Mali: Niger River

a large pinasse travels slowly down the Niger River near Mopti

The Heart of Africa

 Mopti, Mali.

Mopti is a good sized city situated on the Niger River in the West African country of Mali. It is a commercial center and there is much boat traffic coming in and out of Mopti harbor. The boats carry cargo as well as passengers and their luggage…huge bundles of goods that they will sell in their home villages. You can see this boat is loaded, even to placing cargo on the roof of the boat. The boat is being poled up river…this takes a boatman with strength and endurance. Some boats have sails and travel down river with the wind. Much easier that way. I don’t see any masts on this boat so it must be poled each way.

Fine particles of pink/orange dust filled the air, blown in from the Sahara, and made seeing any distance impossible. The village on the opposite bank looked as if it were enveloped in a pink/orange fog.

It was late afternoon. I sat on the sandy bank and watched the river traffic and groups of  women doing laundry in the shallow water. The women bathed themselves after they had finished washing the clothes.  They were modest and unwrapped their clothing once their bodies were submerged. African women do not expose their legs, but don’t mind exposing their breasts. Just the opposite of us.

Men, in flowing gowns and crown-like turbans, walked hand in hand in the Arab manner, immersed in conversation.  They didn’t look at the bare-breasted women washing clothes.

Small girls carried trays on their heads. Their trays were heaped with cup-sized plastic sacks of milk to be sold as refreshment. I wondered how long it would take for the milk to go sour in that heat.

Women dressed in bright flowered dresses, often with ruffles over the hips to make their hips appear larger, paraded to town. Africans think large hips are beautiful. Don’t you love them for it??

I shot this in 1999, I think. I can check one of my slides, but I’m close enough. I used Kodak Tri-x ASA 400 and used to always push process my film 1 stop. This gave me a lot of grain, but by gosh, I had blacks and whites. I had a fear of underexposing my film and compensated for it this way. It took me years to learn that this was not good technique. I pretended that I liked grain and to be honest, after years of nothing but grain, grain, grain, I did become fond of it.

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