I left for Mali a few days after the November election, and when I arrived in Bamako, Mali was in the middle of Obama-fever. People all over would ask me if I was French, and after I told them I was from the US, I received huge smiles, slaps on the back, many thumbs ups and lots of “Et ca va Obama??”s.
When the the president was inaugurated in January, things remained just as excited around me. Then, I began to notice President Obama’s picture, already in plain sight, become even more prominent. Official Obama fabric was released and started to be used as everything from pajama pants, button-up shirts, and table cloths. Obama t-shirts and Obama buttons became popular as well.
It wasn’t until about a month after that that I began to collect pictures of all things Obama-related.
So then, Obamako, a city in which Obama’s election inspired nearly everybody and continues today to resonate every single day. It’s incredible to see what the election did in terms of earning respect for Americans in Mali. Talking to musicians, people would tell me that they felt like they were suddenly able to do things, that having a US President with an African father meant that their own futures were brighter. People I asked mentioned that they never expected France to do anything like that, and that the US continues to be the site of hope. Incredible.
Obama’s picture appears on everything and in various ways: Obama restaurants, Obama hotels, Obama-brand mattresses, Obama flip-flops, and lots of Obama stickers. And then there are my favorites, the Obama posters. People generous enough to share their pictures with me and with all of you include Peace Corps volunteers across Mali, other Fulbright researchers in both Mali and Senegal, Bamako US embassy personnel, my guitar teacher, and the many people who allowed me to take pictures of them and their businesses.
I wish I had even more to show you just how prominent all of this is. But hey, there’s still some great stuff. Enjoy!