A Village high in the Bandiagara Escarpment 2002
We hiked from the plains below to this small village hidden in the rocky outcroppings of the Bandiagara Escarpment. An escarpment is a cliff and the Bandiagara rises to about 500 feet. It is made of sandstone. Rainwater and wind have carved cave-like rooms in the cliff, similar to Mesa Verde in Colorado. These are used as storage rooms and as sacred places where, because the tribe believes that their ancestor’s spirits live in them, they have placed totems of animal skins and ceremonial staffs, etc.
We were led to the village by tribesmen who often pointed to places along the trail and told us that their ancestors had made them…a bridge or hand-holds for climbing the cliff.
Once we arrived the tribe gathered around us to stare at us and no doubt comment on our apperance. They were not in awe of us. We were hot and tired after climbing in the African sun. They might go up and down the cliff several times a day and not be breathing hard nor ‘break a sweat’ as we say in horse circles. I’m sure they thought we were poor specimens.
The villagers were excited about the dance. The men who participated had made their masks in secret and all were waiting to see what the men had created. The dancers were small (they say they are descended from Pygmies) about 5’2″ or so. They wore baggy pants with their upper body decorated with cowrie shells. They came out in groups and their movements were synchronized. I don’t remember drumming, but there must have been some kind of percussion.