By the turning to Sofara there sits an old Dogon, tearing up rice sacks which he makes into rope. I am told that he has been sitting there for twenty years, quietly engaged in the same occupation. Just to the left of him there is a hut to which he retires at night. There doesn’t seem to be any family, which is unusual in Africa. It transpires that he has a family in the Dogon country. ‘But why doesn’t he go home to them?’ I asked. ‘Oh, he arrived here twenty years ago on a bicycle, but he lost it somehow. He is now waiting for his bicycle to turn up before starting the homeward journey.’
I made the old man’s day by buying a few metres of rope. I toyed with the idea of presenting him with a bicycle, then decided against it. This is how he has arranged his life, so it must suit him. Going back to the Dogon country would probably be a disaster. And this way he preserves a gentle hope that one day the bicycle will turn up, whilst at the same time being able to postpone his return for ever.