Irene Abdou Photography, LLC - Travel. Lifestyle. Documentary. NGOs, Development & Public Health.
Caption: I was invited by the American Society of Media Photographers (Washington, DC chapter) on January 11, 2011 to give a presentation during their 8×10 Program. I2019ve had a lot of requests by people outside the area or who weren2019t able to make the program to post the presentation online. So here it is! I spent the month of November 2010 in Burkina Faso, which is a small country in the heart of West Africa. My focus was on photographing the lifestyle of the Fulani people. The Fulani are one of the ethnic groups that are found in multiple countries in West Africa because they2019re on the move every season in search of green pastures and fresh water for their cattle. I2019ve been interested in the Fulani for the past fifteen years, since I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger and lived for several years in a small Fulani village of 40 people. This evening, I2019m going to show you two collections of images. Everything you see tonight except for maybe 5 images are from my November trip; the other 5 or so images are from my 2007 trip to Burkina, but I couldn2019t resist including them. And 99% of the images are also taken in rural Burkina Faso 2013 in the north 2013 in the heart of Fulani territory. All of the music that you hear in the background is traditional Fulani music that I recorded in the field. Part 1: When Darkness Falls So, you may never have heard of Burkina Faso. It2019s a little-known country in the heart of W. Africa, and in Burkina, 12.4 million people live without electricity. Countless more families 2013 while enjoying limited electricity 2013 will still never know the conveniences of a refrigerator, modern oven, or even an electric iron. For example, imagine a family in a rural town. They live in a compound with five or so two-room houses for perhaps 30 people, spanning four generations. Imagine that they are fortunate enough to have electricity. Yet, they have no stove, and as a result, imagine each night the women taking turns cooking dinner outside on an open fire for the entire family. Imagine sweat dripping from the woman2019s brow. Imagine her cringing from the heat of the fire. Dinner is served. But rather than eat with the lights on, imagine a man telling a child to turn off the lights so that insects don2019t fly into his food. It grows later, and family members begin to enter the houses to sleep. A few hours later, there is an electrical outage. Imagine two women emerging from the home, dragging handwoven straw mats, which they lay on the ground outside2026because without electricity to power the fan, the heat indoors is unbearable. This is the only life they know. Yet, through it all, they dance, they sing, they celebrate. All of the images in this first collection are taken at dusk or at night, by either firelight or flash. The music that you2019ll hear in the background of this first collection of images is called 201Cdoohaali201D in Fulfulde, the language of the Fulani people. Doohaali is a specific form of song and dance which is only practiced by a specific group of Fulani that live in a specific area of Burkina Faso. I2019ve known about it for a while, but I2019d never seen photos of it before, and I2019d only ever been able to find one audio recording. So I was extremely excited to be able to find it on this trip. The doohaali was difficult to photograph, first because it was very dark, and second because you have a line of men and a line of women standing very closely together and facing each other. They shuffle towards each other, and then shuffle away. The women are singing and clapping, and the men 2013 holding their cattle-herding sticks 2013 are doing these deep vocalizations that sound like huh2026huh2026huh2026huh2026 At times, all of a sudden, the men will start chanting faster and will shuffle very quickly towards the women, and the women have to shuffle backwards very quickly. Going backwards is harder than going forward. When I was there 2013 and I was dancing in the women2019s line 2013 I just thought that it was the coolest thing I2019d ever seen in my life. I love the music. It was like waves of sound washing over me; I don2019t know how else to explain it. The men who performed the doohaali were the winners of a regional cultural competition, and a few days later, traveled to Bobo-Dioulasso in southwestern Burkina Faso to perform at the bi-annual 201CSemaine Nationale de la Culture201D (National Culture Week). There are a few photos of the female winners as well, though most of the women in the images are members of the community who have joined in the nighttime fun. You2019ll also see some photos of meat being grilled on an open fire. Tabaski (Eid-Al-Adha) is Muslim West Africa2019s largest holiday and is celebrated with the biggest feast of the year. Traditionally, each family slaughters one or more goats or sheep, which are roasted whole by the fire throughout the day. Among this family in Djibo in northern Burkina Faso, the men got a late start to the barbecue, and the meat continues roasting into the night. No one was hungry, though, since throughout the day and evening, adults and children alike would cut off small pieces of meat that were already cooked, or would roast small chunks separately to snack on. Look closely at the upper left corner of one of these photos, and you2019ll see a young boy, knife at the ready, about to cut off a tasty chunk of meat. Part 2: Spirit of Humanity 2013 Hoping for a Better Tomorrow The next collection of images are portraits, many of them taken in remote Fulani villages. It2019s worth mentioning that travel in northern Burkina Faso is more difficult now than when I visited the area ten years ago. It is more insecure, with Touareg bandits from Mali entering Burkina, putting both foreigners and locals in danger. There was even a story (confirmed) of these bandits robbing a donkey cart at gunpoint. The American Embassy advised Americans not to go to farther north than a certain point. While my husband and I spent three weeks on that imaginary 201Cline,201D and we did travel on day trips into the 201Cno-go201D area, we would only alert certain people in advance of our plans, to avoid any ambushes. The first audio clip that you2019ll hear in this second collection of images is a traditional griot. A griot is a poet and storyteller, earning his living by reciting family histories through poetry, song, and music, refusing to leave the compound until the family pays him for his troubles. In the photos, you2019ll see the griots recorded in the audio, one playing a traditional guitar, call on a Fulani family. The third man in green 2013 their assistant 2013 is responsible for keeping an eye on the area and letting the griots know when a family member has returned after a long absence. The second clip of music is singing at a wedding, and the third clip is fom a pair of women at night. You2019ll also see traditional Fulani straw mat houses, where straw mats are placed over a frame of sticks to make a house. The houses are portable, so they can be disassembled, moved, and reassembled at will, as they follow their cattle.
Keywords: burkina faso, west africa, african, africans, night, rural, remote, fulani, fula, peul, peule, woman, women, child, children, people, music, dance, dancing, singing, traditional, village, villages, poor, poverty, nigeria, nigerian, nigerians, niger, mali,
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