By the end of my trips to Africa, invariably someone in the communities I visit gets logged in my heart and mind. On my January 2010 trip to Mali, it was a young boy I met in Borko, located in Mali’s Dogon Country. I first noticed him amidst a group of boys taller than him. He seemed to be about 10 or 11 years old. To get my attention he raised his hand, waving it fervently, as if to answer a question. They had asked me to take their picture and I willingly obliged. Later, while walking through the small village, we met again. With a charming smile he asked in a dialect I didn’t understand what I presumed to be, “Would you take my picture, please?”
My visit was in the midst of the African Cup of Nations and Mali had been playing well at the time until a recent game in which they had been eliminated. The boy was wearing a Mahamadou Diarra jersey, the captain of the Mali national team and an international star. It was sitting askew on his shoulder. He had a hint of mischief in his eyes, as if he had something in his pocket that shouldn’t be there like a snake or a baby crocodile perhaps. His eyes also held much hope and expectation from life. I wondered what he dreamt about, what he enjoyed doing aside from his errands and chores. Unfortunately, he didn’t speak French and I didn’t speak Dogon, his language; and so, we smiled at each other for what felt like a long time. Then I had to go. I still think about him, wondering what his dreams are. Will his village be able to support his dreams or will his dreams go to sleep in the absence of opportunity? Regardless, I know I will go back and look for him again, at least to give him his picture.