If I buy a motorcycle, my five year plan will include a trip to Mali. I sailed to west Africa, Senegal and Gambia and now I want to take the overland route to Mali.
The 'laughing cousin' is an idea I heard about Malian people. The teasing cousins or joking cousins, Sanankouya, is a way families work through disputes. A laughing cousin is assigned, someone who is unconnected with the involved families, and listens to the arguments, but takes the micky, laughs and caricatures the situation and the involved parties, to a point where everyone falls about laughing and some sort of resolution occurs. To a sociologist this is very intriguing. To a human being this is very heartening.. In Senegal it is known as Domu Baye and is also a feature of several other west African countries.
The music of Mali is utterly addictive.
When I was anchored far up the River Gambia, near a ferry crossing which had closed for the night, a collection of travellers gathered at each bank, having missed the ferry. My friend, a Gambian fisherman called Buba Samateh, explained that one of the travellers was a Malian and that his constant calls for assistance to cross with his moped would attract the hyenas, who would eat him. Although the Malian was calling over the river in sheer frustration, he would often slide into laughter with whoever he was communicating He thought Storm Petrel, my boat anchored nearby, was the ferry boat and kept up his requests for us to come and assist, but Storm Petrel has a deep sailing boat keel and could not get near the river bank. Besides there were others who would want assistance; a shepherd with his goats, a Mercedes car and several individuals. Eventually a local entrepreneur arrived in a dory and negotiated with most of the travellers to carry them across. Having got across the Malian man finally drove off laughing into the night on his moped.
Mali has remained a future destination in my heart since those times. Did I imagine the concept of the laughing cousin? Might I discover it there?