Monday, March 14, 2011

Sikasso, Mali

The drive from Bamako to Sikasso was nice for the most part and the roads were in pretty good condition until near the end where Chinese/African road crews were working hard to pave a new section.  I thought the 30min dirt road bypass was cool because it took us through several small villages and fields and we could see more (despite the thick dust) than just bushes along the road.  Some of the construction vehicles were driving recklessly in the huge dust clouds and plunged into a mud house getting stuck nearly completely inside.  Luckily it didn’t look like anyone was hurt.

Sikasso is the regional capital of the southernmost part of Mali and borders Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, and Guinea and many refugees from Cote d’Ivoire have been escaping into Mali.  Between 2-3 million Malians reside in Cote d’Ivoire but since the recent conflict many have been returning to Mali but as Malians they don’t qualify for refugee aid since they are in their home country.  
Regional Museum of Sikasso

In the evening we visited the regional museum and received a guided tour from the museum director who explained some of the rituals of the secret societies and showed us some of the masks and weapons of the ancient hunters.  The second part of the museum, and my favorite part, was dedicated to musical instruments from the region and had many on display including the Kora, Xylophone, Flutes, Tambours, and various forms of rattles and carved logs that made different sounds depending on how they were beaten.  
Tower on top of Mamelon

Before leaving for Segou the following morning we visited a friend who offered to guide us around the city and show us Mamelon and the tata.  In the center of town near a market lies a hill that steeply rises 30 meters from the sloping plane and provides a commanding view of the area.  The ancient inhabitants built a tower and series of tunnels to defend themselves from foreign invaders along with the tata, a 4 to 6 meters high that surrounded the city.  When invaders breeched the wall and fought their way to Mamelon the defenders would use the tunnels to surround them or escape and flank their attackers.  The tata wall served as a primary means of defense and originally featured rounded sections that provided over 200 degrees of visibility and ability to engage their enemies with poisoned arrows or rifles.  The locals were able to use these defenses to successfully repel French colonial forces in the 1800s.
Remnants of the tata


  1. Would've been cool if you had gotten a picture of the stuck construction vehicle! Cool place though. Reminds me of the adobe buildings in the Southwestern US.

  2. These "hills" were man made? Smart defense strategy, like the Book of Mormon stories. Nice writing.