village at work
(sat/sun may 8-9th)

one of the most remarkable things about staying in Sangoulema, was to witness the constant busyness of almost everyone. The woman were either out working in the fields or at home preparing the foods. The men were making tools or repairing roofs. And the kids -- well they just followed me. Everyone busy -- from dawn, well past sunset.

The flour is cooked into this porridge called "To", and that's what most of them eat (as well as rice).

Carving handles to make the short tools that tilled the soil (most tilling done by hand, by kids).


Pounding the maize or millet into flour. It takes an enormous amount of energy (and rythym if it's two or three of you working together).

Fixing the roof with more mud. Most of the houses were made of these remarkably strong mud bricks -- I couldn't work out why they just didn't dissolve with the rains.


This is the village forge -- this guy is pumping the two leather bags and blowing air down into the charcoal fire where the metal is heated.

The red hot iron is then beaten into shape. At left, he's beating out an axe head. I didn't see any of the men working with food.

"Le Neré": a bright yellow, sweet sticky sawdust that you can pluck out of these pods that hang from trees.


Sifting the Neré into a fine powder
used for cooking up some treats.


This is tidiani's sister up a tree using a long pole to hook some of the Neré pods.


This kid is inside one of those small huts that stores the food -- at left he's handing out a basket of maize.

Precise and efficient -- one hand throws in a couple of "noix de karité" nuts, and the other slams down a stone, smashing them into small pieces. Watch your fingers!


This diesel-driven, noisy, black, oily mill was in the neighborhing village we visited for the mask festival. Think how much time this would save the other village.

No taps or electricity in this town. In fact, I didn't see a single machine while I was there. All the ground was tilled by hand or with oxen. The cotton was picked by hand. The water was drawn from the well by buckets.


Just living to work, all day, to live, to eat. Can't afford to send the kids to school because you need them in the fields and don't have the money anyway. Everyone busy doing something -- tiny kids looking after babies, little kids living in rice paddies to shoo away the birds, women stirring huge pots of porridge. A life of survival. No school. No pharmacy. Work, work, work. High mortality rates. I marvelled at the simplicity of the objective: survival. How little it must have changed over the last 200 years.

Then you swing from the simplicity of survival to the complexity of ritual -- witness the mask festival >>