Pat and Richard in West Africa 2011 travel blog

Onion fields near Sanga

The Hogon

Walking through the miller fields

The blacksmith at work

local children

Bones in the Tellem burial place

On Wednesday we drove from Bandiagara to Sangha, another Dogon village. The road was pretty rough, dirt and big boulders everywhere, but very pretty. There were lots of dams along the way constructed on the river - when the first one fills it overflows and then fills the next one down the river, which then overflows and fills the next one and so on, ensuring that each village gets water.

We booked in to our hotel in Sangha and had some lunch, then a local guide, Ibrahim, took us to visit the village. With all the local kids in tow, we walked around the village to see how they live. Again it was mud and the same layout as Teli and all the other villages, but this time the spiritual leader, the Hogon, lived here. We went to visit him but didn't get too close - apparently once he is chosen to be the Hogon he cannot wash ever again! In his yard there were a couple of bowls filled with rocks - one for each Hogon - and there were quite a few rocks. The Hogon has his daughter in law to cook for him, he is a very old man.

Each village has a toguna, a meeting place for the men. It is very a very low building with eight pillars, one for each of their ancestors, and a thatch roof with a different layer for each generation. You cannot stand up in it and this is so that if people get angry and jump up they bang their heads and have to sit down straight away! This is where the men discuss Important Things while the women do the work - I asked if the women had a meeting place too, and yes they do, they have a women's house where they go when they are menstruating and have to stay there for a week - bet they're glad of the rest! The women seem to have a hard life, carrying very heavy loads all day, then they have to come back and wash the clothes and cook for the family.

We visited the blacksmith, he is an important man as besides making all the tools needed by the village he also mediates when there are arguments between villagers and also performs circumcisions of the boys. The villages still practice female circumcision though the Government is trying to stamp this out.

After the visit to the village we continued our walk along the plateau where you could see a Tellem village high on the cliff face with bones from their burial site next to the village, finally returning to the hotel as it got dark.

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