I am going home in exactly two weeks, and am a bit nervous about the work that is still unfinished. I have ordered 300 little bronze ornaments, in 6 different styles, with 3 different people. At home, if you order something to be made with an artisan person or carpenter, you can pretty much be sure they will do their work. You can pay them each day, or at the end, and the project will come along. This is, of course not always true, but works as a generalization. Here, getting the thing you payed for is like pulling the teddy bear out of the hands of a 7 year old hiding behind the couch. This is probably a generalization as well, but the day I find someone who works and finishes their work well and on time is the day I kiss the ground of Africa and decide to return and keep making bronze here. I am not going to go into details about the 7 bronze artists I have worked with so far, but not a one of them is responsible. There are some really big cultural differences. BIG ONES. It feels so familiar here, it is always a surprise to see how deeply unfamiliar it actually is. I think if I stepped into the brain of someone here I would say-”OOOoooooh, thats what it is thats so different.” I get little clues by such things as the card game where you deal out as many cards as you feel like, or the fact that my Ngoni is tuned by my teacher differently every time, so I have to search out the songs I know by ear as apposed to knowing where to place my fingers. But I am totally in the dark about the absurd way people treat work here.
Long and short, my lovely vacation in Bobo needs to end so I can get back to people in Ouagadougou in hopes of getting the things I payed for made correctly. Living in a little hotel with its cycle of international people, cozy restaurant and real shower has saved my brain. I have made lots of artwork and would like to spend the last two weeks here, but as soon as the bronze is pored for the work I have done here, I am taking it all home. I don’t even think I will sand or do the patina here. I might be sanding the work on the airplane.
I will have a least three days here more, as all of the pieces I have done here are still in the wax phase. We will be pouring the bronze on Tuesday, and I will take them to a solderer to fill up the holes and cracks on Tuesday night. I will probably head out Wednesday morning, hopefully on the train again. That will give me ten hole days to do the amount of work that it would take one day to do in the US. I hope its enough.
In the meantime, I bought a kilo of mangos, a huge bottle of pure shea butter, and have been soaking up the greenery and relaxed atmosphere here. The other people at the hotel are fun and we are a little rotating family here. There are others like me, on a semi permanent basis, and then there are people who come in and out on their adventures. Most people are french, and my french is not strong enough to keep up with the rapid fire speech of french people, but we all try.

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  1. Debbie Kaye

    Such an enormous education in the varied ways of people in the world, Maria. A hard-won education. I find your descriptions fascinating and illuminating. Thanks for sharing.

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