"My name is Konbaba Tennepo and I am from Djenné. I do every job as if it were my own house, without any defects. All of Djenné knows me for this. It’s true that I am 77 years old. Other masons in Djenné my age have put down their trowels. My children plead 'Papa, stop working', but I cannot because I love this trade. I cannot leave my work."
Meet Five Mud Masons
"My name is Boubacar, but everyone knows me by my nickname Bayere. I was born in Djenné in 1961. Masonry is an old profession in my family. I came to masonry from both sides of my family: from my mother's side and from my father's. It was our people, the Boso, who founded Djenné. Nothing can be done to the town without the masons' involvement. Everything we do is linked to our tradition. Djenné is my school."
"I was born in 1964 in Djenné and began my apprenticeship at the age of 13 under my uncle. After 10 years I acquired the necessary skills to be a mason and today I work as a team with Boubacar Kouroumansé. Since my earliest childhood, I never wanted to do anything else but masonry. All my life I have wanted to be a mason, to work with the earth and the mud. No other profession appeals to me the way masonry does. There is no job like it."
I was born in Djenné in 1980. My father was a fisherman, not a mason so I inherited my profession from my mother’s side of the family. Her father and brothers are all masons. I was first apprenticed to my maternal uncle and later worked as an apprentice under Lassina Kouroumansé. For the last ten years I have been a mason. The difference between an apprentice and a mason is that as an apprentice must carry out the master's orders. But if you are a mason, you have all the responsibility, it's you who decides everything. If bricks need to be ordered, it's you ; if a building needs to be constructed from plans, it’s you. I'd like my own son to follow my path and become a mason too. I’d like that very much.
I was born in Djenné in 1993. My father, Boubacar Kouroumansé, is a mason. I began my formal schooling in Djenné up through the ninth grade. After graduating, I wanted to be a mason as I had already started working in the traditional trade with my family. But, I wanted to perfect what I would do in masonry so I selected an institution in Bamako called ISICA [l'Institut des Sciences de l'Information de la Communication et des Arts] where there are courses in joinery, plumbing, masonry and steel construction so that I can complete the masonry education I began at home. Perhaps with my studies, if I finish soon, I will have gained new knowledge. With what I learned I can work with what the elder generation, like my father, have left. But I cannot modify what exists. I can only beneficially add to what the elder generation has left, and gain experience by their side.
In Their Own Words
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