Enndé (sometimes known as Endé) is a typical Dogon village, complete with mud houses, traditional granaries, a beautiful mosque and the traditional, male only, meeting place called Togu na. Forged over centuries, life here goes on to a tried-and-tested rhythm which seems timeless. On the surface nothing much happens, but a walk through the village brings you face-to-face with the ancient culture of the Dogon, still going strong in the 21st Century.
Stroll the dusty streets and you’ll encounter women and children pounding millet, using only a giant pestle and mortar (and a lot of physical effort); goats and cattle roam around looking for food; women carry firewood on their heads to use for cooking; water is raised from the well; men weave cloth on hand looms; and people greet each other in the elongated and formulaic Dogon manner.
Enndé is far removed from the the 21st Century of industrialised countries. There is no electricity, no running water, we didn’t spot a single motor vehicle and there are very few of the modern comforts we have come to expect, even in fairly remote parts of the world. Don’t even think about internet connectivity.
The Dogon Country is Mali’s main tourist selling point, and communities here are embracing tourism to varying degrees. This is leading to change at many levels within Dogon society, and may have a profound impact on undermining traditional community life. It wouldn’t be the first time that tourism destroys the thing that created it in the first instance. Although, if the toilet facilities where we stayed are an indicator of change, it may be some time before visitors can expect the five star treatment.
The Togu na offers a fascinating insight into Dogon culture. It is where the men of the village go to discuss matters of great importance, it is also a place for conflict resolution. If villagers are in conflict, they meet in the Togu na to discuss and resolve their issues. These open sided structures are built with deliberately low roofs forcing everyone to sit, and ruling out fights. Anyone leaping up in anger will only ever get a sore head, before being forced to sit down again. That seems like a system the British Parliament could usefully adopt.
What makes Enndé special is it’s incredibly dramatic location underneath the Bandiagara plateau, the cliffs of which tower massively over the village. A walk up to the cliffs bring you closer to the ancient ruins of the Tellem civilisation. The Dogon have only lived in this region for around a eight hundred years; before they arrived the Tellem, a race of pigmies, populated this remote region. Ironically, the Dogon migrated to this region after being displaced by the advances of warlike Islamic tribes; it seems they in turn displaced the Tellem.
All that remains of the Tellem are the structures they left behind, both in the crevasses of the cliff face and at the base of the cliff. Some are houses, others food stores and many are burial sites. Given the technology available to them, the Tellem must have been excellent rock climbers. Enndé has a Hogon, a spiritual leader within the community. He still lives in one of the houses in the cliffs, but he’s pretty elusive and we didn’t get an opportunity to meet him.