PBS is currently airing an intriguing new documentary about one of the largest prehistoric human burial grounds found in the Sahara. As with many of these discoveries, this one is located in the remote deserts of Niger.
From the show:
Over 10 years and five expeditions, Sereno has found more than 200 burial plots, each more intriguing than the last: a man buried with his head in a pot; another buried sitting in a turtle shell; a girl with a bracelet carved from hippo bone; and most striking of all, a woman embracing two children, hands entwined in a triple burial.
Adding to the intrigue is the fact that the bones are from two separate civilizations, Kiffian and Tenerian, thousands of years apart, yet the dead are buried side by side. Scattered throughout the site, artifacts offer clues to the lives they led – arrowheads, intricate jewelry and, perhaps most surprising of all, harpoons carved from bone.
Who were the Kiffians and Tenerians? How did they live? How did they die?
Niger RPCV Guy Immega has released a new e-book, Ancient Egypt’s Lost Legacy? The Buduma Culture of Lake Chad, featuring much detailed information about the culture of the very remote, eastern parts of Niger. Guy has generously shared his book with us as a PDF file, that you can download and read here (PDF, 7.2 MB).
You can also get a special version of the e-book on the Apple iBooks store. The e-book edition, designed for the Apple iPad, provides high resolution images, Buduma music files, and hyperlinks for $1.99. It may be the last (and only) record of the Buduma people who lived on Lake Chad.
Look for Guy’s other Peace Corps e-book, Smallpox, Slavery and Toubou Warriors, in the Apple iBook store.
This Associated Press story provides a chilling look into the reality facing many nomads in the face of famine and drought.
From the article:
In markets all over Niger, hungry people are selling hungry animals for half their normal value, giving up on the milk and money of tomorrow so that their children can eat today. Their plight is a sign of how far the economy of the desert has broken down, leaving its people unable to feed themselves in drought after drought.
This is a community so tied to its animals that children play with miniature camels or cows cut from rock. It’s in livestock that a man settles disputes, pays the dowry for his future bride and leaves an inheritance to his sons.
So to see a nomad sell his last camel is like watching someone sell their house and car, liquidate their 401(k) and empty their bank account all at once, just to buy groceries.
On April 5th, 300 people, along with the Ambassadors of Niger and Gabon, danced, clapped and cheered for Tuareg sensation Bombino at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, NH to support RAIN’s programs in Niger.
Bombino at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, NH
At the reception before the performance, Portsmouth Mayor Eric Spears was on hand to deliver to Bombino and the Ambassadors a special welcome and to proclaim April 5, 2012 as West Africa Day in Portsmouth, expressing pride in the city’s role in bringing new life to RAIN’s partner nomadic communities.
Representing Friends of Niger were John Hutchison and Larry Koff. RAIN and FON have worked together to petition for Peace Corps reinstatement in Niger as well as support for NGOs in the region in Washington D.C.
During the concert, Bombino sang songs about unity and reconciliation, of the beauty of the desert and of nomadic life. He spoke to the audience about the importance of education in his homeland, sharing his plans for an upcoming Peace Tour to promote Niger as a model of peace for the West African region.
Bombino and Group with Ambassadors
The Ambassador of Niger, the Hon. Maman Sidikou, spoke of the resiliency and hope of his country. He expressed that despite recent unrest, Niger is a country of diverse people, unified in their identity as Nigeriens and in their shared goal of engagement with each other and their neighbors. He also expressed how inspired and moved he was by the huge show of support for his country demonstrated that evening by their New England friends.
New Friends, New Partners
The air of excitement and enthusiasm was palpable as the Portsmouth audience gave Bombino and his group multiple standing ovations. As for RAIN, we couldn’t have asked for a warmer reception and are excited to share their vision of a Niger where people with access to education, food and water have the freedom to choose to live in their tradition in safety and good health with a wider circle of supporters.
During this year of the 50th Anniversary of Peace Corps the Board of Friends of Niger would like to encourage Friends of Niger members to distribute copies of the DVD of Brother from Niger, which follows former Friends of Nigerpresident Jim Schneider in 2002 as he returns to Niger, a country he once called home, a country that is still as poor as when he left it in 1966. In a ‘Brother from Niger’, award-winning journalist Andrew Younger brings a story of courage, hope, and struggle from one of the world’s poorest countries.
This DVD would be very helpful for teachers of an African Studies Unit in elementary school or Global Studies teachers in high school, for Multicultural Studies Programs, or for Returned Peace Corps Speakers Bureau Programs. Friends of Niger will ship the desired number of copies free of charge to encourage members to bring the third goal of the Peace Corps: bringing knowledge of our country of service back to the people of the United States. Copies are also available in VHS format.
In case you missed it, come check out our April 2009 Camel Express (PDF, 1.3 MB), posted directly below, for the heartwarming story about how a Peace Corps volunteer from the early 1970’s reunited with his old Nigerien friend over thirty years later, and they continued to enrich each other’s lives.
John and Idy reunite after 31 years
John Baird first met Idy Gondah while living in his village as a volunteer in the early 70’s. John never thought that decades later he would help Idy’s son Mourtalla make the dream of coming to America to further his education become real, but against long odds Idy is already one year through his education.
In addition to the Camel Express, you can find more information about John, Idy, and Mourtallah on two MySpace pages set up with information about their story and how you can help Mourtallah and others with their educations: