Tomboctou, 1985

I went to Timbuktu for the first time in 1985 (or Tomboctou, as it was
spelled by the French colonizers, and those who would come under their
francophone sphere of influence). Mali and much of the Sahel was
suffering the effects of the 1984 drought that brought famine from
Senegal to Ethiopia. Bob Geldof had launched the “Feed
the World” campaign, and in 1985 he held the dual concerts of Live
Aid. At almost precisely the same time, I was wandering around
Tomboctou. There was evidence of famine, though it was mostly on the
outskirts of the city. I recall having coffee at the UNICEF compound
near Tomboctou’s airport with a brawny blond Swede who was managing
the organization’s relief efforts in northern Mali. He spent his days distributing
sacks of corn and cans of oil from US-AID. In Tomboctou’s small central
market, there was some food: shrivelled tomatoes and healthier looking onions, and always hot pepper and Maggi cubes.

Today, this city reportedly is slowly getting its soul sucked out of it by
Islamists. But in 1985, even though it had been transformed into a
catch-basin for famine refugees, Tomboctou felt vibrant and
multi-cultural, with Touaregs and black Africans co-mingling, and
madrassa students feeling like natural subjects in Tomboctou’s long history of Islamic scholarship.

Here’s an edit of some of my 1985 shots from Tomboctou. All are test
prints from Tri-X negatives, shot (as I recall) with a Nikon F and a
28mm lens.


One response to “Tomboctou, 1985

  1. Mr. Marco you have incredible insight about many things and it is appreciated by this listener…I have been looking for a haiku invitation I thought I heard on “The World”…and as a semi old lady my search skills are lacking…anyway it was about the Higgs particle and I’m sick of searching…and it might not have even been your show!! lol (I know that one!) so I am posting it here…

    Higgs defines matter
    Knowledge of love, hate or war?
    what does it matter?

    OK…I will never find the twitter link but in the words of pretty OK haiku…does it matter??? mucho love to all-Linda Gleitz

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