I have a beautiful Malian family who has kindly welcomed me into their homes to share meals, and festivals, and holidays, and have taken me in as their “Albino Malian.” The N’Daou family has been a welcoming presence here in Bamako and a reminder of how family is family no matter where you are in the world.
Bana (a colleague of mine, and by far my closest Malian friend) is the second eldest daughter of the N’Daou family of six children ranging in age from 28 – 4. On August 22nd Deeja turned 7, and the N’Daou gladly welcomed me to come and celebrate their second youngest daughter (check out that cutie!)
When I got there I was greeted by at least 20 little Malian faces who were in awe of the white girl who showed up and gave Deeja a swirling hug. We played duck duck chicken (because I don’t know the French word for goose), and then they got the music going. I have never seen such little bodies twerking away to rhythms and beats that seemed to come from the tips of their toes. Then Maman Coulibaly (Bana and Deeja’s mom that I affectionately call Maman Coulibaly), handed out popcorn, pastries, and a sandwich that the kids woofed down and then disappeared into the night as quickly as they came.
Around 8pm, when I thought the party was over, Bana gathered all the siblings and took them to the soccer field near their house. There was already a crowd gathered, and music was pumping from oversized speakers. I came to find out that every 2-3 months the community organizes a party for all the kids in the neighbourhood who celebrated a birthday in that period. The community knows that not every family can afford to invite kids over and feed them – as they sometimes struggle to feed the mouths they have at home. So as an outpouring of the beautiful Malian community they celebrate together.
And boy do they dance! The girls and the boys as young as 2 and 3 start to shake their little booties like it is their full time job! There are kids who just know how to bounce and their are kids who have already mastered the beats. It was phenomenal!
And so to Deeja and all the other kids of Quartier Nelson Mandela I say HAPPY BIRTHDAY!