Kalabougou - The Pottery Women


I jumped at the port of Segou into a pinasse, a wooden long boat transporting goods and people on the mighty Niger river. The destination was the village of Kalabougou, some kilometers upriver, where the Bambara women are burning every Sunday pottery to be sold on the huge Monday market of Segou. The boatman praised the old engine, as before the white man brought the motor, they had to push the pinasse for several hours by hand with poles to Kalabougou. Today it took about an hour and a half, including several breakdowns of the rotting engine. Kalabougou is a rich village for Malian terms, although it didn’t look much different to any other Malian village, with crumbling mud buildings, dusty roads and a certain air of desperation. Already from the river I could see thick smoke rising to the sky, the result of a huge burning pile of straw in the center of the village. The size of the pile got more obvious when I walked onto the central square. Women were throwing straw onto the pile to keep it burning, dark smoke was the result of it and of course an intensive heat inside the pile, where the mud pots were burnt. Girls were bringing fresh pottery from a workshop to be burnt and more straw was fed onto the pile. The houses around the square were black, as the smoke affected everything around, even the faces of the babies tied on the back of the women were darker than usual. Faces of the hardworking African reality.