2.30pm. Rue Ecuma, Magnambougou. It’s hot. Really hot. No sign of the festival organisers. Nor of any dancers. Just the military band sitting in the shade of the empty building next to the stage, their instruments lying on the ground. Hard to believe that anything resembling a carnival parade is going to materialise within the next hour. No one has the energy to move. Even the young guy selling sunglasses loses a sale from me as he can’t be bothered to go and find change for a 5,000 CFA note.
At around 3.15pm the dancers and other participants - including a herd of sheep - arrive. The heat of the sun is merciless.
I hear on the grapevine that the reason things are delayed is because the police aren’t here yet. And the parade can’t happen without the appropriate level of security and traffic control. They finally turn up - in style.
There’s still time for a bit of posing in the shade before things get going.
As the military band lines up on the roundabout ready to lead the parade, and the dancers for the opening number get into position, a crowd has already gathered.
The band and the voodoo-styled trio set off up the main street through Magnambougou, chased eagerly by hoards of excited children.
There’s a palpable sense of anticipation as local residents and shop-keepers gather on the side of the road, and at each junction a new group of performers is ready and waiting to join the carnival.
One of the star turns has to be Kettly Noel’s donkey, who spends most of the year tethered in the garden at Donko Seko, but today gets to dress up and parade through the local streets like a pro.
Red, yellow and green balloons bring the colours of the Malian flag to the parade.
The parade turns West, off the main Magnambougou road towards Faso Kanu, the late afternoon sun creating fabulous long shadows.
The ceremonial arrival of the traditional hunters with their intricate costumes and ancient guns is imposing. I watch from a relatively safe distance as one of the hunters prepares to fire his gun into the air. I remember from last year’s parade how loud it is….
By this point we’re in Faso Kanu and the parade stops right outside the building where I live, for a spontaneous street party moment.
For the curious amongst you, the balcony of the apartment where I’m living is just visible on the second floor in this next picture:
Around the corner the masked Dogon dancers have taken over the roundabout, their intensely coloured costumes resplendent in the last of the day’s sunshine.
After a taste of Dogon culture, the Tuareg dancers take centre stage. I love watching the nimble elderly men in their flowing robes and the women clapping furiously.
At the top of the road there’s some friendly banter with the horse marionettes.
An impromptu performance space is created in the road opposite the Faso Kanu petrol station and the audience draws around all four sides to cheer the acrobats and dancers. Chacool marshalls the crowd and keeps the kids in line.
On the wall behind the petrol station is a row of festival posters featuring my photo from last year’s festival parade. I wait for the right person to walk by…
Towards 6pm as the sun starts to set the crowds disperse and I head home for a cool shower after a tiring but exhilarating photo shoot.