We’re back from Soni Tieni (spelled Soninkegny by the locals) and I think that I have never experienced something quite like that. We arrived by mid afternoon of the first day and were greeted by the entire village. The mayor and elders headed up a receiving line on the road leading to the central courtyard. Wague and Ronna have been here many times over the past 18 years to help the village (education of the youth) and their arrival is always highly anticipated and generously celebrated. This time was no different as we were led to the school house (the first one built with the financial help of KoFalen) to deposit our gear and then taken to the village center where we were treated to dance and music (drumming and Balafon). I’ll talk about dance and drumming in the next blog; it was incredible.
Who are we? There was Wague and Ronna with Penda and Amina their daughters; Tami and Hossein; Kathleen; Julie and Arvey; Larry; Joyce; Bani; Djanka; and myself.
After the performances, Wague, Ronna and the board presented the school supplies to the headmaster, we unpacked our gear, set up our tents, and were treated to a dinner by the village. That night and the next were a gift to us with more dance and music.
Our days were spent in community. This country is amazing in its social capital, and this village was a microcosm of that goodwill and joy. They showed us how to make Shea butter and we participated in all parts of the process, we walked through their gardens, and the “old growth” mango grove that was planted by the grandparents of the elders (I snuck back there and had a very contemplative hour alone in the shade and bare understory of a mature grove), we watched and helped with the blacksmith, and watched as Wague showed them how to build a two “burner” fire pit from rock and mud; a decidedly major upgrade from a three rock kettle stand. The kids followed us everywhere and loved getting their picture taken.
I was able to document a small, but representational portion of the village structures, and at least one main compound. Between the sketches and the photos, I have a good start on the research I need to complete the design on the Cultural Center back in Bamako.
Our time at Soni Tiene was over all too soon but the memories, and the life lessons, will last forever.