Sunday, 16 February 2014

The Love Scribe of Bamako

There are a thousand ways to say "I love you". ......and Alassane Maiga's job is to pick the right one for each customer. He is one of 10 public scribes that sit on benches outside La Grande Poste, the main post office in Bamako Mali, says Journalist Alex Duval.

In a country with 70% illiteracy, scribes are required to help the public fill in forms and send letters - but this week, they are focused on a different kind of communication.

Three Hearts on a Rock, by Jim Dine, Montreal
Half way around the world, listening to this story on the BBC World Service, it confirms to me how important it is to dedicate one day in the year that is completely given over to celebrating LOVE!

I teach art in a primary school and on Friday the 14th I observed many excited children, creating love messages and making cards for their teachers and parents and friends. Children show us the power of being authentic and the power of accessing genuine feelings. So to me, Valentines Day, has become a day to be mindful about all of our loved ones and to treasure the powerful presence of love in our lives.

Two Big Black Hearts by Jim Dine
"Valentine's Day is when all our work comes to fruition," Maiga says. Bamako is big enough and amorous enough to keep the scribes working until the early hours of the morning in the week before Valentine's Day - to the extent that they can be seen sleeping on the post office steps.

Imagine that, a town being described as AMOROUS enough!!!! And it seems that while other amorous romantics around the world are sending flowers or cards, whether or not you know how to write in Bamako, people still have a strong enough urge to send loved ones a Love Poem,  and the "urge to love" trumps the limitations of personal abilities!!!

A love letter is never a one-size-fits-all affair. Maiga has to analyse the nature and magnitude of each passion - "what kind of love are we talking about?" - and assess the situation. Does he need to woo, seduce or charm? Should the billet doux contain a note of contrition, following an argument? Is it intended for a colleague at work, or a lover?

This one is written by the scribe of Bamako himself :

A love poem by Alassane Maiga

You who know my best and worst points.
You who know my coolness and my warmth.
I dedicate this poem to you, Fatoumata.
You gave me the desire to live.
You reconciled me with my parents.
You reconciled me with the world.
Without you I don't know what to do. I need to see you. Even your clothing.
If I am walking in the street and I see a colour you wear, I think of you. That's real love. Thank you. I am thinking of you. I love you so much.
Written for his own girlfriend, whom he met in 2006

Well, in true annual fashion, the creation of an amorous artfact took place at Flowers Towers last week! In top secret operations, ( when his head was turned)  a little homemade delectation was created to Big UP my fab chap!!!

Yes it started out as a bit of old cardboard!!! But with a spot of tissue paper magic, elmers glue, fluids acrylics, and some old fridge magnet poetry, my message took flight!

I hope Alassane Maiga would appreciate the saucy sentiments!!!

You know, here in Hong Kong, Friday 14th was known as Double Valentine Day,  It wasn't just Valentines but also the 15th day of the Lunar New Year -- more commonly known as Yuan Xiao or the Chinese Valentine's Day. The last time the two days coincided was nearly 15 years ago. 

Double Valentines Full Moon

Nearly 500 couples tied the knot at marriage registries across the city while a hundred couples marked the occasion at the city's famous Wong Tai Sin temple. They made their love-wish before Yue Lao, the deity for love and marriage, by tying themselves to their significant other with a silk cord. It is believed that once this is tied under his watch, no one can break the union..........the Romance in all of us is inescapable!!!

I don't subscribe to cynical views that nail Valentines day as a Hallmark Festival, I think as humans, we each and every one of us have a drive to love, be loved, to express that love and live it in our most visceral being....................

Whether it be self love, agape love, eros love, puppy love, paternal love, soulmate love, patriotic love, brotherly love, maternal love, tough love! unconditional love, divine goes on and we all have love as a presence in our lives in a variety of these shapes and forms.

So folks grab a piece of paper and tally up your love quotients including all the wondrous forms and shapes that love might take in your lovely lives...........

and for now, in loving friendship and in great love of art and poetry and of people !!!!
Have a great week


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