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Photographer's Note

This is Goundam, a small town in northern Mali, about 6-7 hours' journey from Timbuktu along very bumpy roads.

During the winter of 1982 I spent a month in Mali, including about a week in the remote north where conditions today are chaotic. The state has collapsed and a large area is run by fanatic militias who are doing their best to destroy society and ruin the culture.

In 1982 Mali was run by the military, as most other West African countries in those days, but it was a rather "soft" dictatorship. The atmosphere was relaxed and very friendly. The north, however, was extremely poor, about the worst I have ever seen, along with South Sudan.

I spent a day and a night in Goundam, just to catch a flight, and although I got a room at a municipal hostel I didn't find anything to eat. There were no restaurants or even simple cafés and in the market I only saw chunks of meat covered in dust and surrounded by flies, onions and half rotten tomatoes. Cigarettes and candy, on the other hand, were readily available.

As evening fell I was sitting on the porch of the hostel, not feeling very happy. I had barely managed to quench my thirst after boiling water straight from the river, but I was desperately hungry. Then finally the caretaker offered me a bowl of rice with some vegetables, the leftovers of his family's dinner. The day was saved and the next day I could fly back to civilization further south.

Regarding this photo I have, as usual, no particular memory of it. Only that I have scanned it from a Kodachrome slide. And I just noticed that it is the first picture from Goundam on TE. Why on earth didn't anyone else go here?

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Additional Photos by Gert Holmertz (holmertz) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3347 W: 298 N: 6963] (36989)
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