?

Anette Lillevang Kristiansen

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