JUNE 2013 BACK ISSUE by Michael Lewis The premise of the 2001 National Geographic Society book and NGS/PBS television series "Africa", was to show the variety of the continent, to suggest that Africa was the birthplace of man, and to tell the smaller stories that affect people on the diverse continent. A deliberate effort was made to avoid the usual themes of war, famine and AIDs. The project divided Africa into eight geographic regions: Desert, Sahel, Mountains, Savannah, Swahili Coast, Rainforest, Great Lakes and Southern. Excerpts from two stories are shown here. The first features a small village of Taureg who have been trading salt across the Sahara in Niger for generations. To show the continuity of that life, the project followed a young 12-year- old boy, Adam, making his first journey into the desert. The caravan carries all of their own food and the camel's food for the six-week round trip to Bilma from their home of Timia. The second story is about the largest ethnic group in the Niger River Delta of Mali. The young Fulani men (cattle herders), take the herds away from their village of Diafarabe in search of pastures during the wet season. Traveling hundreds of miles from home for as much as eight months, they return in December at the beginning of the dry season. Since much of the village's wealth is represented by the cattle, a huge river crossing and festival, Daral, is held to welcome them home. Aissa rearranging her scarf against the heat of the day. Cutting rice stalks for livestock forage in the Niger River Delta of Mali. A Fulani woman wears her best gold-plated earrings to watch the family's cattle return home after being away with the village's young men for eight months. Young Fulani herdsmen take their cattle across the river to their home of Diafarabe, Mali after roaming for eight months in search of grazing lands. Woman getting her hair braided for the Daral festival, which celebrates the village's young men returning home after roaming with their cattle for eight months. A Tuareg man faces the sunrise from camelback while crossing the Sahara. Young women pause for a portrait on their way to the Daral festival. Women dancing at the Daral festival. Only the women take part in the dancing as is the custom. Adam gathering camels for his family's trip across the desert in Niger to trade salt. Taureg men pack forage tightly before loading the bundles on the camels that will carry them across the Sahara to the oasis of Bilma. The men of Timia have been buying and trading salt this way for generations. Adam and his brothers reciting Koran verses in Timia, Niger. Adam departs with the men for the three week journey across the Sahara the next day. Adam and Suleyman by the fire after another long day crossing the Sahara with the camel caravan in Niger. Suleyman served as Adam's confidant and mentor on the trip.
The camel caravan continues walking toward Bilma, the oasis where they will buy salt. They will walk from 4:00 am until sunset. Two Taureg men rejoin the camel caravan in the Sahara desert of Niger after stopping for afternoon prayers. Another long day crossing the Sahara with the camel caravan in Niger. The caravan members are excited to see another caravan signaling that their destination of Bilma is near. Back to current issue