19 December 2017

Walking Wounded CD Well What? Do we have room for a new GRIOT ?

Walking Wounded are a 5 piece band from East London playing a wide variety of original material from Rock. Their “World Music” original compositions come mainly from the inspiration of guitarist Hugh Poulton, an original Punk musician who became converted to World Music through his work for Amnesty International in the Balkans. You can feel the influence of the Balkans in his composition Sebrenica and the fact that Hugh sings it in SerboCroat. He speaks Turkish and the Balkan languages and is the author of a book titles” “Who are the Macedonians?”

Later Hugh and his partner Christine Taylor branched out towards the roots of American music, by visiting West Africa. Titles on the “Well What?” CD (2013) include Go Go Bamako (a pop tune), Djoliba (the Bambara name for the Niger River) and La Falaise de Bandiagara, a beautiful place for hiking and for discovering the spiritual and philosophical beliefs of West Africa.

I recommend the CD for interesting – and unusual – World Music listening.

We already have Cheikh Hamala Diabaté as the official griot of VFoM; and Ana is a huge fan of Rokia Traoré and Fatima "Fatou" Diawara (and so am I), Habib Koita and Salif Keita! And locally of Hotel X. Then we have the wonderful Oregan Hill Folk led by Allan Levenberg Kouyaté. But there may still be room in our musical Segou Sister City Hall of Fame for my cousin Hugh Poulton and the Walking Wounded.

Walking Wounded Discography: http://walking-wounded.co.uk/wp/discography-new/

27 October 2017

VFOM elects 2017-2018 Board of Directors

VFOM new president, Lydie Alapini-Sakponou, in 2012, with then Malian
Ambassador Mamoun KEITA, Segou Project Manager Robin Poulton and the
ambassador's Chief of Protocol, during our annual National Mali Day program.

VFOM held its annual board meeting on October 26, 2017 and elected a new president and vice president. Ana Edwards, who has served as president since the formation of the sister city relationship with Segou MALI in 2009, has shifted to vice president and organizational representative on the Richmond Sister Cities Commission. "I happily and proudly yield the leadership position to Lydie Alapini-Sakponou. She was a founding member of the organization and has a long record as an outstanding educator in Chesterfield County schools. Lydie will bring warmth, experience and a keen talent to the job."

The board also welcomed a new category, Student Board Member, and with it three new student members from Virginia Commonwealth University.

15 October 2017

Cheikh Hamala Diabaté shines once again at the Richmond Folk Festival

Our official VFoM GRIOT was once again prominent at the Folk Festival, leading a “panel” of guitarists. CHD was overwhelmingly the most impressive musician on stage. What he can do with the guitar is remarkable: he makes it talk ! It took about 90 seconds for the American leader of the panel to cede the leadership to CHD, in whom he instinctively recognized a superior talent both stagecraft and in the musician’s craft. Every time there is a Malian band, it is outstandingly the most popular item in the Festival. Lisa Sims: bring us a full Malian orchestra every year and 500 people are dancing instantly. More Malian musicians in Richmond, PLEASE !

11 October 2017

PHOTOS: Celebrating Mali and African Delegations

Minister Counselor M A. CISSE of the Malian Embassy and members
of the Malian Association of DC are flanked by Papa Susso on the left and 
VFOM founder and  Segou Projects Coordinator, Robin Poulton on the right.

Segou Governor Georges TOGO received gifts from VFOM.
Former city councilor Madani Sissoko prepares to distribute
gifts from the University of Segou to VFOM and Conference guests.

VCU PhD students.

VCU graduate students.

Conference participant from Switzerland and Conference co-organizer
Van Wood enjoy the West African cuisine of Chef MaMusu's Africanne on Main.

TOP: Student volunteers who ran the day-of operations of the conference.
LEFT: President of Richmond Sister Cities Commission.
RIGHT: Rector of Segou University and Mayor of Segou.

Guest from 19 African and European countries attended.

09 September 2017

VFOM to host Cultural Night at Africa Business Conference

Virginia Friends of Mali is organizing the Friday night dinner + concert + dancing for the 200 attendees of the Africa Business Conference .

Featuring the music of

Papa Susso (kora)

Video from 2012 performance at Creighton University
Video from concert in Medallin Colombia, Suso with an Afro Columbian poet

Balla Kouyate (balafon)

Balla Kouyate - Homegrown Museum series, DC, Folklife Festival.

About the Conference

Virginia Commonwealth University will host the eighth annual Conference on Business and Entrepreneurship in Africa, which will bring together academic researchers, business professionals and government officials from around the world.

The conference, “The Big Emerging Continent: The Rise of Africa – Challenges and Opportunities,” is sponsored by the Africa Business and Entrepreneurship Research Society and the Center for International Business Advancement in the VCU School of Business. It will be held Oct. 4-7.

Through paper presentations, panel discussions and keynote addresses, the conference will seek to understand the pivotal role of entrepreneurship in Africa’s economic and social development. Participants from an array of disciplines and backgrounds will present their insights and offer diverse perspectives on Africa’s place in the world and promise in the market. Read more...


NOTE: For a full list of conference events and to register, visit www.africabusiness.org. Roughly one-third of the sessions have food and require registration, though sessions without food are free of charge to VCU students, alumni and the community.

06 September 2017

Leadership updates: RSCC and ABERS

Dr Patricia Cummins and Mr Marcus Squires have new responsabilities

The Richmond Sister Cities Commission has a new Chairman: Mr Marcus Squires has taken over from Dr Patricia Cummins, whose term of service on the RSCC (two consecutive terms of three years) has come to an end. Welcome! and our Congratulations to Marcus!

Cummins, right, with Gov. McAuliffe accepting gift from
Segou's Mayor Ousmane Simaga, 10 October 2016.

Dr Cummins was elected at the end of the recent Africa Business Conference, to be the new President of ABERS, the Africa Business and Entrepreneurship Society – an academic organization that was the main sponsor of the recent VCU Africa Business Conference. Congratulations to Patricia!

04 September 2017

MAJOR MALIAN DELEGATION to visit the African Business Conference at VCU

At the end of September the RICHMOND SISTER CITY COMMISSION and Virginia Friends of Mali will receive an important delegation from Ségou, led by Governor of Ségou, Mr Georges TOGO; the mayor of Ségou, Mr Nouhoum DIARRA; and the Rector of the University of Ségou, Dr Souleymane KOUYATÉ. Our VFoM Mali representatives will also be present: Madani SISSOKO in Ségou, and Kalifa TOURÉ in Bamako.

They will attend the VFoM annual meeting (dinner + dancing) on the Friday, 6th October. It will be attended by the Chargé d’Affaires in Washington, His Excellency Mr Mohammed Al Moustapha Cissé.

We also are excited to anticipate the visit of Mr Issa Sangaré, the dynamic new President of Malian Association (AMAW) in Washington, who was elected May 21st 2017.

01 August 2017


DOING BUSINESS IN AFRICA: a conference at VCU sponsored by VFoM
October 4-7, 2017 held at Virginia Commonwealth University 

A joint venture of the 8th Africa Business and Entrepreneurship & 14th Makerere Leadership and Entrepreneurship Conference, together with the 23rd VCU Business Forum.

Co-Chairmen are Professor Van Wood of the VCU Business School, and Professor Patricia Cummins of the VCU School of World Sturies. VFoM’s President Ana Edwards, and Vice-President Robin Poulton, are members of the conference Organizing Committee.

Dr Poulton’s company EPES Mandala Consulting Ltd will be one of the conference sponsors, together with Universal, Conrad Hilton Foundation and others.

Dr Peter Laugharn, President of the Conrad Hilton Foundation, a]has very generously agreed to fund the participation of the Ségou delegation at the conference. We expect that 10 or 12 Malians will attend, as well as a large number of Ivoirians and other African business experts. We therefore hope that US Consular officers will be generous in allowing our African friends to attend!

VFoM will host and organize a party-cum-AGM on the Friday, 6th October. It will be attended by the Chargé d’Affaires in Washington, His Excellency Mr Mohammed Al Moustapha Cissé, as well as the Governor of Ségou, the mayor of Ségou and the Rector of the University of Ségou..

17 May 2017

A new book on Aids in Ségou by Professor Christopher A. Brooks

The Most Vulnerable: Women with AIDS and Islam in Mali
By Christopher A. Brooks and Salim Coumaré.
New York: LINUS Learning, 2017

This is an excellent piece of research and writing about health and AIDS in Mali, produced by an anthropologist who is a specialist in the field. The way in which the women's stories are recounted by Dr Brooks, with his colleague and doctoral candidate Salim Coumaré, touches our hearts as well as informing our brains about the problems these women face in their society and in their families. A valuable contribution to our knowledge of West Africa and an interesting spin-off from the Sister City relationship between Richmond, in Virginia and Ségou, in Mali. Thank you, Dr Brooks.

15 May 2017

Congratulations to our Malian Scholar!

One day in the fall of 2013, a young Malian, Konaté Kadijah M Samaké, arrived in Richmond in to study at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her father Mr. Samaké (originally from Segou) is rector of the University of Bamako College of Humanities, and her mother, Mme. Samaké (a Bamako native), is an executive with BorneFund (ChildFund). She majored in International Studies and while a junior in 2015, Kadijah (known better as Didi) started an NGO in her hometown to help provide food and supplies to families in need. Didi graduated from the VCU School of World Studies with her Bachelor of Arts in International Studies on Saturday, 13 May 2017 and said she intends to continue the work of her NGO while pursuing a career in diplomacy and development back home, and, of course, raising a family--because (and talk about multitasking!) Didi got married last summer and this spring gave birth to a healthy baby boy at VCU's materinity center just after her final exams and just in time for graduation! Didi is a member of Virginia Friends of Mali, which, in a way, has been her family away from home. She has made lots of friends while here and we will miss her (and her gingembre) when she returns to Mali, but expect her to remain an ambassador for our two countries and our sister cities for years to come. Her parents are proud, her husband is proud, her son will be proud.

Félicitations Didi! Nous sommes très fier de toi!

17 April 2017


The President of Mali, Mr Ibrahim Boubacar KEITA (IBK) , has invited the former Minister of Defense (and previously Minister of Territorial Administration - and before that Minister for the Environment, Water and Sanitation) Mr Abdoulaye Idrissa MAIGA to become Prime Minister, during the 2013 presidential election he was IBK’s campaign director.

Our friend Mr Abdoulaye DIOP –remains in position as Ministre des Affaires étrangères et de la Coopération Internationale and we congratulate him both on his longevity as No 4 in the gouvernmental hierarchy; and on the excellent job he has done in representing Mali to the international community. Mr DIOP was the former Ambassador of Mali in Washington, who initiated the SISTER CITY relationship between Richmond, Virginia and his hometown SEGOU, the second city of Mali.

The most recent Malian Ambassador in Washington D.C., Mr Tiéna Coulibaly, becomes Minister of Defense and we congratulate him on this important promotion.

In his absence, the Acting Ambassador and Chargé d’Affaires in Washington will be another of our very good friends, the Minister Counsellor Mr Mohammed Al Moustapha Cissé.

11 April 2017

Two new books

Here are two new books that have been the result of our sister city relationship with Segou and ongoing work in Mali:

Sunjata: Children of the Empire of Mali ~ Then & Now (published on Kindle) by Robin Poulton / Macky Tall - this book is intended for teachers and anyone with an interest in Malian history, life and culture as experienced by children of the region over several centuries.

The Most Vulnerable: Women, HIV and Islam in Mali by Christopher A. Brooks with translations by Salim Coumare (city councilor of Segou), based on research conducted in 2013 and provides a thoughtful, concise view of the experience and handling of HIV as a public health priority for Mali's women.

04 April 2017

Segou welcomes $450,000 medical supplies!

On March 16, 2017, almost a year after the funding was secured,  the shipping container filled with medical supplies and equipment destined for our sister city's main Hopital Niankorofomba and Community Health Care Clinic in the Darasallam neighborhood arrived! City officials hosted a grand ceremony to celebrate the $450,000+ supplies donated through Project CURE, a Denver, Colorado USA-based non profit. Led by Segou's newly elected Mayor Nouhoum Diarra, the ceremony included representatives from the city's Sister City Committee and regional officials. You can learn more about the city's political and economic development goals and structures by visiting CPEL Segou

Segou Sister City Committee, former city councilor Sissoko,
Mayor Nouhoum Diarra, and Kalifa Toure

Segou Mayor Diarra and hospital director Dr. Sanogo accept
first box off-loaded from container.
Boxes of supplies

VFOM Bamako representative Kalifa Toure conveys message
on behalf of VFOM Richmond. 

Beds, crutches, cabinets, IV stands, and ... 

Malian officials invited to attend celebrate arrival of the
Project CURE shipment of equipment and supplies!  

BOXES, and more BOXES! 

Scales, bed frames, examination tables, mattresses, ... 
More bed brames, cabinets, and carts.

17 March 2017

A New Book for Teachers on Mali and for the Parents of the Third Graders

Check out this new Mali teachers’ book on Kindle:

Sunjata – Children of the Mali Empire ~ Then and Now

12 great "Stories about Malian Children (some of whom grow up) for Teachers and Students of Africa and America’s West African Heritage"

Written by Robin Poulton, and with an introduction by VFoM President Ana Edwards (who also designed the cover and the inside of the book as well), this book provides fascinating insights into life in the Mali Empire, life under the successor Sonrai dynasty based in Gao, and life in modern Mali – like the delightful story of the baby being bathed in a bucket in Robin’s yard in Bamako, where he and his wife still have a house.

ALL PROFITS WILL SUPPORT VFoM projects for girls’ education in Ségou and Richmond.

20 February 2017

Solar powered festival transport & solidarity from Lagos

So much of what we share from Mali is music.

From Lagos to Mali: Bantu goes on 5000km anti-war road trip

Feb 15, 2017 • by IfeOluwa Nihinlola

Bantu, the 13-piece Afro-funk band led by the host of Lagos' Afropolitan Vibes, Ade Bantu, embarked on a grueling road trip from Africa's Big Apple to Mali for Festival sur le Niger earlier this month.

The band undertook the 5 000km trip to be part of the festival's 13th edition and to make a statement against violence in war-torn Mali.

"Someone asked me why we would go through all this stress for a festival in some remote place,” Ade Bantu said.

“It’s simple, we were determined to show solidarity with our fellow brothers and sisters in Mali who have been battling with Islamist insurgency for years. This festival was important to help heal wounds and build bridges."

And, apparently at this year's festival they used solar powered vehicles to transport musicians around the grounds... Go Segou! Go Fondation Festival Sur Le Niger! Go Doumbia et Daffe!

17 February 2017

Look Deeper: Murry DePillars Exhibit at the Black History Museum

Double Vision is the BHM’s first original exhibit and the first exhibition its new building. 37 works are on show spanning DePillars’ entire career 1964-2007. He was the star of VCU Arts, the Professor who made VCU No.1 in the nations for Arts. The selected pieces show his unique use of meaningful images and symbols. I looked at a pettern of bright colors, and I saw Chiwara and Kanaga and many other Malian masks staring back at me: some obvious, some subtly hidden in the design. Brilliant! His multifaceted paintings and pen drawings, cover themes such as the period of American slavery and the civil rights movement, as well as the African and Malian roots of American Black Culture. I was so happy Ana told me to go see the exhibit!

03 February 2017

Le Festival Sur le Niger began on Feb. 1 - Wow!

This video features sampling of the contemporary artist workshops now going on at the festival: visual, spoken word and music arts ...

An ad for the festival, discusses the value of cultural celebrations ...

17 January 2017


Our Vice-President Dr Poulton, widely known in Ségou and in Bamako by his Malian name “Macky Tall” – has published a major work on Modern Malian history and terrorism in the Sahara, written together with an Italian researcher on Mali Dr Raffaella Greco Tonegutti, an expert on migrations. They have already published together about Mali in Italian: Silencio su Bamako (Eds Ruitoni, Rome, 2013)

Ask your local library to order a copy of this book for you:

Poulton, Robin Edward and Rafaella Greco Tonegutti. The Limits of Democracy and the Postcolonial Nation State: Mali's democratic experiment falters, while jihad and terrorism grow in the Sahara. Lewiston NY & Lampeter, UK: Mellen Press, October 2016.

Professor Jeremy Keenan writes from SOAS London: “… (ref) your book. I must say that it is absolutely superb - a brilliant piece. It really is an excellent - eye-opening - piece of work. And I love the layout - chapter structures, headings and conversations, etc. I cannot praise it too highly. It is without doubt the best work ever written on contemporary Mali. congratulations on a fabulous piece of work.”

01 January 2017

Improving Health Care & Lowering Barriers to Girls' Education

Virginia Friends of Mali invites you to plan your 2017 gift to support our mission through two projects:

Project CURE

In 2016, $25,000 was raised to send $450,000 worth of materiel that has JUST ARRIVED IN Segou! Project CURE cargo containers of hospital and medical supplies were shipped in December and arrived the last week of January in Segou (Richmond's sister city since 2009). The destination was L’Hôpital Niankoro Fomba and one of its associated community healthcare centers. Segou's sister city committee president, M Madani Sissoko, was on hand with hospital director, Dr. Abdoulaye Sanogo, to accept delivery of the materiel. In partnership with Rotary Club partners in the US and Mali, we are raising funds to send a second container this year. We have commitments for $15,000 and need your help to raise the remaining $10,000. Two anonymous donors have so far pledged $500 each. Perhaps you'll join them!

2017 Goal: $10,000    Raised: $1,000    Remaining: $9,000

Richmond House 

Maaya Muso Girls Empowerment Center to promote leadership roles for women through a range of cultural, artistic, sporting and entrepreneurial activities, built around a library-IT center where women will gain access to the technologies of tomorrow. From Nyéléni to Maaya Musow: nurturing Ségou’s adolescent girls to be tomorrow’s urban leaders & entrepreneurs. In 2015, five acres was donated to launch the project. In 2016, the well was completed to supply water for construction phase of the project, including the local manufacture of bricks (banco). Built into this project is requisite that all contracts, materials and employment are locally based. In 2017 the bricks will be made, plans finalized, complex schematics and construction of the first building will begin. 

Project Goal: $ 221,000    2017 Goal: $12,000

Please be generous!