mali lake coast

E08 – Nafissa and the Famous Jeli


Learning about Mali

My second conversation from Africa (check out my chat with Zoheir from Algeria) is with two (!) sisters from Bamako, Mali. I spoke with Nafissa and her sister Nanaissa about life in Mali. Unsurprisingly, we hit again on the idea of a global community as they described how Mali has adopted and then adjusted customs from other countries. Completing the circle, we saw how other places have taken Malian art and wove it into their own customs and appreciations.

timestamped notes

2:29 ~ The importance of baguettes to a Malian breakfast fuels an entire industry in Bamako. A loaf costs about 50c USD.

baguettes in Mali

2:59 ~ sabali (have mercy, have patience) This Bambara word underscores the need for tolerance in a country with many potential dividing lines. Also is the title and chorus of a song by the famous blind Malian musicians Amadou and Mariam

9:24 ~ The Sub-Saharan trade route linked gold-rich countries of Africa to the Mediterranean countries where gold was in demand. The Met has a excellent overview of how this commerce affected the early Mali empire.

11:32 ~ joking relationships are more than just Dad jokes and sending memes to friends. In the past they were a especially important part of West Africa’s history keeping and relations between tribes, castes and even generations.

13:31 ~ short people can’t be president? I laughed, but this phenomenon is not just relegated to Mali, it has shown up in American politics as well.

14:45 ~ jelis are traditionally the story-keepers and entertainers in West African culture (also called griots). This article has a lot of details about what jelis do and even the popular instruments.

15:52 ~ Bògòlanfini is the beautiful artisan textile with intricate patterns.

16:58 ~ Malian tea – the best thing ever. I have to agree, it does sound nice. Nothing better than a hot tea on a cold winter day, or a kick of hot tea under the shade of a tree in the heat of the day. More than tea, the ceremony itself is about coming together, to share the news(gossip) and enjoy one another’s company.

thoughts on Mali

This was a great conversation, Nafissa and Nanaissa were very well-spoken and eloquent in their description of Mali’s customs. I appreciated their humility as they expressed how the conversation itself was affecting their perceptions and comparing it with their experiences abroad.