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Midvale Journal

Mali explored: Abdoulaye shares stories of native country

Mar 30, 2017 11:41AM ● By Travis Barton

Talatou Abdoulaye speaks with people after his presentation about his native country, Mali. (Travis Barton/City Journals)

By Travis Barton | [email protected]

Though the African nation of Mali is thousands of miles away from the Tyler Library in Midvale, Malian native and teacher Talatou Abdoulaye attempted to bring understanding of the country when he spoke to the dozen in attendance on Feb. 21.

“These are things that should be done more often, getting to know more about one another,” said Abdoulaye, who came to America in 2005 to get his master’s degree at Northern Arizona  University.

He was invited to speak by public services librarian Raquel Ruiz. She attended an English as a Second Language (ESL) class taught by Abdoulaye and was excited to learn more about his culture.

“He’s sharing all the time with people his culture. I have a big respect for him. For me he is a very inspirational person,” Ruiz said.

Abdoulaye, who teaches at Granite Peaks education center and recently earned his teaching doctorate, spoke about topics ranging from Mali’s geography and education to women’s roles and marriages. Many questions came from the audience.

“This is the type of conversation that we need to do more often. I could feel this thirst of knowing about others from the audience,” Abdoulaye said.

While talking about his native land doesn’t make him feel homesick, it does make him think about privilege.

“The more I talk about Mali in the US context, the more it makes me kind of reflect about privilege. What other people have and what others do not have,” Abdoulaye said. “And, also it makes me think about more ways to address those challenges.”

Abdoulaye said his favorite part of the night were the insightful questions he received with audience members commenting how enjoyable it was hearing from him.

“He was really fun,” said attendee Heidi Santos. “I was thinking how he didn’t have a slide show or anything like that but he was very engaging, personable.”

Originally from Timbuktu, Abdoulaye said there were 16 different languages spoken with many of them not similar enough to understand. He speaks Songhai, his native language, while the school system teaches in French. Abdoulaye brought and read from a grade school book in French.

He said in middle school students begin learning English and another foreign language is required in high school so Abdoulaye took Russian. While he later became a high school English teacher after college, he said there now exists a school curriculum in Songhai up to the sixth grade.

“Which is really good given how there wasn’t anything like that not more than 20 years ago so that’s a big progress,” Abdoulaye told the audience.

He said the country has a centralized system. Whether it was education or transportation, the bigger cities in Mali—like the capital, Bamako—enjoy better services.

“You will have a lot of services in the capital cities, but then once you’re out of there it’s like you’re in a totally different world,” Abdoulaye said.

In that different world can exist areas where some believe women should not grow up going to school and should instead focus on growing up to be mothers. It’s something Abdoulaye said he doesn’t agree but that there are many cultures around the world who may share that belief, not just in Mali.

Sharing this information can only be a good thing, he said.

“The more people know, the more they could be engaged, you know, in addressing those challenges because the world itself today is becoming more of a global village,” Abdoulaye said.

Beyond talking about the religious population (he estimated about 90-95 percent are Muslim) and the ethnic group Dogon (he suggested people google Dogon), Abdoulaye also shared the courtship process with his wife.

 Culturally, Abdoulaye could not approach her for marriage, it required his father to approach a delegate of the woman’s family (always a man).

“There is no direct communication between the two individuals,” he said adding there also exists bride price where goods or money are given to the bride’s family. 

Abdoulaye said he is always happy to speak with any groups interested in learning more about Mali. For anyone interested, contact Abdoulaye at [email protected].