We are invited into the home of a very respected local fetishman, a marabout of the animist tradition. A small mud building in the middle of Teli awaits out presence. We are welcomed and Phil presents The Ball to him.
Our Dogon guides translate as Phil explains about The Ball. The fetishman holds, examines and feels The Ball — then he cleans and places a mat onto the dusty floor in front of him. The plaited mat is like a map and, as he places it on the floor, he draws lines and symbols in the dusty ground around it.
He throws cowrie shells on to the mat and interprets their meaning based on where they come to rest. This mat and these shells form relationships beyond our comprehension. After several rounds of throws and much speaking to himself, he is ready to speak to us all.
“There will be a happy and a good end to the tour. It will finish well. You will make it to Johannesburg and it will be a happy time.”
Later, another animist, a local hunter, rolls The Ball up and down his ceremonial totem polls, lingering over the chest areas of each female statue – almost as if he is listening to them, perhaps using The Ball as a medium.
“The Ball is special” he says.