The Artisan’s Market and Around the Grand Mosque of Bamako

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Next on our tour of Bamako we drove through some of the crazy market areas surrounding the Artisan’s Market. The streets were busy and crowded with vendors of every kind.  Motorcycles surround your car as you drive here and people flock on either side of every road with their wares for sale.  It’s hard to take it all in.

We drove to the Artisan’s Market, then parked and went in.  It was relatively peaceful there.  We spent about an hour in the market and outside the market enjoying the sights.  Many of our friends greeted us and Moussa became our tour guide. We told them we weren’t there to buy, but to look and show our visitors.

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It was fun and interesting and again, a visual overload. The sights and smells and sounds are amazing. You can hear the metal workers and jewelers pounding silver on anvils. The wood workers are chiseling blocks of wood into animals and masks and figures. The leather workers are stretching skins and scraping them. We saw skins soaking in buckets to soften them for working into belts and wallets and shoes. We looked at the mud cloth and every kind of art. We walked through narrow alleys of spices and dried goods. I always think of the old city of Jerusalem in those parts–it looks and feels and smells the same.

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We went out of the walled part of the Artisan’s Market into the streets and wandered through the crowds to the fabric areas and mazes of people and shops.

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Then Moussa took us to the entrance of the Mosque, which was closed for cleaning during the time we were there. I’d never been around that back side of the market before. We saw women selling pottery, making brooms and selling spices and dried goods there too, along with pots, pans and kitchen wares.

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I wish I knew what all of these things were used for.

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Making brooms:

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Stools and gourd spoons and bowls:

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Cooking utensils:

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Just finished lunch:

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This pot was as big as the motorcycle next to it–big enough to hold an entire goat!

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Making fans:

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There were also lots of Muslim items for sale on the back side of the mosque–Arabic books and the Koran and the caps the men wear and the prayer beads. One thing after the next, crammed into tight spaces, all on the ground or on low tables. It’s amazing how much stuff is for sale everywhere you look.

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By the mosque we saw a whole row of men on the ground on mats kneeling in front of other men who had old fashioned straight-edged razors.  (Sorry these pictures aren’t very good.)  They were getting their heads washed (soaped) and then shaved. The barbers had a small silver bowl of soapy water they’d dip into, then they’d massage the heads and shave them.

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Our friend, Moussa outside the market, in the parking lot where there are so many beggars hoping for a handout:

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This lady in the parking lot set up her shop in an abandoned van:

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On the way out, we drove past the ju-ju or white/black magic vendors with their interesting wares–baboon heads, dried parrots, bones, horse heads, body parts, etc.  These are used to make potions to solve every conceivable problem.

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The markets here are fascinating.  Everywhere you look, you see things you’ve probably never seen before.  What an amazing place!

The Sheep and Cattle Markets of Bamako

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Our next stop on our tour of Bamako was the cattle and the sheep markets. There is a huge enclosed area where they keep the cows and bulls. It was very full last time we passed by, but today it was pretty empty. The men told us the cows come in the afternoon–they hadn’t arrived yet today.

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We parked the car across the street from a man stripping the entrails from a dead sheep to sell to a fellow on a motorcycle with his little daughter. The one man was pulling the guts from the dead sheep and stuffing them into a plastic bag the other man held. When everything was in the bag, the man motioned for his little girl to get on the back of the motorcycle and hold the sack. She didn’t look too happy about that.

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We walked down the dirt road by the enclosed area for the cattle and it was full of sheep for sale. The people there were curious at seeing us there, but they seemed pleased we were interested. A couple of fellows led the way and showed us things.

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The sheep were tied up in clusters by their vendors. They were all sizes–from huge with big horns to small.  A typical goat sells for $25-30.  Anounou said the small ones are more tender.  They are especially eaten at holidays and for special family occasions like weddings and when a baby is born. If people can afford it, they buy a goat or sheep.

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As we walked along the dirt road, there were fresh animal skins stretched out right there along the road. They were from animals killed today–still red with blood.

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This one looked like a breeding bull:

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Down the road a ways we came to a camel. It was old and dirty and so very skinny. Apparently they sell camels here too. He looked like he’d walked all the way from Morocco.

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This fellow had just purchased this black goat and he got on his motorcycle and drove off with it on his lap.

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What an amazing place!  There are so many interesting facets to life in Bamako.  We love it here!

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As we drove away, more cows were arriving.  This is life in Bamako.

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Cemeteries and Burials in Bamako

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On this Saturday morning, we planned a few hours to take Matt and Norbert around Bamako with our friend,  Anounou, as our tour guide. This is Matt’s first time in Mali and we wanted to give him a feel of what life is like here.

Our first stop was the city cemetery. Because we had Anounou with us, he was able to talk to the keeper of the cemetery and he let us go into this sacred Muslim place.  He taught us about how the burials take place here.  We had originally planned to visit a different cemetery but Anounou said that one wasn’t safe–it was a place people sneak into at night and dig up bodies to take body parts and organs to sell for black magic.

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This cemetery was huge. It’s all rock and dirt and the graves are not really marked very well. Sometimes the family will post a small sign that says “ici repose” (here lies) with a name and maybe a date on it.

Burials have to take place within 24 hours of the death. The body is not embalmed. They wrap the body in 3 pieces of cloth–one for the head, one for the body and one for the legs, then the body is put into the grave. Then the body is covered with a row of mud bricks before filling the grave with dirt (no boxes or coffins). The mud bricks are made right outside the cemetery walls–there were some men working to make them with sand, mud, straw and water.  Here are some photos of how the bricks are placed over the body and how the bricks are made just outside the cemetery:

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After 6 months, the keeper of the cemetery said that all that’s left of the body is the skull and the big arm and leg bones. The rest is all gone and they can bury a second body in the same grave. Families use the same graves if needed. There were no rows or order to the cemetery. If there’s an empty space, this keeper says you can use it. Families dig their own graves and fill them.

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Some of the graves had a cement outline or a low tiled area like an open box above the ground around the grave (grave marker). Some of these grave marker boxes were filled with rocks, some with dirt. None were sealed or cemented over. All were accessible to the grave so taking a body out would be easy for a grave robber. No one guards the cemeteries at night. Anounou said the keeper at that other cemetery is in cahoots with the grave robbers– they probably give him some money to let them steal the body parts.

I kept thinking of the song about Ezekiel’ dream:  “Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones. . . .” and wondered about places like this on resurrection morning. I also thought about Find and Grave and Billion Graves and all the information that is missing or unknown in places like this. The keeper said he started writing down the names of the people being buried here just a year ago. Until then, NO records were kept. Oh my. It made my Family History heart sad.

This is not a record keeping culture. Anounou’s father died and is buried in Liberia. He said his mother is buried in that other cemetery, but he said he wouldn’t even know how to find her grave today.

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The keeper said they had one family preparing for a burial today–we could see them off a ways. He said there were 4 burials yesterday. This cemetery is owned by the city. It looked really full–there wasn’t much room between the graves and no empty spaces.  The graves aren’t decorated. That’s against the religion. Just cement, stone, dirt, tile and some hand painted signs with names for some. We didn’t see anyone there visiting a grave. I get the feeling they don’t do much of that. It was all really very interesting.

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These mounds of rocks are also graves:

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The keeper said he is not paid to watch over the cemetery, he just does it.  I noticed this donation box by the entrance.  It was all I could do to not photograph and preserve what information we saw on some of the graves.  The angels in heaven will have to help us do that someday.

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Mali’s Pioneer Elders

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Elder Ikpeti, Elder Brown, Elder Kouakou and Elder Gbedevi

The first four Elders arrived in Bamako last August.   Two of those first Elders (Elder Ologundudu and Elder Lukombe) have returned home now and others replaced them here.   When we arrived in October, our missionaries here were Elders Oulai, Tshiamala, Sulu and Usoh.  They have each been transferred back to the Ivory Coast and now our four Elders are pictured above: Elders Ikpeti, Brown, Kouakou and Gbedevi.

These excellent missionaries are an important part of the history of the Church in Mali.  Today we captured their stories and had a tour of their apartments.

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Here is our church compound.  Our meetings are held downstairs and the 2 sets of Elders live upstairs.  They each have an apartment, but they share a kitchen.

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These photos are of Elder Kouakou and Elder Brown’s apartment:

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Study areas:

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Bedroom:

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Extra room:

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Laundry drying up on top of the building:

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Interviewing the Elders was a great way to begin our work of gathering the history of the establishment of the church in this amazing place.

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Each of us is a Pioneer

Today important visitors arrived in Bamako.  Brother Norbert Ounleu from Accra and Brother Matt Heiss from Salt Lake City have come to gather oral histories from our Pioneer members here in Mali.  They will be here today (Friday) through Monday to document the history of the church here and its beginnings.  We have a full schedule of appointments prepared for them.  This is an exciting time for our members here.  Their stories and experiences matter and their faith will bless others for generations to come.

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I think about these first generation members and the significance of their conversions.  My father was the first and only member of his family to accept the restored gospel.  Because of him, my life and the lives of my children have been blessed.

Because of our first members here, blessings will flow through generations and through this country.

“It is good to look to the past to gain appreciation for the present and perspective for the future. It is good to look upon the virtues of those who have gone before, to gain strength for whatever lies ahead. It is good to reflect upon the work of those who labored so hard and gained so little in this world, but out of whose dreams and early plans, so well nurtured, has come a great harvest of which we are the beneficiaries. Their tremendous example can become a compelling motivation for us all, for each of us is a pioneer in his own life, often in his own family, and many of us pioneer daily in trying to establish a gospel foothold in distant parts of the world.”
–President Gordon B. Hinckley

Here is the first verse of one of my favorite pioneer hymns:

They, the Builders of the Nation
Hymns, They, the Builders of the Nation, no. 36

1. They, the builders of the nation,
Blazing trails along the way;
Stepping-stones for generations
Were their deeds of ev’ry day.
Building new and firm foundations,
Pushing on the wild frontier,
Forging onward, ever onward,
Blessed, honored Pioneer!

Text: Ida R. Alldredge, 1892-1943. © 1948 IRI, Music: Alfred M. Durham, 1872-1957. © 1948 IRI

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The Other President and Sister Lewis!

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The Abidjan West Mission Office and Home are side by side with our Abidjan East Mission Office and Home.    This evening we had dinner with Pres and Soeur Lewis of the West Mission.  We had a really nice evening at a French restaurant.  Our crepes and pizza were delicious!

Here’s a look at their side:

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President and Soeur Lewis:

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Mission Coordinating Meeting

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This afternoon we met with the Mission Presidency, office staff and the APs for our weekly coordinating meeting.  This is where we discuss the affairs of the mission and the needs of the missionaries.  There is a lot that goes into running a mission and maintaining 160 or more young missionaries.  Housing, health, transport, problems, record-keeping and more.  These are excellent leaders and we’re happy to serve with them.

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Elder Van Duzer works in the office keeping track of things.2020-2-11 Mission Coordination Mtg (5)

Brother Ebick Ngoma is our historian and photographer.  Our APs take care of holding it all together.2020-2-11 Mission Coordination Mtg (6)

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I wish everyone could see the inner workings of a mission.  There are a lot of plates to keep spinning.

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