We here at Nimba are very pleased to report that our winter trip 2012-2013 was an all-around success -- and a bucket of fun to boot! We hope you enjoy our post-trip blog, in which we'll regale you with tales from our travels, enchant you with photos, and give everyone a glimpse of the effect that a little sweat, some elbow grease, and the wonderful donations from our community can have in Guinea.
welcome back to bagatai
Bagatai, Youssouf's artist-in-residence compound in Nongo, a quiet suburb of Conakry, was all a-bustle with activity this past December and January. Youssouf led two month-long dance & drum workshops back to back, and between the Koumbassa family, le batterie (the 8-10 drummers that play for dance class and teach drum every day), over 30 dance students from around the world, not 1, not 2, but 3 monkeys, and Kobe the dog, there was never a dull moment at the house.
During workshop season, dance class is a twice-daily event that regulates all aspects of life at Bagatai. It is the core of Youssouf's program and the main reason that students from Brazil, Europe, Japan, Korea, the U.S., Israel, Mexico, and even New Zealand come to Conakry with Youssouf.
Shortly after Bagatai breakfasts on oven-warm baguette, hard-boiled eggs, a beguiling array of fruits fresh from the market, a soft cheese that mysteriously withstands the tropical heat, and the ever-present Nescafe, the drums begin to echo through the courtyard, calling everyone in earshot to dance. Students in brightly colored wrap-skirts called lapas and sports bras stretch on the concrete tiles while the drummers tune up in the gazebo and prepare for their two-or-so-hour marathon.
As Youssouf's top proteges lead the class in vigorous warm-up exercises, visitors start to stroll in and find chairs or shady places to stand and watch the class. As the dancers bend, kick, stretch, and strain, neighbors come to fetch water from the well under the apple tree, the women of the house glide back and forth about their work, and onlookers fan flies away and look after the babies crawling on the porch.
Youssouf teaches the rhythms of the day and benevolently drills his sweating students until the movements are "feeling sweet" and "looking clean."
As many of you know, Nimba raised money this year to begin construction at Bentouryah, our pretty plot of land at the base of Mount Kakilouma about an hour's drive from Conakry. You, our amazing community, supported us with emergency funds to construct a perimeter wall to protect the land while we continue raising funds to complete the Nimba Center. Here's some early shots of the land and our work there.
The first step was to clear a swath of the land and cut down some of the younger palm trees, which, believe it or not, can grow to be quite treacherous - if allowed, they can even bust through a cement wall! Clearing land in Guinea is done with traditional methods of controlled burns. Here's a few shots of "Bentouryah burning."
And the slightly-less-green-but-still-lovely results:
Well folks, that's all for now. Stay tuned till next week when we gather materials, start construction, and share more dance, drum, and educational adventures in Guinea. As they say in Susu, "won fa fey," or "we'll be right back!"