Kate Turkington shares her once-in-a-lifetime experience… in a place she won’t return to, but will certainly never forget.
The place: Dédougou, Burkina Faso, West Africa.
It’s 45˚ Celsius, mid-afternoon, February. A fierce pale sun pierces the heavy haze. The Harmattan wind is blowing down from the Sahara and thick red dust swirls and drifts over and around the dried mud of the arena, which is the size of a small football field. The crowds of pushing, pulsing spectators – children, adults, grannies, barefooted villagers – are cloaked in an eerie rust-coloured fog. Men with sticks beat them away from the flimsy fences separating them from the arena.
We all wait in an expectant limbo of dirt, dust, and heat. Suddenly we hear the distant sound of drums, flutes, pipes and whistles. A cacophony of different instruments becomes louder as the crowd is silent, only to draw its collective breath as the first masks, attended to by village elders, musicians, griots or praise singers, march solemnly into the centre of the performance arearead more…