MDFF 4 November 2017


 Around 1978 the Warlpiri owned Yuendumu Mining Co (YMC) formed a joint venture with Afmeco, the Australian subsidiary of a French company, to search for Uranium in the Ngalia Basin. YMC had applied for a number of exploration licences, but had no resources to explore these tenements in its own right. Afmeco during negotiations, in order to prove its bona fides in relation to “natives”, showed us some very lovely glossy photos of Africans collecting samples and carrying out other exploration field tasks. Around the same time we had a visit from a very charming French speaking young lady from Cote d’Ivoire (a friend of Yuendumu School’s linguist Napaljarri Laughren who had done her “field work” in the Ivory Coast during her studies).

As part of showing Awa around, I called into Afmeco’s exploration camp. I did not see much point of saying anything about it at the time, but the discomfort and unfriendly vibes of the French geologists towards Awa caught me off guard and unpleasantly surprised me. From my mother I learned and/or inherited a predisposition to see the best in people. Usually I’m not unpleasantly surprised and disappointed. Macy Gray – Beauty In The World [Lyrics]  …. And dance with me…

So much for the very lovely glossy photographs!

During the 1970’s & 1980’s the CSIRO planted central Australian acacia trees (predominantly kanalarampi- Acacia Coleii ) at Maradi in Niger. The late Napaljarri Ross, Nangala Fleming and Nangala Baarda from Yuendumu accompanied the CSIRO on a “cultural exchange” visit to Niger. Their eyes had been opened to a whole other world. I got to hear about how enterprising the Niger people were despite Niger being the poorest country in Africa, their joie de vivre, their generosity, their charm. How the nomadic Fulani would move their animals through Hausa land with the latter’s freely given permission when this did not interfere with Hausa agricultural endeavours. How the Tuareg from the north were tolerated if not accepted. How the Christian minority and Muslim majority coexisted in peace.

This idyllic image was first shattered in my mind when the Paris to Dakar rally required participants’ vehicles being flown across a section regarded as “too dangerous”. This “too dangerous” section having now expanded so that the Paris to Dakar rally is in need of a name change.

And the late Ali Farka Toure- not quite Niger, but hey, music transcends borders….

When four Special Forces US soldiers were recently killed in an ambush in Niger (near the Mali border) a big media storm suddenly descended upon us. Has Donald Trump been insensitive to Sergeant La David Johnson’s widow? Lots of tweets, much discussion. I felt no need to pay attention to this discussion. I already knew that Donald Trump is a bombastic, insensitive, egocentric, rude, unpleasant man with a weird hair-doo. The Ugly American personified.

Of greater immediacy to me, was the question “What are US Military personnel doing in Niger?”

A friend who spent some time in that part of the world suggested “perhaps they’re fighting Boko Haram”

One shouldn’t joke about that despicable bunch Boko Haram who are infamous for the kidnapping of a couple of hundred school girls in Nigeria.

But I can’t help thinking there is something ironic in the similarity in name with Procol Harum who are famous for their hit song ‘A whiter shade of pale’

Procol Harum: formed in London in 1967 “It’s the name of a cat, a Siamese cat. It’s the pedigree name, and it belonged to a friend of ours, just somebody that we used to hang out with when we were forming the band”

If only Boko Haram had been named after a pedigree cat belonging to somebody that they used to hang out with. I’m sure the name derives from something far more sinister.

So googling some more I learn that there are around 800 U.S. military personnel in Niger, and their main base of operation is Agadez. They are building a drone base. The Agadez region produces 7.5% of the world’s uranium. Those Africans collecting samples in the very lovely glossy photographs weren’t wasting their time. There are two operating uranium mines in Niger, one is operated by the successors to Afmeco’s parent company, the other one is Chinese controlled. I was surprised by the French geologists attitude to Awa. Why am I not surprised by the coincidence of uranium deposits and a US military presence? (not to mention ISIL, and the Chinese).

A propos uranium: Timbuk-2 the main Tuareg city isn’t very far from Niger. Timbuk-3 are a one hit duo- The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades

In 2005 Niger suffered a famine. It is said 800,000 children died. IMF imposed austerity measures are believed to have been a contributing factor- food was available but people with no money couldn’t buy it. According to the source article I read, Niger is the second poorest country in the world. You’d imagine a country with 7.5% of the world’s uranium production could do better than that. Imagine,

You may say I’m a dreamer…..




The Day The Music Died – Don McLean on Buddy Holly’s crash
Too often lately we are living through days when the music died.
Vale Antoine Dominique “Fats” Domino Jr. (February 26, 1928 – October 24, 2017) – sad.

Even sadder, when I told Nangala Fats Domino had died, our musical teenage granddaughter said “Who’s he?” …. ain’t that a shame?

But then not many of my generation listen to Schubert (“Who’s he?”)

Richard Tauber. Schubert Serenade “Leise flehen meine Lieder ” 1934

Leise flehen meine Lieder Durch die Nacht zu dir;
Gently (lightly, barely touching) my songs beseech you
Through the night to you; –Lloraré- los Chalchaleros…

…Cuando la muerte me lleve, por sus caminos de sombra,
El viento me ha de traer esta zamba que te nombra….Lloraré (3x)

When death takes me on her shadowy paths,
the wind will bring me this zamba called ‘I shall cry’ (3x)