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The ‘sorcerer’ keeping Mali’s marionette tradition alive



The individuals behind Mali’s marionette tradition, which has been used to pass on the folklore and culture of a community, are struggling to survive as the recent insecurity has stopped the vital income that came from visitors, as Clair MacDougall reports from Bamako.

If you head towards the edge of a rocky outcrop that wraps around the capital, Bamako, and sail along the bumpy road in a beaten-up taxi, you will find the mystical cavern that is Broulaye Camara’s marionette workshop.

Camara is petite and eloquent, much like the marionettes he makes and manipulates.

He calls himself the Sorcerer of Dougoudouma, which is the part of Bamako where he was born and learned his craft as a marionettist.

His work draws on traditional tales that often carry a moral message.

Camara insisted on a prayer and slaughtering of a white rooster before he told me anything about his mystical creations and the magic they possess.

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But this magic, which once drew crowds in Mali and sent Camara to Europe and across Africa to perform and run workshops, mainly relaxes within the walls of this place.

His work has been hit hard by insecurity in the region that followed a separatist and Islamist militant insurgency in 2012.

“I have five or six plays [but] we haven’t performed them because we don’t have money to make the marionettes,” he told me.

“Before the crisis I did not complain at all, no. I wasn’t thinking about money before the crisis.”

But now there are no longer any tourists or visitors to teach or perform for.

“They stopped coming because they are afraid,” he said. “We are stuck.”

As Mali’s security crisis continues, marionettes like Camara are finding it hard to support themselves and draw in students who will carry on the tradition.

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Marionettes offer a form of entertainment, but they also play an important role in the cultural rituals and festivals of the Bozo and Bambara ethnic groups.

When youngsters are trained in the art way, they start with concealed dancing, prior to transferring to marionettes, both in human as well as animal type, that cover their entire body.

At each stage a trainee marionette must go through an initiation. Camara did not divulge any details but said that the initiates must be able to guard the secrets of the art form.

A great number of rituals are performed before a marionette is brought into being. They are seen to possess the spirits of ancestors and must be kept in a safe place and guarded over by men like Camara.

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In Bambara and Bozo culture, marionettes sit alongside Islamic traditions, which in other places prohibit or frown upon the figurative arts.

After a rehearsal wrap up, Camara told me he remains concerned about the future of the tradition.

“Because I am broke and have nothing, they will look at me and think: ‘Why should I do this job if the man who has been doing it for a long time can’t get anything out of it?'” he said sadly.

But hope rises within a beat.

“Some may leave because they expect to get something out of it, but for those who really love it, they will stay,” he said.

see pictures below:



Nigeria records 304 new Covid-19 cases, toll now 44,433



The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has confirmed 304 new cases of COVID-19 in the country, bringing the total number of COVID-19 infection to 44,433.

The NCDC made this known via its verified Twitter handle on Tuesday.

“304 new cases of #COVID19Nigeria; FCT-90 Lagos-59 Ondo-39 Taraba-18 Rivers-17 Borno-15 Adamawa-12 Oyo-11 Delta-9 Edo-6 Bauchi-4 Kwara-4 Ogun-4 Osun-4 Bayelsa-3 Plateau-3 Niger-3 Nasarawa-2 Kano-1.”

304 new cases of #COVID19Nigeria;

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44,433 confirmed

31,851 discharged

910 deaths

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Bristow Helicopters sacks 100 pilots and engineers



No fewer than 100 pilots and engineers have been sacked by Bristow Helicopters.

This is coming barely 24 hours after Air Peace sacked scores of pilots across its fleet while slashing staff salaries by up to 40 per cent.

This was contained in a statement released by the airline company on Tuesday, August 4.

The company disclosed the workers were layed off due to the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic on its operations.

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The aviation company which described the sack as “painful”, said it engaged with the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) to negotiate a fair and equitable redundancy compensation for those affected.

The statement partly read;

“This decision has not been made lightly, but having considered the state of the business and the very serious constraints caused by the spread of the COVID-19 disease and the downturn in the oil and gas market, the company must now take this painful, but decisive step to ensure the continuity of its business and delivery of essential services to its clients.

“One of these measures includes the right-sizing of the business to ensure that the company has the optimal level of personnel to continue the safe delivery of its services to its clients, whilst allowing the appropriate capacity for future growth.

“Accordingly, and with much regret, the company has taken the very difficult decision to release over 100 pilots and engineers (both National and Expatriates) over the next couple of weeks.”

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Texas man jailed for spending Covid-19 loans on lamborghini, strippers



Lee Price III, a Texas man who spent a $200,000 Lamborghini Urus with COVID-19 loans and the and the rest of the cash on strippers, got a slower ride to jail on Tuesday, August 4.

This was after US authorities arrested him for using $1.6 million in government pandemic aid to go on a spending spree.

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Lee Price III, 29, was charged with fraud after he secured two government loans under the Paycheck Protection Program to pay employees he did not have, the Justice Department said in a statement.

Instead, he spent the funds on lavish goods like a sports car and a Rolex watch, as well as real estate, an F-350 pickup truck, and thousands of dollars at Houston strip clubs, the statement said.

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Price secured two loans: Price Enterprises Holdings allegedly received more than $900,000, while 713 Construction was approved for over $700,000.

Neither firms has employees and “the individual listed as CEO on the 713 Construction loan application died in April 2020, a month before the application was submitted,” according to the complaint.

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Congress approved the PPP program in late March to help small businesses survive the coronavirus pandemic, granting loans that could be forgiven if they were used to pay wages, rent and utilities.

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