Surrounded by land, Mali was once a culture empire but is now facing a difficult political moment. Alessandro Gandolfi from Parallelo Zero captures the beauty of this country during the Niger herd crossing.
Historically being landlocked was thought a disadvantage as it doesn’t make sea trade available and usually developing countries have higher costs of international cargo transportation compared to those with a coastline.
Mali, Diafarabe: cattle crossing festival along the Niger River. The herdsmen dance with the cows
Mali is one of those landlocked countries: located in West Africa it is situated between Algeria (North), Niger (East), Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast (South), Guinea (South-West), Senegal and Mauritania (West). The capital is Bamako.
Mali, Diafarabe: A herdsman during the dances and races during the cattle crossing festival along the Niger River
Once only known for its golden age in which astronomy, literature and art thrived, and famous for its music – “Le dimanche a Bamako” is one of the greatest hits of Malian duo Amadou & Mariam, amazing musicians – Mali is sadly making the news today for the armed conflict that broke out a year ago between Mali military, Tuareg rebels and Islamic extremists, who have been carving portions of the North. In January 2013 France launched Opération Serval to enforce military control over its former colony in order to regain territory in Mali’s Islamist stronghold, Timbuktu, so far succeeding, but the future of the country still looks fragile.
Mali, Djenne: details of the towers of the famous Djenne mosque, built using earth mixed with rice
Mali is a beautiful country, though, and Alessandro Gandolfi from Parallelo Zero caught it in one of the most spectacular festivals of Western Africa: the Niger herd crossing, a transhumance towards the south, where ancient laws decide the entrance of the bovines into the water, the search for new, green pastures and the longed-for return of the Fulani herders who, isolated for months on the edge of the Sahara, return to the Niger each year with their herds, crossing the mighty river in the search for fresh grass.
Mali, Diafarabe: Two children observe the cattle crossing festival along the Niger River
The crossing will take weeks and will involve other villages, but it’s in Diafarabé, a tiny village along the Niger banks, where, in December, the first cow will jump into the water and start the procession, and where the festival which welcomes the return of the young Fulani men to their women will begin.
Mali, Diafarabe: Women at the cattle crossing festival along the Niger River: they wear huge gold earrings called
Photography by: Alessandro Gandolfi @Parallelo Zero