It was the place Peggy Turbett's father always joked he would
send her to when she misbehaved as a child. Two years ago, at age
48, she finally saw it for the first time.
Turbett spent 17 days on an anthropological tour of Mali, West
Africa, which included a stop in Timbuktu, the once-thriving center
of commerce that was catapulted into geographical oblivion after
Morocco captured the city in 1591.
"My primary purpose of going on this trip was to say I'd gone to
Timbuktu," says Turbett. "People don't believe it exists."
The proof is in her pictures. From March 13 through Aug. 29,
Turbett's photos from her Malian journey will be on display at the
Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
Turbett, features picture editor for The Plain Dealer, found the
entire country visually fascinating. "I was struck most by the
beautiful simplicity of Mali," she says. "That's why my exhibit is
called Beyond Timbuktu, because people think Timbuktu is the
end-all and be-all, but there's so much more to the country that I
did not expect."
For instance, Turbett's image of "The Evening Meal" depicts a
Bobo woman preparing food over an open fire, as women throughout
Mali do every night. "It was like seeing a fifth-grade geography
book come to life," Turbett says.
From the ancient city of Djenne to the masked dances of the
Dogon region, Turbett found beauty around every turn. One of her
most arresting photos is "Airwaves," in which a man stands along
the riverbank near Kona, Mali, clutching a transistor radio. "It's
[a] juxtaposition of the traditional robes and the modern society,"
Yineteen of Turbett's photos will also be included in the
museum's companion exhibition, Senenkunya: Many Voices, One Family,
which features scenery, artifacts and planetarium shows related to
sub-Saharan Africa. The exhibit reflects the spirit of enenkunya a
Malian tradition thatCpromotes mutual understanding and goodwill
among diverse peoples.
?So many stories come out of Africa [that focus on] the dire
poverty, the political wars and the AIDS epidemic," Turbett says.
"I think people would be amazed at the beauty and the culture and
the simplicity of the people there."