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Photographer's Note

I know this photo is of a very low quality, largely because of a difficult light, but I decided to post it because it reminds me of West Africa more than most other photos I have. I just wish I could have added a sound file.

This is from a village one or two hours' drive northeast of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso. I came here on a day trip in January 1982 with people from the UN to study the effects of a large campaign against a disease called river blindness. This was a kind of model village where the disease, spread by a fly, had been eradicated.

In between talking to the UN staff and village representatives I took a stroll on my own and found these women. They were pounding millet or sorghum to prepare flour for porridge or bread, usually the staple food of this region.

During my journey to West Africa in the winter of 1981–1982 I often heard the sound of wooden pestles crushing the grains of these cereals. Preparing the flour was a daily work for women in back streets and courtyards of every village and small town. Sometimes I woke up to the sound of the pestles behind my hotel.

If one woman was working alone she could sing to keep a good rhythm, if she was clever she could clap her hands two or even three times while the pestle bounced up, and grab it again on its way down. In case two or three women were working together like here they would find a steady rhythm pounding the grains in a given order. Now and then they could change the order and create a new rhythm, probably to make the job less boring.

Were these women posing for me? No. But they may have been aware of me.

I have scanned this from a Kodachrome slide.

Photo Information
  • Copyright: Gert Holmertz (holmertz) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 10370 W: 529 N: 20112] (88353)
  • Genre: People
  • Medium: Color
  • Date Taken: 1982-01-00
  • Photo Version: Original Version
  • Date Submitted: 2020-05-19 0:26
  • Favorites: 3 [view]
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Additional Photos by Gert Holmertz (holmertz) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 10370 W: 529 N: 20112] (88353)
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