Pat and Richard in West Africa 2011 travel blog

Kunta pounding the millet with the village ladies

Songu

The place of circumcision

The boys have to touch the circles as they finish the running...

Musical instruments used only in circumcision ceremonies

Mopti mosque

More locals

Boats on Mopti harbour


Leaving Sanga we headed back towards Sevare and Mopti.

First stop of the day was at Songu, another Dogon village but a very important one as this is where the circumcisions are carried out.

Every 3 years (last one in 2010) up to 300 boys from surrounding villages are sent to Songu with their fathers to be circumcised. The boys bring millet with them for food during their stay, and they stay around 2 weeks. They are taken to a place up in the rocks behind the village where the ceremony takes place. First of all, medicine is prepared - charcoal is ground up (to stop the bleeding) and acacia leaves are gathered which act as an antibiotic after the deed is done.

Musicians play their instruments, which can only be used at the circumcision ceremony. The blacksmith arrives with his bag of knives (hopefully sharp) and he wears a mask so his identity is not known. He sits on a rock and the boys are brought out one by one. They sit on a rock opposite the blacksmith, someone holds their arms and another person covers their eyes, then it's chop and it's all over.

During their time at the village the boys are put to work renewing the paintings on the rock face.

After 2 weeks there is a running race from the circumcision place to the village and back again, all the boys racing to touch painted circles on the rock. The first one back wins a granary and does not have to work for a year, the second one wins a wife and the third one wins a cow.

All the boys go home after this. Some of them are still bleeding and they have to be looked after by their parents until they are better.

Back on the road again, we continued our journey to Sevare, near Mopti on the Niger and Bani rivers. We checked into our hotel then went to have some lunch at a local cafe - couscous with an onion and chilli sauce. Then a short siesta before driving into Mopti - the Lonely Planet says that tourism in Mopti is a contact sport and I think they have this right! It's a bustling port city with guides trying to get business and sellers trying to sell everything from CD's to shirts to jewellery. Mopti is located on an island in the river and it is surrounded by rice fields.

We walked round the old town and as usual the local kids found us and there were cries of "tubabu, photo" and little hands tucking themselves into ours - the kids are gorgeous, if rather snotty nosed most of the time!

After our walk we drove to the riverside and got onto our pinasse (boat with a motor) to see the harbour and also visit a Bozo village - the Bozo are fishermen and rule over the rivers. If you want to fish, you have to ask the Bozo for permission. Again the villages are mud, though these houses have thatch roofs and they don't have granaries like the Dogon. Everyone wanted their photo taken, kids, teenagers, adults - they are very friendly people. Sometimes the kids ask for presents but mostly they just want our empty water bottles. I have a few toys to give them but not enough to go round - don't want to start a riot by bringing them out!

We got back to the hotel as it was getting dark, then went out to a local restaurant for dinner - barbecued fish skewers and sauteed potatoes, plus of course a few beers.



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