In this series of blog posts from the researcher-artists working in the MIDEQ Hub we will begin introducing some concepts from traditions outwith those which are more normally associated with the discourse of migration studies or intercultural communication in the academic literature.

In this conversation between Bonayi Hubert Dabiré and Alison Phipps, we hear Dabiré describe the objects he has chosen to bring to this element of our work.

He describes these first of all in his mother language - ‘sa langue maternelle’ - Bambara

He then describes these in French, his working language.

He speaks of the ‘calabasse’ - the calabash – Fiè; and ‘le tissu’ - Fani

The calabash he describes as being used for the millet porridge - minikè-fin - made in the mornings and the thread and cloth as traditionally made and worn by women, but now often manufactured.

This first short reflection on our chosen objects of basic human needs already points to the ways in which the objects are linked intimately to the land and the environment, and what grows and is readily available. As migrations occur, and we begin to explore other objects, it becomes clear how national borders are traversed like a loom, and there are a great deal of borrowings and improvisations, sharing of techniques of making and drinking. Equally, there is a sense of an often fierce sense of home or belonging attaching to the cloths or vessels, as to language.

For more research and information on weaving traditions and their migrations within the Volta region of West Africa, please see this link.

A research video has been produced by the late Christopher Roy on the traditions of thread and weaving. In literature reviews which Alison has begun it has become clear that these traditions are picked up in some research undertaken by anthropologists from the global north, but that the rich oral and knowledge traditions which practice, embody and share the knowledges of these objects are both highly gendered and largely invisible to the northern and western attempts to understand them.

Calabasse - minikè-fin

I did not know

Of Bambara

Ta langue maternelle.

I had not knowingly heard it before.

We lean into the phone

Close

Breathing the languaged air.

You laugh your gift of the precious words

You learned from your mother

I am lost.

You are found.

There is a thread of air

Pulsing in tonalities

between us

There a current of stored

Energy in the phone

That records

The moment.

Your hands cup

The calabasse

As so often

So often

So many times

Before.

The calabasse

Is made three times

In your words

In my ears

In our laughing hands.

(Alison Phipps)knowledge


Cover photo: A minikè-fin, a calabash used for millet porridge. Photo by Alison Phipps for MIDEQ.

Objects: Bonayi Hubert Dabire