Yesterday morning the Orientation Trip group gathered for the first time, at Schiphol Airport for a pre-trip-meeting. After a word of welcome by Gitta Luiten (director of the Mondriaan Foundation) every group member introduced him or herself to the others. It was an impressive introduction round with 18 persons out of 8 different countries working in all kinds of areas of arts and design. From museum directors to curators and journalists and editors. Every form discipline is represented, which makes the group on itself already an international cultural exchange!
To gain some more insight in Africa and the three countries we’ll be visiting, there were three presentations planned at the airport. The first presentation was held by Fatima Roos of Stichting Wereldhuis / Stichting Djenne. She updated us on design and architectural developments in Mali and told us about the cooperation between the Design Acadamy Eindhoven and Stichting Wereldhuis in the country. She started her presentation with a map of Mali, on which Mali was called ‘the pearl of Africa’. And showed us beautiful images of typical Malian mud houses and indigenous architecture. Fatima ended her presentation with some typical Malian music, and told us not to forget to listen to the great Malinese singers when we would be there.
Gertrude Flentge of Stichting DOEN gave the second presentation. Stichting DOEN is supporting many projects in Mali and Senegal and recently evaluated their work in these countries. Even though some of the conclusions of the evaluation where not that surprising and similar to other African countries, she told us that the cultural scene in Mali is different because of the concept of Maaya. Maaya is the concept that personal cultural expression is accepted and understood and in some cases also respected in Malinese society. Even though Maaya it’s still very hard for Malinese artists to do their work. Many artists had lived isolated for many years before they were accepted. Stichting DOEN is using the concept of Maaya as an umbrella for cultural development in Mali.
Roger Gerards of Vlisco gave the last presentation. He told in a very enthusiastic and inspiring way about the Vlisco Company and the special history, heritage and role of Dutch Wax in Africa. Roger’s presentation showed us the broadness of the wax designs and their importance to African society. However the desings of Vlisco look very African to us, they’re basically all designed in The Netherlands, which was was followed by an interesting discussion within our group about indigenous culture and design. Roger’s opinion is that the design of Vlisco fabrics and patterns don’t have to be designed by Africans even though Africa is the main market for Vlisco. At the end of his presentation Roger gave all of us an important tip; ‘When you arrive tonight drink a gin tonic, it will protect you against mosquitos’.
After the presentations we had to start boarding for our first flight to Paris where we connected to our flight to Mali. We arrived around 21.00 hrs at Bamako International Airport. Stepping out of the airplane felt like stepping out of a fridge, with a temperature of 30 degrees (Celsius) after the cold and misty Amsterdam weather yesterday morning.
Fortunately getting through customs was for all of us easy. We filled in the forms, showed our ‘yellow booklets’ got a stamp in our passports and where in the pearl of Africa. Unfortunately the luggage of one of us was lost somewhere between Amsterdam and Bamako. So we hope to retrieve it on Wednesday.
A bus picked us up at the airport and brought us to the beautiful Hotel Djenne. Aminata Traoure who was also Minister of Culture of Mali started up this hotel. Aminata is a very prominent cultural actor in Mali. She received a Prince Claus Award in 2004 for her active role in promoting Malinese culture and creating opportunities for Malian women.
After the check in we went to the BlaBla bar and had our first dinner together. The BlaBla bar is a cosy and also modern place, which to me looked very much like an European ‘underground’ restaurant. The food they served was very good and also the gin tonics were very tasteful!
Tomorrow will be the first ‘big’ day of new impression. We will start in the morning with visiting the National Museum of Mali. Keep following our blog to read our stories!
Sebas van der Sangen