A New Story - Fatou & the Kora: A Work in Progress

So about a year ago I was staying at a friend's house in Dallas when a story woke me up outta my sleep in the middle of the night, demanding to be written. I have a thing for West African stories, fairytales in particular. This story is set in Dakar, Senegal, and features a little girl named Fatou who, against all cultural and gender roles set in place in her village, plays the kora in secret. It's quite possibly one of my favorite stories thus far, and I'm pleased beyond words that Elena Tommasi Ferroni, master Italian painter and artist for whom I curate here in Rome, has agreed to illustrate it. The title is Fatou and the Kora.

Since Elena started late last week I've been walking my nearly eight-months pregnant self to her studio almost daily to marvel at both her process and progress. I think you'll agree that her illustrations so far, capture so much of the magic and whimsy of West Africa and the spirit of a magnificent fairytale.

Check out some excerpts of the story below as well as the vignettes that Elena has begun.

Each painting is a work of art. As such, the originals as well as prints of each finished piece will be available for purchase on my art online gallery's website, The Nef Gallery.

Bakumasela...or let's begin, in Mandinka.

In the West African city of Dakar, not so long ago...
In a land once composed of kingdoms and empires
that is now known as Senegal...

It was in these routine roles that Fatou first learned the importance of paying attention,
 a skill that never escaped her. 
She listened with intensity when her mother shared her secrets.

“The way to make good food, Fatou my love,
 is the same way to have a good idea. The more you let it marinate, the better it becomes.”

Like many children around her age, Fatou was fascinated by the world around her. 
She seemed to float instantly and seamlessly between the two planes she inhabited and understood:
 human and spirit. 
For Fatou, there was little or no difference between the two.

Ah, but much like trucks and dolls, robots and dress up clothes, there are those who think that certain playthings are only for certain children. 
It was understood, by almost all there in that region of Senegal, 
that the kora simply was not an instrument for girls.

“But how could that be?” Fatou would wonder, enchanted by Papa Moussa’s playing. “How could that be when the kora is so clearly a woman itself?” 

In love yet?
Yeah, me too.

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