I hate markets, the strong smells, the crowd, the people badgering you to buy their wares, the mud, the fear that makes you hold on tightly to your purse, all the noise that gives you a headache… I hate markets!
I love the Bamako market. I think if you want to know the real character of a city, visit its market. You can observe the people, discover their creativity, how they feed, how they relate to themselves and to strangers. At the Bamako market, I became convinced that Malians are warm, friendly, caring people. They welcomed me into their stalls with warm smiles and once they realized I didn’t speak Bamara or French, they quickly found someone to translate in broken English. I even met a Ghanaian trader, Kodjo who did most of my translation at the waist bead stall (it kinda felt weird, him watching me try out the beads). They made sure to warn me about keeping my money safely in the market because there are bad people around, I smile at them and think, ‘ I’m a Lagos babe, your small time pick-pockets don’t scare me.’
That woman with skin badly damaged from bleaching holding hands with her beautiful dark-skinned daughter, showed me the futility in trying to negate who you are. You can only change the surface, you are what you are.
The tailoring section of the market, which had at least 100 tailors creating works of art from Malian fabric, convinced me that Malians loved their own. There were so many delicious designs and fabrics, I could not decide on which one I wanted. I was spoilt for choice.
I discovered the Bogolan woven cloth section, I say discovered because you really need to go right inside the heart of the market to find the stalls. The many different motifs depicting rural life had me thinking of how to make some money by buying them there and shipping them for sale in Nigeria for at least 5 times the cost!The rich colours made me come alive. Brightly coloured waist beads, beautiful fabrics, vegetables and fruits, bags, books, everything! The smells give me a jolt. The smell of leather at the craft section, smell of fried food, new fabric, all a treat for the senses.
The pulsating and pushing crowd, moving at its own pace. Chaos that has a method to it. The anonymity of being part of such a huge crowd and the feeling of safety that comes from knowing that everyone is looking out for me because they notice that I am not from these parts. The market is right in the centre of Bamako and interestingly, it does not have a name!
I love markets, the strong smells, the people smiling and offering you their wares, the laughing voices conversing loudly in a mix of languages that you cannot understand, the creativity and beauty on display. I love the Bamako market.