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.

shepherds
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

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