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Two weeks (in Bamako)

A ni sogoma!

Well, two weeks of no blog writing. That means I’ve either been working hard, or I’ve been having a lot of fun... Or... it simply means both! I’ve been having a great time here in Bamako. And I’ve gotten some work done as well.

I have a new haircut now. For 500 CFA (1 US$) I had a pleasant conversation and a lot of my hair cut off. I think the guy did a good job - which was being confirmed by people around me. Probably there will be some pictures of my new coupe on the gallery some time in the future :) The funny thing is, that when the coiffeur was done cutting - which was basically done with machines - he tried to give me some Jehovah booklets. So even though he did a great job, I don’t want to offend people (by telling them to fuck off with their crap or something one would actually want to say, but doesn’t out of politeness), so I’d rather not go there again.

Religion is important here. So what to say if people ask about mine? I don’t believe there’s a supreme being, ... ruler or creator of, and/or immanent within, the universe. I don’t believe there is a better world, where you go if you’ve been a good person when you die. To me, that sounds like crap. That doesn’t mean I don’t respect people believing that. It’s everyone’s best right to believe whatever one wants, as long as no people (or animals) get hurt in the process. I just don’t want to be bothered with it. It’s fine if people tell me about their practices, and I even greatly enjoy listening to that. I even would like to go to the mosque, and follow all the customs as they are to be followed - as I did a bit in India, or in the Netherlands, for that matter. I don’t like it, however, when someone seriously tries to convert me, telling me detailed stories about the bible. I’ve been there. I do recall a hike from Paris to the Netherlands, last summer or so, where a guy was telling about sufi-ism. Now, that, I really enjoyed. It gave me a totally fresh view about Islam. And they make great music as well. Reminded me of Mongolian buddhist sounds, and Indian ragas.

To pick up the thread, I do believe a better world is possible. I do believe in some basic capacity of mankind to be good - though it’s not showing most of the time. I do believe it’s bad to eat animals, as long as there are healthy alternatives. And I’m the living proof it doesn’t really hurt to not eat meat for the most part of your life.

I do believe sharing is good. Especially if the one sharing doesn’t lose anything, like with information, or.. hitchhiking. I also think it’s good to cooperate, to work, to create in a non-hierarchical way. Hence I have a certain affinity for anarchism, which is like a religion, but anti-religious at the same time. It is utopian, but it at least show it does work for information. I don’t really think it’s totally feasible as an (anti-)political and economical system, for the moment. But why not try to have some parts of it at present? Eben Moglen wrote - eloquently as always - about this in his Anarchism Triumphant. There might be a link to a translation into your mother tongue on his homepage, though if you’re mother tongue is Dutch you’ll have to wait a while... :)

So, if people ask about my religion, could I say I’m a practising veggy eco-info-anarchist? Sounds funny, but here in Africa, probably not. Anarchism has the negative connotation of chaos and disorder - much like in the rest of the world. But in Africa there has been so much of it in recent times. With funny side effects sometimes. Like in Somalia, which has the cheapest and best communication of entire Africa, simply because there’s no government to regulate and prohibit, or to pay taxes to. But, I can talk about what I do as a practising veggy eco-info-anarchist. And I find that some people very much enjoy to discuss stuff like that. They eat meat, but are interested in not eating meat. They dig the stuff about sharing information, about free communication (as in beer, but also as in speech). And they come up with objections, possible problems.

Although I gave up on my regular lessons, my Bambara is going quite well. I can do very basic smalltalk and drop some lines once in a while when speaking French. It’s great fun. And the lessons weren’t. I just can’t stand it, sit there and repeat one after the other some lines which I don’t care for right now. I want to learn what I like to learn. It should not become boring. That way I take pleasure in opening my book every two, three days, and learn something new. That’s also the reason I open up the Arabic book I found here, once in a while. I want to learn the script and some basic words, so I can try to decipher the signs I see here. And, as a bonus, whenever I will be in the Arab world I will be able to pick it up much quicker. But I’ll probably first try to go and do cool stuff in Brazil. I very much enjoy Portuguese, especially Brazilian Portuguese, and the country seems the place to be for software livre, informação livre, cultura livre, moças maravilhosas e musica sublima...

from Remixing Culture: An Interview with Lawrence Lessig

Lawrence Lessig: I was at the World Social Forum, but much of what was going on at the World Social Forum was related to Brazil’s leadership in spreading free software and free culture. So the free software movement has exploded in Brazil, led in part by the government, which is increasingly using free software in its own work and requiring it for much of the government’s coding work. The free culture movement is being pushed in Brazil largely because of the culture minister, Gilberto Gil, who envisions a future where an increasingly large proportion of the content in Brazil is made available to the world via Creative Commons licenses.

Now the strategy in both cases is to increase wealth in Brazil. The view of free software is that it’s far better for Brazil if the technology industry is trained in the skills needed to build and modify and extend free software than if they’re trained in the skills of how to implement a patch for the latest Windows virus. That’s about technology self-sufficiency.

And in the free culture context, Brazil is eager to have their music spread broadly to increase the demand for Brazilian musicians. They have a project to create a huge archive of Brazilian music licensed under Creative Commons licenses, which will encourage people to get access to it and share it for noncommercial purposes and remix it. And the bet is that once that’s implemented, it will actually increase the ultimate benefit to Brazilian musicians--relative to this world where there are just a handful of Brazilian musicians who are able to get their work heard outside of Brazil.

Saturday last week I’ve met Nicolas and Issa again. We met at the bars close to Sky Bar (I don’t bother to remember the real names..), and Nico’s deux chevaux took us to un truc "de jeunes" (there are several, but this one was close to a pyramid-kinda thing). It was slightly boring over there, so we hit the road again - of which I took some great videos, with some nice dub muzak - to arrive at Evasion, a tiny jazz club, hidden away somewhere in Bamako’s alleys. It appeared that the musicians needed so time to warm up. But... As soon as the heat (and the cheap beer) popped in, they were fucking amazing! It was one of the most intense concerts I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen quite a few...). I also took some videos of that, and I hope to get permission from these magnificent artists to put it online under a Creative Commons license. Even the audio tracks from that (taken with my Canon Ixus) sound great. Lo-fi, but so much fun to listen to. Next time I won’t forget my little MP3 recorder. And my tripod, so I can actually put the camera somewhere and let it go with the flow.

Yesterday (kunun) Nico had a party at Rafael’s place (a three-story building, which is rare in Bamako), at the occasion of his 30th birthday, which will be tomorrow (sini). It’s funny, he told a Peacecorps girl came over to him the day before yesterday (kununsini) in Koulikoro and asked "hein Gaspard, ca va?", so he responded "ca va bien, mais moi je suis pas Gaspard". At the party one girl came over to congratulate me... And a woman asked if we were brothers. But well, we are, I guess. Although I have seen him only a couple of times, it’s been really great to hang out with him. He works 6 days a week though...

Then I decided to leave the party - which was kind of dying out except for some fun moments where a Belgian guy forgot about his age and try to date a girl 10 years younger than his children. Which sounds much more horrible than it actually is if you’ve been here a while... I then took a cab to a club, Monte Cristo (700 CFA, slightly more than 1 euro), where I met with my colleagues, and, boss! It’s extragavant to pay 5000 CFA (10 US$) to get in (+1 free drink, yay!), but I even start to enjoy dancing to African and crappy European music... And, African women are so ..different, I guess...

Today I had a slight hangover. Party at N’s place and then went to the club. Too much partying (and too much whiskey) last night. Oh, ho, stop, sorry, this starts to sound too much like my friend’s blog. Oh well, whatever, nevermind.

Last Friday I finally had beans. Great beans. And I just found out I can get beans very close by. That’ll be sooo much fun for my colleagues. Just like the camera I’m always carrying. But, well, I do know they’ll love to see the pictures I’m taking some time in the future. Oh, and some new ones should be up right now on my gallery.

Another reason I’m glad I’m in Mali. If I were in Europe I’d probably be sick as a dog right now. :) Here I only have to endure a bit of heat and dust. Which isn’t that bad after all, if you’re a toubab living and working in a house with a swimming pool at the side. I kind of legitimize the use of it by saying myself that I’m not wasting water showering. That’s right, I hardly ever take showers. Or wash my freshly cut hair.

I know I just wrote a pile of crap rantings. But hey... screw you if you don’t like it, go read Slashdot, or some classic. No sorry, I shouldn’t write foul language like that. I love you! I love all of you! I really do. Love is all!

Publié le Monday 28th February 2005 by Guaka Keita