Malian Festivals and their dates:

1-Festival on the Niger , Thursday 29 th to Sunday 1 st of February 2009

On the river Niger and its banks, the Festival brings a fresh wind to

Segou and shows the image of a town with a rich history and open to the


Each year the Festival organises a forum about themes that are important

for the Malian society. In the Forum lecturers from around the world come

together to create realistic debates that result in concrete

recommendations. The Forum is becoming an international discussion


Traditional manifestations form Segou region Music, dance and puppets from

the Segou basin are all ancestral rites of the region and are the living

proof of its big cultural richness of the ancestral rites of the region.

The Festival reserves a primordial place for these manifestations that

contribute to the preservation and the promotion of these artistic

expressions that form the cultural heritage of the region. Research

permitted us to make an inventory of 15 different styles of dances and

puppetry of the Segou region. The Festival has established a solid and

respectful collaboration with different representatives (Bambaras, Bozos,

Somonos, Korédugaw, Chasseurs...) of these artistic expressions in Segou

and in surrounding villages in order to make the visitors of the festival

discover this fabulous potential. The Festival has the ambition to make

Segou into the Capital of Visual Arts. Segou has been since long the

Bogolan town and counts as its own, some less known young talents, but

also internationally well known artists such as Dolo Amahigueré. Therefore

we can confidently say that the town is a reference in the field of Visual

Arts and the Festival will ameliorate this status by creating an

international meeting of visual artists.

2-Festival of the Desert at Essakane, 08 January to 10 2009.

Magic comes from humans and nature. For all of us, the Festival in the

Desert was just a simple step towards something essential, a touch of

freedom, like exhaling a lung full of fresh air or like a song by Django,

which turns awkwardness and tactlessness into something beautiful and

human and excludes impoliteness.

In Essakane, in the same group, we found traces of the secrets which are

shared by the Indians and the Blue Men. It was like a ray of providential

hope. If our destiny is a world without frontiers, then the nomadic tribes

of the earth are guardians of an essential little parcel. A romantic

vision perhaps, of another type of brotherhood, with three litres of water

a day, forty Celsius at noon and zero at night, a few scorpions, wounds

and scars, neither fear nor malice, electric guitars and generators. We

all extinguished the candles of Carabosse. The breath taken away.

The guests, they were organisers or just festival goers, whether their

journey started thousands of miles away in Europe or North America or only

a few hundred miles away in lone and level sands of the Sahara, whether

they had come by plane, bus and Toyota Land Cruiser or the old quiet way,

by camel... they were aIl stars too. Then there were the sheer and silky

dunes of Essakane, the bright green acacia trees, the scuttling scarab

beetles, the vast blue skies, the silent sunsets, the needling cram cram.

It was a magical place that possessed star quality in abundance. At night,

you looked up and the sky was creamy with stars, stern, sharp and breath

takingly clear, with Orion crashing through the thick jungle of celestial

brightness in search of his prey. You gorged on the stars and like some

tortuous re-run of the Whacky Races, or returned at a more leisurely pace

to their camps, their homes in Timbuktu, Kidal, Gao, Goundam, Tessalit and

Bamako, there could be no doubt that the star that really stole the show,

that planted a field of rich and luscious memories in the heads of

everyone who had the great good fortune to be there, was the event itself


Nomads need to come together from time to time to catch up with news,

settle disputes, race camels, make music and mix the gene pool. In the

southern Sahara desert the Touaregs, or Kel Tamashek (people who speak

Tamashek), as they prefer to be known, have been organising such

gatherings for centuries. The severe droughts of the 1970s and 1980s, and

the Tamashek wars of the early 1990s in northern Mali and Niger broke the

traditional rhythm of nomadic life. After 1996, when up to three thousand

firearms were burned in a symbolic "Flame of Peace" in a public square in

Timbuktu, the nomadic and sedentary communities of the southern Sahara

sought ways to rebuild their lives and their desert home. EFES, a Tamashek

association whose statutory aim is to develop the north, hit on the idea

of reviving the annual get-togethers of the nomads on a grand scale.

Instead of just gathering together wandering groups of nomads in a 300 to

500 km radius around a festival site, they would throw the event open to

the entire desert region, to the whole of Mali and eventually even to the

world. With the invaluable help of certain European partners, notably the

group Lo'Jo from Angers in France and their manager Philippe Brix, EFES

staged the first Festival in the Desert in Tin Essako, east of Kidal, the

capital of the far north-eastern corner of Mali, in January 2001. The moon

was eclipsed and so was everyone's capacity for wonder. A year later a

second, slightly smaller event was staged in Tessalit near the Algerian

border, in the teeth of a sandstorm.

2003 in Essakane, however, was an altogether different order of marvel.

The renowned Malian film- maker and now Minister for Culture, Cheikh Oumar

Sissoko, spoke in his genuinely moving opening speech of the beauty of

Mali's diversity and of how this Festival was the perfect expression of

it. He spoke no lie. Bambara and Manding musicians from the south of the

country, to whom Timbuktu and the Sahara were feared no-go regions, as

alien as the Gobi desert until now, suddenly found themselves walking

amongst ferocious looking Tamashek nomads without trepidation or concern.

It was a heartfelt hymn to the peace and prosperity of an African nation,

united, in music and feasting, for the time being at least. The three

hundred and fifty strong non-African contingent slipped and slid through

the flour soft sand, turbans wrapped tightly around their heads to protect

them from the midday heat, bug eyed at the visual feast which met their

gaze in every direction the towering camel riders, the gorgeously adorned

Tamashek women, the dunes interwoven with hundreds of tents, the churning

trucks and 4x4 vehicles, the azure sky and the ochre horizons. In the end

you could cite many reasons why this event, this mass celebration of the

blue note, was so enjoyable, despite the challenges of getting there, the

physical discomforts and the cram cram, but all who witnessed the event

will tell you that some kind of indefinable magic happened in those dunes

near Timbuktu.


3-Cattle-crossing at Diafarabé

Between November and December


The Niger River means many things to people in Mali. The Cattle Crossing

Festival happens every year in Diafarabé, when the Fulani people celebrate

the return of their young men and the cattle they've been herding on

grazing lands across the river. The boys' cattle are then judged, and

prizes are given.

Girls in Diafarabé look forward to the Festival for another reason. It's

their chance to see their boyfriends again.

For the boys, the crossing can be a nerve-wracking time.

"When the animals come back, they are driven into a large open space at

one end of the town where there is a panel which judges them to decide

whose animals are fat, in other words, whose animals have been best cared

for. If your animals are judged the best-kept herd you're the winner, and

the community gives you prizes: a special blanket, a robe, and many other

gifts. The last word in the judging is always with the vet. The boy with

the worst-kept herd is given a peanut, which is quite a shameful thing.

Last year the boy who was given the peanut went back to the bush a week

later and now, this year, his animals are very fat and his people have all

been congratulating him instead of complaining about him like they did

last year."


Festival at Anderamboukane at Gao

From 20 January to 23 2009








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Baco Djicoroni

Bamako Mali West Africa