It is such a joy to be back on my blog and back in this community I am grateful to belong to, dear readers. I have a lot to tell you and pictures to share after returning home from…(It will be a surprise in my next post) But for now I would like to share something very meaningful to me. Before I tell you more, let’s take a pause, sit comfortably in the sun or in the shade, and enjoy a cup of tea or a glass of your favourite fruit juice. I am so happy to tell you about a book I read recently, that I loved for many reasons. It is called How to Make an African Quilt: The Story of the Patchwork Project of Segou, Mali. The book is written by Bonnie Lee Black.

Bonnie, book

This is a memoir, not a crafts book. It contains so much more than the making of an African quilt. Why am I telling you of this book in particular ? Because it touches me personally. The true stories Bonnie tells about her experience in Mali are about solidarity, friendship, determination, cultural sharing and hope. Bonnie created a women’s project that one cannot but love and feel proud of. This book is precious to me because it was written by a friend of mine, whom  I did not know as a writer when I first “met” her.

About 14 years ago, I responded to an item in a French quilters’ magazine that mentioned Bonnie’s Patchwork Project in Segou. Bonnie was asking for used French quilting magazines with patterns she could use for her project in Mali. I found quite a few on my bookshelves that I sent her and her Malian friends. At that point we started writing to each other now and then, and we’ve kept in touch over the years.

Bonnie, magazinesGuess what ? Today I have the immense pleasure and honor to welcome Bonnie Lee Black as my guest writer on this blog. I am also very thankful that she has offered to share her life-changing experience in Africa as well as some patches of her life. Thank you, dear Bonnie, for telling us more about your book, your quilting project in Mali and what your hopes are.

http://bonnieleeblack.com

“Thank you, Isabelle, for this honor to share with your readers my wonderful experience in Mali, now encapsulated in my new book, How to Make an African Quilt. The title, as you suggest, is really a metaphor for “connection” – cultural connection – and I’m hoping that theme comes through in its pages.

This book is actually the sequel to my Peace Corps memoir, How to Cook a Crocodile (Peace Corps Writers, 2010), about my two-year service as a health and nutrition volunteer in Gabon, Central Africa. When I completed my service in Gabon, I decided to go to Mali (rather than return to the United States) and do independent economic development work there. I was in my early fifties and felt I still had more to give.

Soon after settling in Segou, Mali (which is the textile “capital” of the country), I met a group of talented Malian seamstresses who asked me to teach them patchwork quilting. Well, that was a challenge for me because I’d never done patchwork quilting. But I soon taught myself from a quilting primer and happily created the Patchwork Project, which the women loved. In the book I share their stories and show their joy, especially as they sat together at the quilting frame (a makeshift contraption I made from lenghts of bamboo) laughing and singing as they stitched.

I took the project as far as I could in the thirty months I lived in Segou. But it could go much further to help the women there earn extra income. I wrote this book in the hope that someone, somewhere, some day might read the book and be inspired to take the project further. That someone would have the business-and-computer knowhow that I lacked – and still lack. When the talented graduates of the Patchwork Project of Segou, Mali begin to make patchwork quilts to be sold internationally over the Internet, then I’ll feel that my dream for these women has come true and my book has done its job.”

Bonnie Lee Black

Malian seamstresses 2“If you want to make a lasting work, be patient, be good, be livable, be human”

Amkoullel, l’Enfant peul, 1991

by Amadou Hampate Ba,Malian writer and ethnologist, 1900-1991

Here is a link to the Wandering Educators website which shows a video about Bonnie’s book.

Happy Easter

April 24, 2011

Wishing you all a Happy  Easter weekend, sunny Spring days !

Easter and eggs seem to be closely related.

Earlier on, the egg was a symbol of the earth because of its shape. Also associated with the beginning of life, it has been a symbol of fertility, rebirth and the cycle of life.

For Christians in Europe, eggs became a symbol of Easter and the resurrection of Jesus. In the past, Christians gave up eggs for Lent (the 40 days before Easter when it’s customary to give up different types of food). But even though people didn’t eat them, the hens kept laying them! So people would hard boil and decorate them. This would help preserve them longer and serve as part of the holiday festivities.

At the Jewish Passover holiday (in Spring) the egg is placed on the Seder plate and is a symbol of sacrifice and loss. For some though  it also symbolizes the full cycle of life, and therefore hope and rebirth.

In China, red eggs are given out at the one month birthday of a new baby. It’s customary to hold a Red Egg and Ginger Party at this time. Once again, the source seems to be the egg’s role as a symbol of fertility and the beginning of life.

The egg is a wonderful symbol of birth, renewal and rebirth. This is something wonderful to consider as Springtime has arrived in the Northern hemisphere, where the Earth is coming back to life !

Thank you to “Mama Lisa” on http://www.mamalisa.com/blog/ for sharing such great information and much more on  her wonderful blog.

Here is a poem about Easter eggs that I enjoyed reading in this blog : http://www.tastearts.com/egg-poem-easter-eggs-by-addison-erwin-sheldon/  I hope you will too 🙂

A REMINISCENCE
Seems to me like yesterday:—
Walkin’ down the beaten path,
Where the autumn aftermath
Glistened with the April wet,
Tryin’ to look green and yet
Kind of limp and lonesome lay.

Gettin’ long toward Easter time;
Days the city folks calls Lent,—
Little that we cared or spent
What they called it, prose or rhyme,
More than twenty years ago,—
Me and my old playmate Joe;
Back in dear old Yucatan
Township, where Root River ran.

What we cared fur was the wood
Filled with flowing maple sap,
And the bluff above the gap
Where the Mississippi’s flood,—
Floating many a steamboat craft,
Many a Chippewa forest raft,—
Met our boyish gaze and curled
Round the bend into the world.

Then the mill-pond and the dam;—
Spearing red horse in the race;
And below our swimming-place
Was a cave where Turkey Sam
Shot and killed a hungry bear—
Oftentimes we’d go and peer
In about the rocks and stones
Looking for dead Injuns’ bones
While our hearts felt awful queer.

But about them Easter eggs—
We had fixed it—Joe and I,—
Talked it over on the sly,
Makin’ tops and mumble-pegs;
Playin’ marble and high spy;—
Next time Easter day come round
We would know where eggs was found;
Many a jocund, boyish boast,
‘Bout the eggs we’d have to roast
Over in the poplar grove
Just this side of Knox’s cove—
Then there’d be a big surprise:—
When we’d from our hidden store
Bring our Easter eggs galore
How the folks would bug their eyes!

I remember ‘long in March,
Mild and early was the spring.
Say, how them old hens did sing!
How the folks for eggs would search.
Mother couldn’t understand—
Fed ‘em table scraps and meat —
Combs was red and slick and neat,
Cackle, and they’d kick the sand
Through their feathers with their feet.

Joe and I — we understood, —
Playin’ ’round the old barnyard,
Watched them old hens weasel hard
Tryin’ to hide away and brood;
Every secret cleft and nook, —
Underneath the horses’ stall,
High up on the smoke house wall,
Knowed ‘em better than a book; —
Out beside the pile o’ rails,
In the tool house by the nails, —
Where a hen could crawl or fly,
We went after, — Joe and I.

Then to make a hiding place,
In the corner of a stack,
Lay a weatherbeaten rack —
Crawled beneath it on our face
With a forked, crooked pole
Worked and twisted through the straw,
Roughest work I ever saw;
Made a long and narrow hole,
Then by twisting round and round,
Dug a nest close to the ground.

In it went our Easter eggs:
Many a time I hurt my back
Skoochin’ under that old rack,
Rusty nails would scratch my legs—
Still, as Easter time drew nigh,
Poked ‘em in there on the sly;—
One thing troubled us—old Nig
Our old Spanish topknot hen,
Disappeared, we couldn’t find,
Not a feather left behind
Just to show where she had been.

Last our Easter Sunday came—
Seems to me like yesterday,
In that old familiar path
With the autumn aftermath
Lying ’round like locks of hay:—
All the east was clouds of flame
Like that early Easter morn
When the Son, of woman born,
Rose and rolled the stone away.—
Bright and early did we creep
Underneath that beaten rack,
Scratched our legs and punched our back,
Reached in for them eggs, when “cheep,”
“Cheep, cheep, cheep” and “cluck, cluck, cluck”
And Joe says “Dog on our luck,
“Ef it haint that old black hen,
‘Ef she ain’t a’gone and ben
”Just a settin’ with her legs
“Straddled on our Easter eggs,
“An’ what’s more—it beats the dickens
“Half them Easter eggs is chickens.”

From “Poems And Sketches Of Nebraska” By Addison Erwin Sheldon.


This is an addition to my reply to Linda,  http://shoreacres.wordpress.com

Linda, you may enjoy reading this post http://www.mamalisa.com/blog/the-ancient-ukrainian-tradition-of-pysanka/

about the painted Ukrainian eggs, since you like them so much.


“My Ántonia” is a favourite book of mine in the American litterature. It was written by Willa Cather. Its unforgettable story takes place in Nebraska. I can well imagine that the scenes  suggested in Addison Erwin Sheldon’s lovely poem “Reminiscence” could  have been part of W. Cather’s wonderful work.