18 December 2013

A few musical references

Good day Va Friends of Mali, I just want to share a couple things I thought you might enjoy:

Richmond-based blues artist Corey Harris and his band will be playing the Capital Ale House on January 10, 2014. Visit www.corey-harris.com for details. In addition, Harris has begun offering online lessons (via sonic-junction.com) to his very groovy approach to the blues, which has not only been inspired by Malian music, it has been informed by collaborations with Malian musicians. Share this link with your budding guitarists: http://sonic-junction.com/corey-harris

Here is the latest in Robert Plant's series on the Festival au Desert 2008:

20 November 2013

"Making Of the Women, War & Peace Conference" by Kadidia Samake

19 November 2013

New (online) TV Series on MTVu features Mali, y'all

Rebel Music

11/25 on mtvU 9/8c. 
A brave group of Malian musicians defy the State of Emergency and rally together to stage a rebellious public concert for peace and unity in their country.
Un groupe de musiciens courageux de Mali défis l'état d'urgence et organise un concert publique militant pour la paix et l'union au Mali.

17 November 2013

Two interviews aired for Women, War and Peace Conference 2013

Robin Edward Poulton was guest of Liz Humes on her weekly book review show, Wordy Birds, on September 13, on Richmond Independent Radio, WRIR lp 97.3 FM and WRIR.ORG

Robin Poulton is the co-chair of the VCU conference Women War and Peace. His book is called A Peace of Timbuktu: Democratic Governance, Development and African Peacemaking. It’s about his involvement in peace making and the small arms disarmament that ended a 1996 Tuareg rebellion. He is the vice president of Virginia Friends of Mali and he’s worked with the United Nations in Geneva disarmament research and written about disarmament issues in Sierra Leone and Liberia, Cambodia and Afghanistan. On this show, Robin explains the Tuareg conflict and provides insight as to why resolution is such a difficult thing for Mali to achieve. Listen to the show: http://wordybirds.org/2013/09/20/robin-poulton/

Zakiyatou Oualett Halatine was featured on Lightly on the Ground Radio, Wednesday, October 2, on Richmond Independent Radio, WRIR lp 97.3 FM and WRIR.ORG

"This is an unusual Lightly on the Ground episode in several ways," says host Patricia Stansbury. "My guest is Zakiyatou Oualett Halatine and she speaks with us over the internet from Mauritania where she has lived as a refugee since much of her town, including her home and business were burned on February 1, 2012. The audio is inconsistent, but what she says is well worth listening closely. She tells us how to build a sustainable business, what it is like to be barred from returning to her homeland, and the difference between the way men and women conceive of starting a microenterprise."
DOWLOAD PODCAST: http://radio4all.net/index.php/program/71929

28 October 2013


Dear Friends of Mali,


In Mali, the most important social and spiritual event in the calendar is always a funeral. Not a birth, nor a marriage, nor the winning of a lucrative contract, but a funeral. AND THE MOST MEANINGFUL funeral of them all is your mother's funeral. Not your father's funeral, although that is meaningful as well of course: but it is your mother who gave you life; it is your mother who educated you; it is she who made you who you are, who taught you what is right and what is wrong. From your father, you receive your name: but from your mother, you receive your social status, your knowledge, your education.

Prince Jata, who later became the Lion King, was known as Sunjata Keita: Keita from his father, of course. But he was known as his mother's son Sogolon Jata, which became 'Sunjata'.

Cheikh Hamala Diabaté, our griot and our friend, lost his mother two days before the Folk Festival. He met his obligations to Richmond, played a fabulous concert, and now he needs to return home for his mother's funeral.

We need to help him financially, as friends, to do this. That is what Friends of Mali and friends of a Malian would do. We must do it.

In return, CHD and his children will sing our praises for years to come, and tell the world that we are true Friends of Mali!

That is what griots do!

You can use the Paypal link here or on our website (vafriendsofmali.org). If you prefer to mail your contributions, please make checks payable to "VFOM" and write "For Griot CHD"on the memo line; and send to

PO Box 4363
Richmond, VA 23220
Thank you,

Ana Edwards, president
Virginia Friends of Mali

on behalf of the Board of Directors
  • Lydie Alapini-Sakponou
  • Lindsey Fitzgerald
  • Tim Harding
  • Brahima Kone
  • Allan Levenberg
  • Robin Edward Poulton
  • Johanna Sakponou
  • Dana Wiggins

30 September 2013

Inline image 2

The Women, War and Peace conference is over but you can review the program and papers at www.vcupeace.net.

09 September 2013


Please keep our friends and colleagues, neighbors and survivors in your hearts as residents from Bamako, Mali's capital city, are dealing with the terrible flooding that took at least 23 lives on Wednesday and left potentially thousands homeless.

Here are a few links to news reports: 


CPEL Segou has a new website

Djibril Guisse, member of the Council for the Local Economic Development of Segou (Conseil pour la Promotion de l'Economie Locale de Segou), has written to announce that our sister city's equivalent to the Chamber of Commerce has just relaunched website: www.cpelsegou.org. This is the organization that partnered to produce the first Festival Sur le Niger. Check out the link to their blog. It nicely features the artisan, agricultural and tourist offerings of this gentle, hospitable and dynamic region.

And, in the meantime click here enjoy some great sounds from the band of our featured musician and griot, Cheick Hamala Diabate!

11 August 2013

Mali's run-off presidential election is underway

The two candidates are Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (Rally for Mali) and Soumaïla Cissé (URD - Union for the Republic and Democracy). You can follow the voting process for today's polling on Mali Vote 2013, http://malivote.com.

So, here's a little music from the VFOM Mali INdependence Day celebration from 2012. Cheick Hamala Diabate and his band and dancer lit up the VCU Commons Ballroom that night! CHD's full band returns to Richmond on Friday, Sep. 20, to perform for the Women, War and Peace Conference. Special guest artists include Malian griotte Aissata Diabate and local Hotel X sax player, Tim Harding.

This is video one of two. Click the Culture tab above to see both.

10 August 2013

Films on Women, War and Peace Key Portion of Conference

Films on Women, War & Peace

Key Portion of the Women, War and Peace Conference 2013 (Sep. 20-21, 2013)

The conference title is inspired by the 2011 PBS series of films on Women, War and Peace, in particular the documentary film on the women’s peace initiative in Liberia, entitled Pray the Devil Back to Hell. It is the story of Nobel Prize winners Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (current president of Liberia) and Leymah Gbowee (founder of the Gbowee Peace Foundation) who peacefully took on the warlords and the regime of dictator Charles Taylor during a devastating civil war and brought an end to the conflict.

This film will be shown during the conference, and esteemed film producer Abigail Disney will provide the Friday evening keynote address. She will discuss the film itself and the work of the Gbowee Peace Foundation USA. The Foundation facilitates international engagement with the vision and work of Leymah Gbowee and organizations working in Liberia, West Africa, and globally in areas of peace, security, and reconciliation and in the area of girls’ and women’s rights and leadership. See trailers and more about the film here: http://praythedevilbacktohell.com/.

The Liberian Association of Virginia (LAVA) will host a panel on Saturday during which Liberians attending the conference will comment on their own experiences during the Charles Taylor years.

Please join us at the Women, War & Peace Conference 2013 on the 20th and 21st September, 2013. See full conference program and registration details at http://www.vcupeace.net/.

28 July 2013

Polls have closed on Mali national elections

From The Guardian UK
July 29th France 24 reports that:
Sunday’s poll was conducted fairly smoothly with no reports of violence and a large number of Malians casting their ballots, defying security fears and disregarding Islamist threats to derail the vote.
Official turnout figures have not been released, but analysts say the voting rate could exceed the 36 percent achieved in the 2007 elections.
RPM candidate Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (known as “IBK”) and the URD’s Soumaila Cissé are considered the frontrunners among the list of 27 presidential candidates.
RPM projections on Sunday night put Keita in the lead, which led to hundreds of supporters gathering at the party’s Bamako headquarters and chanting, "IBK – the man we need." Similar scenes of jubilation unfolded at Cissé’s URD party headquarters in the Malian capital. These are the two candidates expected to face-off on August 11th. 


Registration Now Open for the Women, War & Peace Conference

VFOM has launched an IndieGoGo campaign!

Ibrahim ag Youssouf
Noted Malian peacemaker

Zakiyatou Oualett Halatine
Malian peacemaker and former 
Minister of Tourism and Culture

Updates on MALI's current situation:

Mali holds national elections Sunday, July 28 2013. The two candidates with the highest number of votes will move on to a run-off election in August. A new president and a new administration are about to be formed.


The recent conflict in North Mali has raised yet again the problem of children as victims of war. Girls are even more vulnerable than boys: this is proven by the rumored rapes that took place in the city of Gao last summer, when it was invaded and taken over first by MNLA troops from the former Libyan army, and then by MUJAO jihadists.

03 July 2013

Such Treats are Coming Our Way!

Women, War & Peace Conference September 20-21, 2013
will feature the fantastic music of Cheikh Hamala Diabate and his daughter Aissata Diabate!

And in 2014, Look who's coming:

Unh. So Exciting!!!

31 May 2013

Launching partnerships in teaching and research

11 January 2013 meeting of the Segou physicians, administrators,
both local and state, with the VFOM/VCU team members to
discuss ethical protocols for the research project.
In January 2013 VFoM members led a group of VCU professors to Ségou and Bamako, to launch new partnerships in teaching and research. The delegation of professors and colleagues (with their Malian names and research interests) included the following:

Dr. Helen Ruth ASPASS, geographer interested in transferring knowledge of Africa to early childhood and elementary education students

Dr. Christopher BROOKS, VCU Head of Anthropology interested in social problems related to AIDS, Malian music and the historical Virginia-Mali connection 

Dr. Patricia CUMMINS (Rokiatou TRAORÉ), VCU French professor interested in comparative university systems and in innovative French language teaching 

Ana EDWARDS (Aminata TALL-SISSOKO), VFoM President, interested in Mali-Virginia cultural relations through history, the arts and women's affairs

Dr. Michelle ELCOAT-POULTON, (Oumou KONÉ), former Vice-President of Child Fund International, working with early childhood 

Marcia FONTES-HELLMAN, VCU professor of Portuguese interested in youth and women’s self-empowerment through intercultural exchange and technology, and the 2014 project to celebrate the 700th anniversary of Aboubakr II's 1314 crossing from Mali to Brazil. 

Brahima KONÉ, VCU French professor interested in West African history, culture and economic development, and also working on the 2014 project to celebrate the 700th anniversary of Aboubakr II's 1314 crossing from Mali to Brazil 

Dr. Bernard MOITT, VCU History Professor interested in Malian history, French colonial history and Mali's links to Virginia and Haiti.

Dr. Robin POULTON (Macky TALL), VFoM vice president interested in peace research and practice, civil society and sustainable development in Mali 

Dr. AJ SHRIAR, geographer interested in regional planning, irrigation systems and the sustainability of Sahelian production systems 

Dr. Shawn UTSEY, psychologist and VCU Head of African Studies, interested in urban youth and their expression of relationships in their lives 

11 May 2013

VFOM Update: May 11, 2013

Pat Cummins, Robin Poulton, Dr. Fanta Diabate visiting Byrd House Market
on opening day of the 2013 season. Fanta then flew off, back to Bamako.

Fanta’s visit to Richmond

Dr Fanta Sambou DIABATE, Mali's most famous gynecologist and obstetrician spent a week in Richmond working with the VCU Health System and the VCU School of World Studies. On Friday May 3rd a group of members joined Fanta for lunch at MAMUSU's Africaine on Main, a popular West African restaurant on West Main at 2nd St, behind the Richmond Public Library. That day the akra were particularly delicious (these are fried black-eye pea or bean flour balls, and they are the delicious the West African ancestor of our 'hush puppies').

Fanta is working with the VCU AIDS clinic to set up a medical research project in Richmond's Sister City - Ségou on the Niger River - to help AIDS sufferers in Africa. The SWS brings knowledge of French and Mali and Anthropology to the medical team, which has won a Gates Foundation grant. Winning this grant - very very competititve - was highlighted in VCU Health System as one of the ten most important events of 2012. VFoM is proud to be a part of this team with the School of World Studies and Richmond Sister City Commission.

Mali’s election dates:

It has been announced that the Malian Presidential election will take place on July 7th and 21st. The Malians use a transferable vote system, with the two top candidates running off two weeks after the first round. Inauguration of the new President will be on July 31st.

Refreshing the voice of a talking drum...

Allan restrings.

09 April 2013

Sep. 20-21 Conference: "Women War and Peace"

A collaborative and interdisciplinary symposium offered by VFOM, VCU School of World Studies, Richmond Peace Education Center and Richmond Sister Cities Commission featuring film screenings, lectures and discussions on the topics of women, war and peace.

The scholarly portion will be paired with the annual Mali Independence Day celebration of traditional and contemporary music, food, dance, visual arts and history from Mali's cultures.


and if you are interested in earning some of your volunteer hours or just want to volunteer, click here or on the "Want to Volunteer?" tab above.

13 March 2013

A small update with a nice music mix.

Here's a link to a nice NPR/Afropop Worldwide Mali 100 Mix, with a little ecommentary... Enjoy.

Meanwhile VFOM is chugging along.

  • A board meeting is scheduled for this Saturday, March 16, at which we will welcome a new board member and a new intern from VCU this semester! Thank you Allan! Thank you Dr. Cummins' 3rd year French class! Introductory profiles of Tim and Amanda will be posted soon.
  • The challenges that Mali faces are all over the media these days. In spite of the conflict, the nation will hold elections in July, for the central government as well as regional and local jurisdictions. Many of our friends, including Segou's mayor and city councilors' seats are in the race, so we'll try to keep you apprised of the results. Please share your knowledge as well: virginiafriendsofmali@gmail.com.
  • 10,000 Villages will be holding their 3rd Annual Fashion event on April 27 and guess which VFOM member will be sharing the runway? This event promotes their Fair Trade partners, to which list we are hoping to add Mali! 
  • Planning for the September conference, Women War and Peace, a collaboration of VCU World Studies, Richmond Peace Education Center, Richmond Sister City Commission and VFOM, continues to make progress. SAVE THE DATE: September 21 and 22. Details to follow later this summer.
  • We got a nice update from Kadiatou SIDIBE's orphanage outside of Bamako, A Child For All, which has just completed construction of a new water tower.
  • We are still raising money for two communitiy healthcare centers in Segou, including medical equipment and supplies to address the needs of displaced families and ease the strain on already strained resources. Click the Paypal "Donate" button on this page to make your tax deductible contribution. Write "Healthcare" in the notes to target your contribution. 
  • And of course, we always need your support to continue the educational, cultural and citizen diplomacy work of VFOM. Use the same Paypal button above, and write "VFOM" in the notes field to make a general contribution.
  • Have a lovely day.
- VFOM Board

12 February 2013

Malian Musicians in Richmond

Tim Harding, long-standing member of Hotel X, is bringing the extraordinary balafon player Balla Kouyate to Richmond, along with the great kora player Alhaji Papa Susso, the 3rd week of February. They'll be at University of Richmond for numerous performance/lectures on the 21st, two grade schools on the 22nd, C-Mor (Children's Museum of Richmond) Saturday afternoon the 23rd, and a gig that night with Hotel X at the Neighborhood Resource Center in Fulton. 

Confirmed details to come soon, but pick a date or two and tune way in.

03 February 2013

University Partnerships: VCU, UniBAM, UniSEG

Crisis notwithstanding, the Virgirginia Friends of Mali and Richmond Sister City Commission signed memorandums of agreement with the vice-rector of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences of the University of Bamako, and the rector of the University of Segou. Use the following links to learn more:

Report on the VCU School of World Studies website

News coverage on ORTM of the signing with the University of Bamako

30 January 2013

Television in Mali

When "we" are house-bound with no internet connection anywhere "we" tend to turn to television for company, news, maybe some education and certainly entertainment. When our trip to Segou became a sojourn in Bamako we tended to be fixated on the news about the burgeoning crisis which we watched on France24 - the France-based French-language network that became my French CNN because I couldn't get the real CNN on my TV. ORTM - Mali's national television and radio network produced most of its programming in Bamanankan (Bambara), Kasonga (from the western Kayes region), and other Malian languages which I just couldn't identify. Two other networks, CANAL and TM2, were consistently on air. CANAL was an entertainment channel (movies, music videos, infotainement...). TM2 seemed to be feature a range of local and international serials, on travel, tourism, sit-coms, dramas and some news, but all Malian for African. After a couple of nights I found myself in a kind of routine.

Once the prime time news hour was over I usually left France24 to watch ORTM because its programs focused entirely on Malian culture - from all of its regions and all of its peoples - popular contemporary and traditional, historical. I couldn't understand 90% of the words, but, ladies and gentlemen, television has never been so educational nor so compelling. Maybe it's because I was stuck and suddenly gifted with hours with which to take the guided tours the tiny TV was giving me on a nightly basis. And, maybe it was because after being to Mali on three occasions for a whopping total of 9 weeks the one thing I started to figure out is how little I knew, and how well I was beginning to I understood how very little I knew.

I only watched CANAL if something amazing happened like a Three Stooges movie dubbed in Bambara or French (really). Since it tended toward the pop culture I only watched TM2 when it featured traditional or historical programs or musicians I was curious about. But it was on TM2 that I saw a production of the Saga of Sunjata Keita. A griot/djele in a dark studio under a single spotlight and told the story of Mali's legedary emperor. Interspersed with his telling was footage of the entire epic performed in a village by a large troupe of actor/dancers in full costume. It was the entire story and a wonderful way to experience it - at ground level, with the performers, costumes, drumming, singing depicting drama, battles, magic, births, deaths, everything - really an epic. I thought this would be a great film to have in Virginia to show to students of all ages.

Today I discovered a link to a BricoFilms, brico-films.com, a production company that has created a series called Les Rois de Segou, a fictionalized account of the history of the kings of Segou. Spectacular series, in my opinion and a reaffirmation that people telling their own stories is very important. And for us tourists, we get to see just how all those baubles and handicrafts we buy as gifts and souvenirs actually functioned in context. Oh! The Bogolon! The Amber beads! The metal work and pottery. The Hairstyles and textiles. Woof. Some of these programs are probably making their way to YouTube, but when we can find them we will let you know.

24 January 2013

Segou Peep This Premiers in Segou!

Mayor Ousmane Simaga interviews the Segou Peep This filmakers of
"My Country My Cloth / Ne Ka Jamana, Ne Ka Fini" just after the world premiere
which was held in in early January at Segou's city hall. The project was coordinated
by Dr. Shawn Utsey, professor of psychology and chair of the department of
African American Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. 

Click on the "Slideshows..." tab above to see more!