What is it like in a Dogon Village?

Download audio file (luisdogon.mp3)

A group of friends start to talk about Dogon villages in Africa and end up talking about nationalism.

Mark: What is the Dogon village like?
Luis: They are clay… and they are…
Mark: Clay houses?
Luis: Clay houses.
Mark: Round houses?
Luis: No.
Mark: Square?
Luis: No, they are more square and a little bit…. They bring to mind (remind me) a lot the houses of the Navajo Indians.
Mark: In the southwest US?
Luis: Yeah exactly. Actually many things are really very very similar. There is something very particular. The Dogon worshiped another people who were occupying the same area; La Fales de Bandiagara; the Bandiagara Escarpment.
Mark: Say that again.
Luis: The Bandiagara. It is the area. Escarpment. It is like a cliff.
Mark: Right. Ok. Sorry.
Luis: So in this cliff but hanging on the cliff there are a lot of villages, which were abandoned ten centuries ago.
: Uh-huh.
Luis: And these were inhabited by the Tellem.
Mark: The Tellem?
Luis: The Tellem people.
Mark: And the Dogon worship the Tellem?
Luis: No, they do not exactly worship the Tellem. They developed a system of beliefs, which is supposed to be the same one the Tellems had. Of course they do not know if the Tellem did or not. It is a mythical knowledge.
Mark: A mythical story. Yeah.
Luis: And they try to explain the monuments of the Tellem because they really built some very strange things. Actually the Tellem villages are the ones which are exactly like Navajo.
Mark: Uh-huh.
Luis: Or Pueblo villages.
Mark: The Dogon … the Dogon have some connection with Sirius 5, the dog-star, some…
Luis: Yeah,. actually there is something very strange and very funny. This kind of thing which happens, well, with the prepotence of the west. The Dogons for many years, for centuries; they were saying that they came from a star. Sirius, I think. Yeah. They have their own cosmography and their own..
Mark: Cosmology.
Luis: Cosmology yeah. They have this astrological knowledge.
Mark: Mm. Thats right yeah. They know about stars and planets which were only recently discovered by the Hubble telescope.
Luis: Yeah. That is the thing. So everybody was thinking…
Mark: Hubble bubble telescope.
Luis: It is not a star. It is just a myth of the Dogon. And then the prepotent west discovered that there was a star exactly in the same place as where these people were saying.
Mark: The what west?
Luis: The prepotent.
Mark: Prepotent west.
Luis: Prepotent west.
Mark: It is not a common word.
Luis: Ok but in Spanish it would be very common.
Mark: What does it mean then? Prepotent? Like?
Luis: Prepotent. Ahm.
Mark: Arrogant?
Luis: Exactly. The arrogant west.
Mark: The arrogant west. We are arrogant. The west is arrogant.
Luis: The west thinks the west is the best.
Mark: For a long time though…I mean when I lived in other countries I thought to myself, people are arrogant. Like, nationalism… Everybody thinks that their country is the best. Everybody.
Alex: I don’t.
Axel: Yeah everyone knows Australia is the best. (irony)
Mark: The ugliest shittiest places I have ever been; everybody thinks that it is the best place in the world because they were born there. Everybody.
Alex: I know but not me.
Mark: Nationalism. It is silly. hey?
Alex: Not me.
Mark: Not you?
Axel: Yeah I have met lots of people like that.
Alex: I was born in just…
Mark: Australians are the same. They are very nationalistic. They say you know Australia is the best country in the world but they have never been to the rest of the world. They do not know.
Luis: Well they know. They should know because actually Australians travel a lot.
Alex: Australians travel.
Mark: Yeah, some of them do.
Axel: But then there are like the country ones.
Luis: No. Traveling in Asia there are Australians everywhere.
Alex: What is the best? What does it mean?
Mark: What does it mean? Everybody loves family. Everybody loves mountains and rivers and sky and sunshine and beaches and nature. Everybody likes food, natural food.
Alex: I know that France is a very nice country but I hate to live there. When I stay there after three months, you know…
Luis: Exactly the same has happened to me in Spain.
Alex: But I like to go back you know. I go back I…Sometimes I feel sad at the end of my trip and I think about the place I am going back to and it makes me happy.
Luis: To me actually to finish (traveling) in my city; Granada to me it is the perfect place to come back to. Which means it is also the perfect place to live.
Alex: Yeah. I agree.
Luis: No, to me it is the perfect place to come back to. I like it a lot to come back but to come back you first have to leave. It is not enough to leave for just three days…Actually I know people who live in awful places; awful cities.

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  114. El Rabbit says:

    And I didn’t learn much of the language while I was there. I learned a little before I went from an anthropological publication. Enough to make some people laugh…

  115. El Rabbit says:

    Ha! I didn’t see your response until now. I found the picture because Flickr shows you which pages link to your pictures…

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  117. Mark White says:

    Hey Rabbit.

    Thanks for publishing that great picture under creative commons so we can all enjoy it. I am living in Isan in Thailand at the moment. It is the same here. Life happens between midnight and dawn. I get up late (7:30am) and go to the market and drunks are rolling around. These guys have been working all night!

    The day is lazy and then everybody goes to bed after dark and gets up a few hours after midnight. Cambodia and Laos are the same. It makes a lot of sense in a hot climate.

    Did you learn any of the language in the Dogon area?


  118. El Rabbit says:

    Great conversation. Thanks for using my picture.
    By the way, it is mainly extremely hot and quite humid in the Dogon area (in october). During the day, nothing much happens unless tourists pay for it.
    At night the cultural live does flourish.


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