Tag Archives: Mamadou

The Inklings: Chapter 27

Mamadou was hungry. He had a strong headache and wished he could have a cup of tea and a bowl of rice, but there wasn’t any. They always ran out of food before the end of the ration period. Last night Mamadou had given his dinner to Howa, because he’d noticed how her baby started crying more frequently in the last couple of days before a food delivery and suspected that Howa wasn’t always able to make enough breast milk.

Saidou had snuck off early that morning to try to get some work in the nearest town. Howa and Mamadou worried about him doing this – sometimes refugees were attacked when they left the camp because some of the locals resented them for taking jobs that they might otherwise have been given – but when the food ran out Howa and Mamadou lost the strength to worry. Saidou would always bring back food.

Normally (when he wasn’t too hungry) Mamadou would try to be useful – groups of men would gather together and go looking for suitable jobs, like helping build shelters and sometimes Mamadou would go to the camp school to help teach the kids. But today Mamadou’s hunger and headache meant he wasn’t up to much at all.

To take his mind of his headache and empty stomach, Mamadou decided to take a walk around the camp. He could see some cars coming in the front gate and wandered over to see if the people in them had any news. A crowd quickly gathered around. They were trying to keep a respectable distance from the visitors and the aid workers who were meeting them, but were finding it hard.

Mamadou watched for a while but nothing exciting seemed to be happening and he couldn’t hear what the visitors were saying over everyone else’s chatter. He had just set off to see what was going on at the camp school when he thought he heard someone yelling out his name. He turned around. One of the aid workers and one of the visitors were making their way through the crowd, waving their arms above their heads and yelling out his name.

Mamadou approached and the visitor, speaking English, asked Mamadou if he spoke English. Mamadou responded that he did. The visitor said “Good! This is for you” and handed Mamadou an envelope. The visitor was then mobbed by other people, who hoped he would also give them an envelope so Mamadou retreated, holding his envelope close to his body.

Mamadou walked back to the one room shelter that he, Howa and Saidou shared. Nobody was there. Mamadou could hear lots of voices next door and thought that Howa was probably helping the neighbours with their cooking (since she didn’t have any food to cook that day). Mamadou hoped that someone they knew would have enough food to share with them that night. People tried to make sure nobody went hungry but sometimes they all ran out of food at the same time.

Mamadou sat down on the floor, opened the envelope and took out the letter inside it. It was written in English. Mamadou had suspected it would be. He could speak English, but he could scarcely read it! “Maybe when my headache goes away I will be able to” thought Mamadou. He got up and went to see if he could find Howa.


The Inklings: Chapter 11


Mamadou sat in the sun, watching more people arrive. He wished he’d been able to bring his paints and brushes and some canvas. He wanted to paint the relief he saw on the faces of the new arrivals when they made it to a place which would seem like some kind of hell to anyone who hadn’t just been somewhere worse.

Mamadou wouldn’t have been there at all if he hadn’t climbed the tree to see what was going on in the village. From the tree he saw the village being invaded by a group of ugly young men.

It was well accepted by Mamadou’s ethnic group that they were better looking and cleverer than the other dominant ethnic group in the country and so when he saw that the invaders were all ugly he had an idea of what was going on.

Mamadou expected that the ugly invaders would punch the men of his village a few times (as a demonstration of their superior power) and then leave but what happened was so much worse. Mamadou was shocked at the ferocity of the attack. The village men, then the women and then the children were bashed, whacked and chopped using an assortment of improvised weapons. The only survivors were those who weren’t found – Mamadou because he was up a tree, a teenage boy called Saidou who had been out searching for a lost cow and a woman called Howa with a small baby strapped to her back who had been out collecting medicinal bark. Everyone else had been sticking close to the village, which was what they normally did during the wet season.

The guilt that Mamadou now felt was incredible. Although he knew that if he had tried to help he couldn’t have prevented what had happened, he would rather have been down in the village to be killed with everyone else than be alive, having watched but not done anything. Every might since then he’d had dreams where he’d see injured people still breathing and he’d be walking away, leaving them to die.

After the attack Mamadou had rushed to check everyone, hoping to find signs of life but had found none. It was only the return of Howa and Saidou that kept him from collapsing.

Howa quickly became hysterical when she returned and Mamadou had only just managed to calm her down and begin explaining what he’d seen when Saidou returned with his cow.

Howa had lost her husband and her two eldest children. Her husband’s brothers and their families had also been killed.

Saidou had lost his mother and sisters. His father and two older brothers were fortunately away.

Overall, 45 villagers had been killed. They weren’t Mamadou’s relatives but he considered them to be his family because he was closer to them than he was to his own brothers and sisters, who all lived overseas.

Saidou insisted that they leave the village. He wanted to go and find his father and brothers. Saidou’s distress was showing itself as anger and Mamadou suspected that Saidou was planning for revenge.

Howa didn’t want to leave the bodies of her husband and children. Mamadou didn’t think they should leave either. He felt their duty was to bury the dead in the proper way (although he knew that it was going to be impossible for them on their own).

Saidou eventually managed to convince Mamadou and Howa to leave by pointing out that they needed help and that his father and brothers would be able to organize it.

Secretly they were all also scared of staying.

So, they all set out towards the town where Saidou’s father and brothers were. The walk was many kilometres, but they hoped they would be able to return with help before sunset.

It was now weeks later. They were all in a refugee camp across the border and Mamadou didn’t see how any of them would ever return to their village.

Although Mamadou wished he’d known he should bring his painting supplies with him he was glad that they hadn’t known of the extent of the attacks when they left their village looking for help. He didn’t know how he would have been able to decide what to do if he’d known what was really going on.

It was only when they reached the town that they started to realize that it wasn’t just their village that had been targeted, but their whole ethnic group.

 


The Inklings: Chapter 6

A lot had been going on, but Mamadou hadn’t paid much attention. He’d been working on a new series of paintings of clouds – while he watched and waited for it to rain he’d noticed how many different types of clouds there really were and he’d decided he’d paint clouds until it rained. Then when it eventually did start raining Mamadou realized how silly it had been to plan to stop painting clouds just at the time they became most common, and so he had continued his cloud series well into the wet season.

Mamadou had heard the news but it didn’t sound new. The President had been killed by his body guard. Then the military had taken over. People had taken to the streets to protest but things had become violent. Now the leaders of the two most powerful ethnic groups were each blaming the other for what was going on.

Other people in the village were agitated by the news though. As usually happened when there was instability, the price of rice had risen and foreigners were evacuating. Mamadou expected that things would settle soon though.

Mamadou was working on a painting of drizzle, with clouds that were almost indistinguishable from the rain. He was trying to capture the moment just before a burst of sun appeared, but he was finding it a challenge. The sun often appeared briefly between periods of drizzle at this time of year and so Mamadou had been given lots of opportunities to watch this, but the moment he wanted to capture really was just a moment. Before he could work out what was going on, it was gone.

Mamadou didn’t often wish for modern luxuries but he was tempted by the thought of being able to video the moment he was trying to capture and watch it back in slow motion. Then he had second thoughts and realized that capturing the moment on video would take all of the magic out of painting it. Mamadou then became sidetracked for a little while, wondering whether any first thoughts were any good or whether second and further thoughts were the only worthwhile ones. He began to doubt that any flashes of brilliance were first thoughts, deciding that many thoughts on the topic must have come before the great one. Then the sun came out properly and Mamadou predicted that there would be no more “moments” that day. As he started washing his brushes he thought he could hear something – people were yelling. Maybe someone was arguing.

Mamadou’s house was an outlier – further up the hill than the other houses in the village. When Mamadou wanted to know what was going on in the village he liked to climb the tree closest to his house and have a look before deciding whether or not he wanted to walk down and get involved.

Climbing the tree after all the rain made Mamadou’s clothes wet and when he got up to his favourite branch he found a couple of parrots sitting there that were reluctant to move. Mamadou didn’t blame them for choosing that spot – it was comfortable and had a nice view. That didn’t stop him from shooing them away though. Mamadou took his favourite spot and then craned his neck, trying to see what was going on in the village below.

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The Inklings: Chapter 2

A long way away from Syafika was another skinny man. His name was Mamadou and today was his 40th birthday. He didn’t have a cake and it definitely wasn’t going to rain in his village. It hadn’t rained properly for months and everything was dry and dusty – more than it had ever been before. Mamadou’s house was near the top of a hill, amongst forest. The trees and plants were already looking wilted, and it was still hours before the hottest part of the day. The weather had been making Mamadou depressed. Every day that it didn’t rain he felt worse. It was another sign that his life was still going downhill.

Nobody respected Mamadou. All the young people in the village thought he was crazy and all the old people were disappointed that such a lovely young man had thrown his life away. Anyone who really knew what had happened to Mamadou felt sorry for him, but also thought he had been foolish and were glad that he’d fallen so badly after trying to make too much of himself – he should have been happy to keep the life he’d grown up with. Everyone in the village agreed that it was good that Mamadou’s mother had died before his downfall, because it would have broken her heart and killed her anyway – and death due to the pain of disappointment and embarrassment had to be worse than death from fever.

At another time, years ago, Mamadou had felt like he was King of the World, but things would never be like that again. Even if something good did happen to him, Mamadou would never let himself feel as happy again because he knew what it felt like to lose it all.

Mamadou sat on an old wooden chair in the sunshine that was coming in through his window. He was drinking tea and trying to come to terms with being 40 and having nothing to show for it, except his paintings, but not many people cared about those and none of the people who did care lived in his village. He looked at the stack of his paintings against the wall near his bed. He looked at his paints and brushes and the sketches he’d done the day before of droopy leaves in the sun. Then he looked back at his paintings and his mood began to improve. He’d sold a painting not long ago – to a tourist who’d come to the village to sticky beak. She’d come a long way and had only a small suitcase, but had bought a painting anyway. She was only young, but she’d been a good listener and when Mamadou had told her about his downfall she’d paid attention and been sympathetic. He could see that she didn’t think he was worthless like everyone else did. Mamadou looked out the window at the blue sky. There were some clouds on the horizon and they were moving closer, but they weren’t rain clouds. Although Mamadou couldn’t imagine that it would ever rain again things did look a bit brighter than they had before. The trees looked a bit fresher. The tea tasted more like tea and less like rusty water. He had to remind himself that he’d had all he wanted and then lost it, just to check if he was really feeling hopeful again or had just forgotten about the awful things. The memories came back and cut Mamadou’s stomach, but he still felt optimistic – although he didn’t know why he should.

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