My friend, Sanna, and his wife. He is a trove of information on Mandinka culture and history. Only trouble is: I don't speak Mandinka. We are still great friends.
Mandinka drummers at a naming ceremony.
Musician warming up on the xalam, a lute-like instrument that's probably the ancestor of the banjo.
Nighttime "program", Banjul. I think these folks were celebrating a wedding.
Kebba Suso, jeli, plays the hallam at a nighttime "program" in Banjul.
Preparing a feast at a Fula wedding, the Combos, The Gambia.
Musakebba plaits Fatou's hair in the Marong family compound, Banjul.
Aji Taal, "Mama Africa"
The two Ajis: Ajimundo (Aji "junior") and Mama Africa.
Mbassi and Ya Fatou
The late Alhaji Yankuba Marong, my Gambian father.
Modou Lamin Marong.
Modou Lamin Marong, Aji Taal, Aminata Marong.
The late Mohammed Jammeh and the late Alhaji Yankuba Marong at the Marong compound, Banjul.
The Marong Family menfolk.
(L to R) Rear: Abdoulie, Essa, Ousman, Mamadi, Mohammed Jammeh.
Front: Dauda, Ebraima, Bakary.
Jelibah Kuyate, The Gambia's Music Superstar! Musakebba Marong in the background.
Young Mandinka man, Lamin, Niumi, The Gambia.
Mother and child, Lamin, Niumi, The Gambia. I love this photo so much I used it for the cover of my book.
Tobaski ram being transported from the Albert Market. They are notoriously difficult to lead!
Ya Fatou Colley, Tobaski, 2007
Ba Fatou Kuyate, Tobaski, 2007.
The late Alhaji Yankuba Marong, imam, marabout, my Gambian father.
Fatou Dibba Kuyate, age 8.
Fatou Dibba Kuyate and her older brother, Alicali.
Khadijatou Kuyate, New Jeshwan, The Gambia
Lamin Kuyate, jeli, plays the kora in his shop in the Albert Market, Banjul, The Gambia.
My wife, Binta Barry. The wooden tablets are used by children learning the Holy Qur'an.
Myself and a friend. This lovely woman is 110 years old and had pneumonia when this photo was taken!!
Abyssinian Roller, The Gambia
The mosque in our family village, Alicalikunda, Badibu, The Gambia.
Fields outside Alicalikunda
My friend, YaYa, fishes for tilapia with a cast net in the Baobolong, the big river near Alikalikunda. Baobolong tilapia are considered the sweetest in the country.
Kebba Sanyang, Alicalikunda
Grey Heron in the Baobolong mangroves.
Essa with a silk-cotton (kapok) tree.
Isatou, my cousin Ousman's wife, back when we were arranging the marriage.
Long-tailed starlings and ring-necked dove
Ousman Marong and small friend, Bakinding, Niumi, The Gambia.
Sunset over Arch 22, Banjul.
Binta Baldeh and her new baby.
Fisherman and nets, Gunjur.
Child on "local transport", Serrekunda, The Gambia.
Landing a fishing boat, Gunjur.
Fish smoking shed, Gunjur, Atlantic coast, The Gambia.
Fish on smoking rack, Gunjur, The Gambia.
Fishing boat, Gunjur.
Lizard went a-courting.
Agama lizards are everywhere. Normally they are brown but during mating season the males' heads turn yellow and their tails purple.
Traditional house, Alicalikunda
Trying for some elbow room in the village.
Caramou Marong and relative discuss weighty subjects, Alicalikunda.
Villagers pound rice in the shade of the mangos.
Kids at the family compound, Alicalikunda.
Girls at the Marong family compound, Alicalikunda.
The late Alicali Sanneh. He went into heart failure and I started him on meds. He improved tremendously, had nine good months and passed away in his sleep after a good dinner. Not a bad way to go!
Women at the Marong family compound, Alicalikunda.
Dogon women working in onion fields, Mali.
Dogon mosque, below the Bandiagara Escarpment, Mali.
Fula girls at a town market in Dogon Country. The black tattooing around the mouth is cosmetic.
Dogon Mosque. The Bandiagara Escarpment is in the background.
Women's gateway, Mosque, Dogon
Dogon granaries, Bandiagara escarpement.
Looking back at the village from the escarpment. The mosque pictured earlier is just left of center.
Grand chasseur, Dogon. I love this shot! What a great face! He wears a traditional hat and shirt of bogolon, or mud-cloth made from native cotton, hand-grown, spun, woven and dyed.
The view north along the Bandiagara Escarpment.
Dogon millet field. Millet (cous) is their staple food. A village is in the background.
Dogon woman winnowing millet. It has been pounded in a mortar to remove the husks. This village is at the very edge of the escarpment. The plains lie 300 meters below.
I spent an entire afternoon in the blacksmith shop in this village. In addition to being carvers and toolmakers they are also gunsmiths. Here, the smith plans the mortice for the lock on this flintlock shotgun.
The chief smith shows me a 12-gauge, single-shot shotgun he made. There are no power tools involved. The entire process is from billet metal and a piece of a tree. Hammers, chisels, files and sandpaper. It is difficult to see the trigger guard in this photo but it is beautifully curved and proportioned.
The chief of a Dogon village. A flintlock shotgun hangs on the wall to his right. The Dogon, formerly animist, are now divided into Christian, Muslim and animist, each religion living in separate villages. This one is a Christian village. I recorded the singing during a Sunday church service. It was spectacular.
Typical Dogon carving on a the granary door. Their carving is highly prized and much of it is done for sale to tourists.
Boats on Niger River, Mopti, Mali.
Rams being transported for Tobaski, Mali
This photo and the ones following are from a remote village in Mali where I've had the honor of being their guest on two extended occasions. This is Yusufa, whom they refer to a "Grand Marionette" but I'm not sure what that means. I think it has something to do with ceremonial dance celebrations.
The village is inhabited by "numo" or blacksmiths. They work in metal and wood. A lot of their production is carvings for the tourist trade in the capitol and even other countries. This gentleman is starting a carving using an adze he probably made himself.
Pounding millet into flour. This lady is doing a bit of showing off by clapping her hands to add to the rhythm of the pestles. Each pestle weighs about 6 pounds. These women are STRONG!
Braima Konate, Grand Marabout. A marabout is an Islamic medicine man. He can make charms, potions, medicines, etc. This gentleman is widely respected as having big power. The trapezoidal leather bag and wood-hilted iron knife are typical of Bamana (Bambara) men. He wears hunter's garb of heavy, home-spun cotton bogolon (mud cloth).
My friends, Binna and Mama Koumare. Mama carries the trapezoidal hunting bag and knife. After my second visit to the village he gifted me that bag. These men are the master carvers of the village. Any ceremonial masks used by the village are made by one or both of them.
I get a lesson on the balafon from the "maitre de balafon" of the village.
The village threw a festival in my honor. Hard to believe! This was the first mask danced out.
Which one looks different? Can you tell?
I knew you could.....
The most important masks in the village: the chiwarras. They represent the creatures who brought agriculture to the Bamana people. They are sort of like an antelope crossed with an anteater. There is a male and a female. Leading the procession is an evil djinn called the Wokalo Kun. A nasty character!
Mosque and brush fence, Wereh Village.
When I took this shot I had just attended the funeral of a 3-year-old child. It reflects the bleakness I felt.
En route to Sina Village in a horse drawn wagon. Bamana villages rose out of the land like fairy tales.
Mama Koumare and Lamin Dambili, the village chief.
A young blacksmith fashions an axe blade.
At the market at Kwi I met these Fula men. They were very friendly despite the fierce countenance. I've always commented that these were the kind of faces that gave Beau Geste nightmares!
A lovely young Fula girl. I asked her if she'd mind seeing me socially......
With Lamin Dambili, the village chief. I was touched (no pun intended) that he put his hand on my shoulder.
I was the first white man in living memory to visit this village.
Oumarou Koumare, the village imam. He is quiet, gentle, dignified.
This lovely Fula girl was reluctant to be photographed. My wife, Binta, who is also Fula, talked her into it. She gradually discovered she liked having her picture taken as the next two photos illustrate.
Mama Koumare and one of his pigeons both check me out The villagers raise pigeons for food.
This is the village muezzin. The young man is an Islamic scholar.
One of the two village teachers. I'm not sure I've seen a more handsome young man. Ever.
On the 3-day bus journey back home this man, his wife and daughter were happy company. They were traveling from Togo, a tremendous distance.
Part of the mosque in Sina. The architecture peculiar to Mali was an import from Spain in the 14th Century. The buildings are adobe. The mosque in the city of Djenne, not too far from here, is the largest adobe building in the world.
Here are some of the village kids when they named the bike "Timpa Marong" after the founder of Alicalikunda.
There are some compensations for living far from home!
My friend, Kebba Sanyang. He approved of the bike.