April 23, 2016

put on your red shoes

At a private party a bunch of young boys stares at the adults in the dance floor.

April 18, 2016

Baba Diop, critique de cinema à Nouakchott

Baba Diop, atelier de formation 
Baba Diop au IFM
Publique et questions
publique et portable
film du soir
Atelier de Baba Diop à l'IFM dans le cadre de Cinémas des Frontières.
Baba Diop, Sénégal, journaliste, critique de cinema.
Il enseigne le journaliste actuellement à l'ISSIC (Dakar) et à l'Université Gaston Berger de Saint-Louis (Sénégal) dans la cadre du Master de réalisation documentaire, après avoir enseigné à l'Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar.
Président de l'Association Sénégalais des Critiques de Cinéma (ASCC) en 2008, Baba Diop a été élu président de la Fédération Africaine de la Critique Cinématographique (FACC, Dakar).
Avec une douzaine de attendants, intéressés et attentives. 
Baba Diop est passionné du cinema et c'étais un plaisir l'écouter parler et répondre avec patience aux questions du publique..

April 05, 2016

M'Bera, refugee camp Mauritania, day 3, 24 march 2016

water tower, goat shelter and traditional bread oven
A new morning, we're supposed to visit and see many things today.
The bakery's, are traditional ovens made of mud and using wood, there are plenty of them all around the outskirt of the camp still in its limitations (we can see the gendarmerie posts a little further out. They're run by locals, black moors. They probably moved here sometime ago as in their living space they have also a little vegetable garden and some donkeys and carts so that they can fetch wood, carry water and other goods if needed. The camp has produced a trade run by locals or by Malians, refugees or earlier settlers in Bassikounou.

water sources for cattle
We keep on going and visited one of the watering places were locals and refugees bring their cattle to drink. There's this great article Beyond boundaries: how to help nomadic refugees. It explains better than I could do the situation of confinement, lack of privacy, inadequate diet, nomadic lifestyle and having lots of animals around a camp.

Taylor and artisan
two artisans working under a makeshift shade
The pace is really fast, I could have stayed sitting with these two women for a lot longer getting to know a bit about them, where do they come from ? how long have you been here ? Do you want to go home ? But the rhythm is really too fast completely impersonal. They're preparing bits of leather.
I ask if I can be taken to the place where Amano Ag Issa and his family are staying. I met them in Nouakchott in 2012 when the crisis began, they're a family of musicians and artisans.
They couldn't make a living from their art and they were forced to came to the camp. The APIO agrees as she has to meet them this morning to arrange things for the Festival for the world refugee day and I'm dropped at Amano's temporary home.

The women in white cuts thin strips of leather. On the wall the decorated cushions in leather
Idouwal, Tissisen and Ahmed  with their tahardent
They have been waiting for me for a few days, our depart from Nouakchott was changed twice and I wasn't sure what day I would be allowed to see them. So I was greeted with music from the first moment. Idouwal, Tississen and Ajmed got hold of their tahardent, a plucked lute and start playing their melancholic notes full of sorrow and longing while Amano and I exchanged salutations and enquired about each other health and little by little shared news and information. Most of the women were busy somewhere else and with us was an artisan cutting stipes of leather and another cousin.

Amano Ag Issa
Oyé sings an ode to the Fulanis
We're joined by the APIO and the rest of the team, each visitor to the camp is always in company of one camp worker plus a driver for the group. So we're now 5 people in a makeshift home listening to the sounds of Tadiazt, the name of Amano's band. 
Oyé performed a special ode to the workers of the HCR who are Fulanis, he started singing about their origins and their ancestors, the place was heavy with emotion.

Habo dancing to the sounds of the tahardent
 Habo starts dancing , children and women approach to the louder sounds coming from the tent.
And then its time to go we have to meet Hama and his group Tafelist.

In another gathering with an electric guitar player 
Tanto et Hama from the group Tafelist
Tafelist is the other music group that will be playing in the Festival in Nouakchott, they play modern Tuareg rock music with electric guitars and a different rhythm.
With Amano we were with the traditional and the nostalgique now we are rocking.

stop at the restaurant
We ordered some meat earlier at a restaurant and we sit quicly to eat and depart back to Bassikounou
I spend the afternoon putting some touches and extra color in my drawings and before sunset I return the main Square but instead of sketching I spend my last afternoon chatting to the young Tuareg women, Fatimetou, who runs the shop with her dad. She has a sister in Dubai and she showed me her photo holding a portrait drawing of their father. She missed him so much that she asked a local artist to draw it from an identity photo she had from her father.
Nest morning I'm told we have to go back for a really quick visit to the camp. The APIO needs to do register again one of the interviews the sound is really bad.

early morning and windy day
The weather starts changing very fast and a strong wind, lifting the dust form the floor and throwing it in the airs keep coming in gusts. I wonder if we're not going to get stuck here as the plane is so small. A good opportunity to sketch Bassikounou over the weekend.
But we get back to Bassikounou and we're driven to the air strip in a hurry, the plane is arriving earlier than expected (we'll be arriving much later to Nouakchott) because it had the strong wind on its tail.

waiting to embark
view from window at Nema and map of Mauritania with Bassikounou

April 03, 2016

M'Bera, refugee camp Mauritania, day two, 23 March 2016

view from M'Bera from the twin water tanks
M'Bera. I had been told is the third city in Mauritania in number of inhabitants, after Nouakchott, the capital and Nouadhibou, the economic capital. But I wasn't prepared for the size of it.
In the beginning of the events in North Mali in 2012 the camp hold 80.000 people.
Today they're just under 50.000.
The camp is divided in 4 areas each has its primary schools and its vegetable gardens.
We must be aware as well that the Malien frontier is only 50/60km away and that another refugee camp lays there in Fassala and that the whole region of Hodh El Chargui is one of the regions in Mauritania where access to water is the most difficult and scarce.
If you want to learn more about the conflit and the refugees check this article in english by tuareg journalist Intagrist El Ansari, refugee in Nouakchott.

4th year
advanced with children from 10 to 16 year old
resolving the same equation
each school has its cantine where children are fed porridge mid morning
Schools in the camp were a priority for the journaliste of e-global, so in the morning we visited different classes in 'École 2'. 
This schools where built by Fare Studio. Sand castle is the name of this   projet as the walls where built with sand bags. Its worth a visit to their website.
The teacher's told me it was a Portuguese architect that had come to work on the projet, João Sobral, and that the classrooms where warm in the winter and stayed cool in the summer.
Kids and adults learn by repeating out loudly what the teacher says. And when a question is posed those that know the answer snap their fingers and repeat -'me, Mister, me Mister'.
Different children are called up to the blackboard to finish an equation.
Around eleven children are offered a porridge that they drink its made of soja with added nutrients and vitamins its called CSB and used by the HRC everywhere.

Ahmed et sa moto Kingo
What to draw ? the young man in the motorbike or the family of artisans that the journaliste and the photographer are talking to ? Just draw fast and do both forgetting about the details...behind the young Ahmed a meat seller, and a few other stalls, there will be never enough time to do those, first I'm always with people in a hurry jumping in and out of our UN car to make a few questions and take a few photographs. In some situations I don't even have time to ask for the name or from where they come from.

family of artisans without their wares as there wasn't enough time to stop
Registration Center and on the right interview with refugees who want to go back to Mali
And then the journalist and photographer have to leave as they cannot risk to loose their flight back to Portugal. But fortunately I managed to stay with the Associate Public Information Officer ( APIO) that is organizing an event for the World Refugee Day . So I was dropped at the Registration Center where I started sketching someone waiting in a bench waiting to get registered, when someone else told me to follow them and I joined the APIO.
APIO was filming the declarations of the man on the right hand side of the drawing. He and his family want to go back to Mali - volunteer repatriation refugees - and are helped through the process.
The older man was feeling uncomfortable by the sun. 

Tinelbarka, tuareg refugee, student 
students and Khadijetou, HCR worker at M'Berra
The interviews keep going on, the turn of a young student who has participated in a few campaigns with UNICEF for awareness. Beautiful smile and she knows my name. I didn't recognize her as I first met her in Nouakchott in 2012 when her and her family first arrived. Musicians and artisans they tried to survive in the city with their work but where forced eventually to come to the camp to be able to survive. Malians refugees outside the camp have no right to aid.
Khadijetou, like most workers at M'Bera and Bassikounou is Mauritanian or from a country of West Africa. Due to security concerns whites are not supposed to stay to long nor to move too much.

Next was a meeting with the responsables of the local populations and the refugees.
Both communities try to work together to resolve the problems rising from a forced cohabitation.
Resource management is vital. Both populations use wood to cook and build shelters.  
Most of them are shepherds and both populations share the same watering places and the same pasture.
New watering places have been built in M'Bera and in Bassikonou taps have been installed, they benefit both populations.

goat and sheep, camel and cow shepherd, from left to right
Looking at the way the camp has been transformed, most of the shelters provided by the HCR have had a fence made up of a desert plant the 'ifernan' (euphorbia balsamifera) and adictionel shelters with the branches of Turja - Calatropis procera, a lot of branches have been cut all around the area of 4 km2 of the camp.
 On the drive back to Bassikounou I get to see all the plants that are growing back but missing their branches, what's really amazing is that the fences made of Ifernan are alive and the tips of the branches are sprouting. 
Not all shelters have this fences around but the ones that have provide a bit of privacy and a definition of space that lacks in the rest of the camp.  Camps are cold and meant to be seen as temporary and semi permanent spaces.
 I can tell most people around me (and I don't mean the refugees) believe that if you make the camps  confortable refugees will never want to go back home...you cannot be more wrong in reasoning.

make shift dry toilette and shower
Having arrived in 2012 fleeing a conflit in the north of Mali people arrived in by hundreds everyday, sometimes reaching the 1500 per day.  Water access and toilettes didn't exist and they where completed a year later. A million makeshift shower/toilet like the one you see in the sketch where done. That makes the ratio of one to be shared by 23 people.

Hama Ag Awayssoune, musician
And another meeting, this time with a musicien that will come to Nouakchott to play in the world refugee day. Discussion of who and how and when.

Abdel Azize Mohamed
A young man joins us, he says he represents the Youth of the Camp.(Others say that he has attributed this role to himself). But he has serious concerns like the lack of activities for young adults that make them fragile and easy to indoctrinate or to be led into easy jobs related to organized crime. 
He also let us know that the nurseries that exist in each schools are on strike but I don't know why.
It was not the point of the meeting with the musicien to approach problems related with education or youth idleness.

view from the headquarters of the HCR in M'Bera
We go to the headquarters of the HCR, there we'll wait for the other teams that work in the camp to join us and we'll return to Bassikounou its around 2 pm, lunch will be awaiting us even if I'm curious to try one of the restaurants existing in the camp, many are barbecues places offer grilled meat with bread cooked in traditionnel ovens. a few offer also rice with meat sauce.

waiting for our gendarmerie escort to arrive
When all the workers arrive we get in the UN cars and go to the gate and await that the patrol that escort us to and from Bassikounou is ready for depart. 
We wait approximately 25 minutes and the we're off in this magnificent landscape of golden sands and Âmûr - acacias nilotica, Talh - acacia tortilis,and Techot - balanites aegyptiaca, speck the landscape.

Bassikounou, mais square
When back to Bassikounou, after eating, I start working in the drawings a bit of color some I managed to start in the camp others I have now the time to add.
Around 5 pm I go to the main square of Basikounou. I met a Malien family of Tuaregs that have a small shop and have been in Bassikounou since 2006, I ask them if I can sit in the front and sketch.
The place is lively the heat is going down and donkey carts, move from one side to the other. People linger and milk sellers sit at ground level with their milk conditioned in plastique bags.

April 01, 2016

M'Bera, refugee camp Mauritania, day one, 22 march 2016

Hawker beechcraft, plane and pilots from South Africa
I was invited by the Portuguese electronic newspaper e-Global to join a journalist and a photographer on their visit to the refugee camps of Mali in theSouth-East of Mauritania, close to the Malian frontier. Its the UNHCR that arranges and in a way controls our visit.
Tuesday 22 march we board this small plane (19 seats) in Nouakchott towards the village of Bassikounou. It will be approximately two hours flight to Nema, small stop of 30 minutes to fuel and another 30 minutes flight.

Re-fueling at the airport in Nema
Nema was being prepared to be a regional airport where charter flights would start around 2007/8 to expand tourism around the area specially to the Ancient Caravan Village of Walata (you can find the drawings of my visit in 2005 in this link). In 2008 Mauritania is considered a dangerous country to visit and placed in red alert and since then they're having less and less visitors.
 Nema is a ghost airport.

Aid workers from different organisations
As we start going down in Bassikounou, a filter of dust lingers in the air, golden,  trees, specially acacias speckle this landscape where ochre and reds predominate. The landing strip is of red earth and UN cars are waiting for us and for the International Organisations workers.

security briefing with Coronel Jileni Abdelli 
On arrival, first thing we had was a security briefing. I though this coronel was going to teach us what to do in case of attack or kidnapping, but no. He just told as the measures they take, convoy towards and back to the camps and that we we're not allowed in town after 9.30pm.

first meal at Bassikounou
As the journalist and photographer have only this afternoon and a few hours in the morning (of Wednesday) before flying back to Portugal. we're served lunch and have the opportunity to exceptionally visit the camps from 3.30pm to 6pm. My marathon of fast sketching is about to start.

vegetable gardens
young and old water the vegetable gardens twice a day
Our first visit was to the vegetable gardens of M'Bera. A local ONG called SOS Desert (no information at all in the net but she's mentioned by HCR) is very present in the camps, rubbish collecting, vegetable gardens and relations with refugees and local population.
The local population in this area of Mauritania suffers regularly from famine and their conditions of living are as fragile as the refugee ones, the only difference being of course, that they're in their home land and they have their national papers. Many of this population have cattle 8 cows, goats, sheep and camels. The refugee camp has brought some amelioration in their lifes, we'll see that further along.

We were visiting late March and we could see aubergines, tomatoes, carrots, and other vegetables growing, lots of mint that it is used in the tea making. But at the end of April the heat will be so strong that nothing will grow until November/ December.

adult literacy classes
 Adult literacy classes are done in the different languages spoken in Northern Mali. Hal Pulaar ( fulanis ), Arabic (Maures), Tamachec (touaregues) and Songhai. The classes are mixed but women outnumber men. The learning system is by repetition out loud what the teacher says.

Children form everywhere love being drawn 
 Outside children that are following us out of curiosity repeat the lesson as well.

view of the camp and children

This is the last drawing of this first day. A motorbike quickly done. We're not used to listen to motos in Mauritania, they're just starting to be seen in Nouakchott but they're still rare. On the contrary Maliens love them. And they're all over the country and now you hear them and see them in M'bera camp and in Bassikounou.