Wednesday, 15 March 2006

Akuna Matata

TV Monde featured a special reportage on Women in Africa on the occasion of the International Women Day. Malian women to be more precise. They talked about their problems, their militant ism, their perception of the whole women's right issue. They talked about their dead daughters who were shot while marching to denounce the dictatorial regime of their country. They kept laughing and smiling the whole time. Is there any such thing as sad laughter? There's no other way I can explain this. The Laughter, I mean.

“Je rit, je cache, le vrai derrière un masque”
“I laugh, I hide, the real behind a mask”

sings Natasha St Pierre.

One lady finally explains it.

You see African women, in Africa, they're always smiling. They look and sound happy, content with life. This is because, in Africa you're never alone. “That's your problem! Deal with it!” is an advice which is almost never given. Grief is shared. Wherever you turn, you're lent an ear. You're fed. You're housed.

My family was among the first Muslim families to settle in Boundiali. A village in the North of Ivory Coast. My paternal grand father was the Imam of the mosque. Like his father before him. We never really lived in Ivory Coast. We went there for holidays only. It fascinated me.

We have this huge huge “Land”. My grandfather, his brothers, the wives, the children and the children of some of the children all built houses and live here. I still don't know the names of half of them all. There are so many of them. We, my siblings and I were really spoiled. Maybe because we didn't live there. Only, whenever we'd go back to where we came from we were all overweight. Not our fault. The food was good and everybody wanted you to taste theirs.

The “Land” was also inhabited by other people. Foreigners. Passing-by-Boundiali people. I forgot to mention threre's only one Hotel in Boundiali and I heard it wasn't doing well then. It's called le Dala (picture). So the Passing-by-Boundiali people are directed to the Imam's house, whoever he is. My grandfather, then. Of course, now I know that they were Passing-by-Boundiali people. When we asked then, we were told “he's a brother”, “she's a sister”, “they're relatives”. “Another one!” we'd think. The last time we went to Boundiali, 13 years ago, there was a Passing-by-Boundiali lady with her kid living with the people of the land. Her mother came to visit her from far. She got a Permanent Residence Permit. Her mother came to visit and was very happy with her daughters new home.

At nightfall, we'd gather at my granduncle's place and his son would entertain us with stories. Some kids came to memorize Quran which my granduncle taught during the day. It was such a life! It rubbed off on us, for which am grateful.

I spoke to my cousin who lives in France. She calls often. To talk. Calls are expensive. Still. We got to talk about sharing your problems and not letting them bottled in. she says to me “Fatma, you are going to turn into one unhappy girl if you ever come to Europe. You talk to people the way you are doing with me and they'll think you're bananas. You don't talk about your problems here, you deal with them. Better, you pay a shrink to listen to you.” I told her “I have this very very big failing, I was born with a happy disposition.” And we laughed. I do that a lot. Laughing. Therapeutic.

I read in Psychologies Magazine: The people who laugh the most are those who are the most sad. Maybe, but its a positive sadness.

I think about all this, think about what the lady on TV Monde said. I think about how some friends tell me, mockingly, that African's are technologically retarded and have never heard about Internet and chat. I think about it all and smilingly tell myself that whatever changes Africa has undergone, the humanity and the importance given to relationships is something we're holding on to.


Neil said...

"The people who laugh the most are those who are the most sad."

I find that hard to believe.

Fitèna said...

Neil, you can't imagine how worked up I got to be over this observation made by a very reknown psychologist. Then I got mad. Now, I just think that there must be a degree of truth in the statement.

Egan said...

Like Neil, I disagree about the laughing claim. I hear that laughter is a great remedy and keeps us young at heart.

Your blog is a refreshing voice from a part of the world overlooked way too often. I have a good buddy from La Cote d'Ivoire. He's from Abijan though. Au revoir!

suleyman said...

I think of Smokey Robinson's "Tears of A Clown."

"Now if I appear to be carefree
it's only to camouflage my sadness.
And honey to shield my pride I try
to cover this hurt with a show of gladness."

People who are jocular or clownish do sometimes use humor as a mask.


Fitèna said...

Egan, Boundiali is where the family originally comes from but most of them are living in Abidjan and other towns. The "in" towns. My cousins don't even speak Malinké, which is our ethnic group's dialect. They make fun of us when we visit ecause we do. I think they just don't get it. That, we, who never lived in Cote d'Ivoire can speak Malinké. I think its a pity.

Suley, like I said, this statement really made me think. Am what you call a "jocular, clownish" person. it worried me that that was the only way I could be around people. It doesn't anymore. If there is some sadness somewhere, its just helping me stay emotionally balanced.


Egan said...

Interesting how language can cause such a rift. I see it all the time as a French speaker in Seattle. Most be tough on the families. That truly is petty.

ChickyBabe said...

You've got quite a thought provoking post here. We shouldn't compare advancements in technology to humanity; some things are priceless, like family and relationships. And that makes Africa the richer continent.

M said...

Hey Fit, nice post...
It's interesting, the cultural differences in how we deal with grief and sorrow. I don't think I'm capable of being in a community that is so involved in each other's lives; but that's just because I was raised in the polar opposite (uptight WASPs in the midwest!). I'd be interested to see how I'd react if I came home and my mom sat me down to tell me everything that's going on in her life, or vice versa...

Fitèna said...

M, I think its more about listening than anything else and I believe that the capability of actually listening to people is something you have to have in you or you need to nurture it.

Chicky, 100% with you!


Anonymous said...

Very nice site!
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