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Drawing Camels with 100 Different People in Bamako in 24 Hours

Over this past weekend, in a stretch of 24 hours, I saw 3 concerts — Amanar, Haira Arby and Baba Salah — and a theater and dance performance put on by former street kids. I spent time in 10 different Bamako neighborhoods. And I drew camels with 100 different people.

I conceived this project as part of a fundraising effort. I created an IndieGoGo page and said that if I could raise $1,000 for Relief International, an organization that is currently providing targeted aid to several Malian refugee camps in Niger, I would teach 100 different people how to draw camels in 24 hours in Bamako. The final amount raised was $1,162.

In some ways, the video below is just as important as the fundraiser itself. There are many people around the world who have recently been introduced to Mali for the first time. They have come to know the country as poor, land-locked and crisis-ridden. The north is filled with terrorists and hardline Islamists and the south is a picture of state dysfunction — this is the story.

Here is what is missing from that story (note: it doesn’t have anything to do with camel drawing):

I recommend watching the video in HD. If you are reading this in a RSS reader, the link for the video on youtube is here

This project was one of the more worthwhile things I’ve ever done in my life. Camel drawing provides an excuse to interact with people, to approach strangers, to sit down and laugh with them. It is a silly thing, but sometimes we need silly things. On Sunday, I was just as sore from laughing as I was from dancing. But I knew beforehand that this project was going to be fun. What I didn’t know was that it would also be a means to explore Mali’s ethnic and cultural diversity.

Thank you to everyone that supported the fundraiser. And a special thanks to Brendan who took many of the pictures and clips in the video (the blurry ones are all me).

Feel free to share the video. Whether you care about camels or not, I hope this video makes you fall in love with Malians.

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{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Tom @ Active Backpacker November 17, 2012, 8:58 am

    This is really cool man! Loved the video, looks like it was a lot of fun! As you say, a project like this is a fantastic way to meet people and interact with the locals. Keep it up!

  • Benjamin November 20, 2012, 11:56 am

    Phil. So good man. Really glad we are able to see the human side of Mali. Really just disappointing every time the media attempts to cover a story in Mali.

    Looking forward to the next post as always brother man!

  • Jen November 21, 2012, 10:53 pm

    Great work, great video. Keep it up! love your site, linked it.
    I worked in abidjan for a while, nice to see someone elses perspective.

  • sharad @ tiger safari india November 28, 2012, 6:07 am

    I can imagine how much meaning it gave to you Phil. And i am sorry i read this late, else i would have definitely been one of those folks who would have drawn camels with you 🙂

  • Monique February 21, 2013, 2:39 am

    Thank you for your generous and kind gesture….a postcard from the wonderful city of Djenne. I will treasure it. Merci.

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