Alleys that bring you to unknown places; children playing at their pace in every corner and square, drawing welcoming smiles as I am bumping into them; small attieké businesses ( see Baoulé experience), smoked and dry fish, tropical fruits like bananas, pineapples, papayas, at both sides of the road; traditional ice creams made out of natural fruits like bisab, ginger, passion fruits;…and, between each and everyone, between the energetic atmosphere and people looking for their place, we notice the “Makis”, those little bars filled with Ivorian music that keeps you moving every bone of your body, located in any corner, flooding the streets…Welcome to the most hospitable and warm neighborhood in all the Ivory Coast: YOPOUGON LA JOIE!!
Almost all the month of November, AFRICAHUGS shared and learnt from Yopougon, a neighborhood where more than 60 ethnic groups from Ivory Coast, live peacefully. Life in Yopougon goes by placidly, slowly but surely. Starting from the first day, we felt very well integrated in this enormous community, main artery from the city of Abidjan.
Never we felt discrimination because of skin color, language or believes. Yopougon should be set as an example of living together peacefully to the world. In many western communities, where racism arises lately, mainly to african people, they should come and live in this precious and welcoming neighborhood. Each and every one that are, sadly, filled with prejudices, preconceived ideas, myths not being corroborated, should visit Yopougon.
This post has been written to support those spreading honestly how to live together peacefully in a diversity atmosphere. This post has been written to call the attention of the administration, in order to develop cultural exchange programs between students and social cores from different cultures. Those exchanges must be built within respect and honesty. Simply, it is not anymore a matter of building more Europe or USA or western regions. Once you visit and keep in touch with Africa, living with locals, acquiring knowledge from critical African books, the present and the past, it will be, as a last resort, a matter to promote global citizenship values, which means that our comfort and well-being don’t be taken out from the sake of the real structural African development, specially, in sub saharan Africa.
AFRICAHUGS wanted to spread, with this post, the ins and outs of this special personality neighborhood. Based on the interviews we recorded, you will realize the ease of their people, how they invite you to visit them, even massively how they invite you to meet beforehand their way of life, their joy, their kind humor.
Kuakou, the first person interviewed, brought us her cheerful and energetic character. Yopougon, like in everywhere else in Africa, is full of young people plenty of energy to fulfill their dreams, their creativity, their moves. In the following years, I am more than convinced that we all are going to witness an enormous deep transformation in many African countries’ society. Kuakou helps her mum in a small family fabric business. Her desire is to have her own fabric business one day and to export african clothes to foreign countries.
With regard to the next person interviewed, Youyou Sivlie, she confirmed what we already knew in advance since the neighborhood opened its doors to us. Youpougon is a peaceful place, hospitable, where everybody is welcome. With that nostalgic look, Youyou Silvie wanted that we included her in our small contribution to the diversity and consequently, to the interviews in Youpougon.
The third interview went to a special treasure of a person. Something to really keep in our hearts, and of course, to watch over and over !!. It represents life as itself goes on in every moment, with its imperfect beauty and full reasons to love and enjoy her every second. Michelle, the main character, manages a small beauty center. In her interview, she gives us a total statement of principles about living together in peace. Sincerely, I think that what she talks about, how she says what she says and with who she is, that should be use as an example in high schools, social and teacher training university degrees…”Nous ne sommes pas de sauvages”, “Je vous invite à venir massivement à Yopougon”, “N’ayez pas peur à reentrer, nous sommes de gens aimables”…”We are not sauvages”, “I am inviting you massively to Yopougon”, “Do not be scared of coming, we are kind”…and so many other sentences, deconstructing each and every prejudice that we, The West, have, basically, based on racism and intolerance to diversity and multiculturalism.
About Eva, the next interviewed, I am keeping that first movement where it seems she is dancing. After almost a month, I would say that this symbolic movement, represents the soul of Yopougon, the movement and dances based on traditional songs and new rhythms from Ivory Coast that will make dance even your veins.
Finally, we ended the interview with Noé, a young geek that works half time to raise and sell chickens
All of them represent life in all its complexity. All of them are the best example of a neighborhood that keeps moving, that develops day by day, that has enough skills of local development, like we have been able to see in the YouTube video and writing.
We cannot end this post without talking about Elie Bouekalo and Armel Roméo. Elie and her family embraced me for a month at their house. I wanted Elie to open this series of interviews. She exemplifies, as all of them, the strength of moving forward, of developing, the willingness to innovate in their job. In her professional plans, and inside the field of beauty center, she is planning to move to Morocco in order to improve her studies and, if she has the chance, visiting Europe with the same purpose. Elie’s goal is clear, when she thinks that she has acquired enough knowledge within her professional field, she will come back to Ivory Coast with the intention of spreading her business.
Read this poem, velvety words describing baby’s smile:
Le sourire d’un enfant…
L’enfance, comme pour beaucoup d’adolescent
Fait parti des plus belles pages de notre vie
On peut ne pas clairement s’en souvenir
Mais, voir un enfant s’épanouir, nous rappelle le nôtre constamment
Différent de tous les autres sourires
Celui des enfants semble plus réel, plus innocent
Et exprime chez le môme, un total épanouissement
Qu’il partage autour de lui, pour son plaisir
the smile of a baby…
Childhood, like to many teenagers,
is part of the most beautiful pages in our life.
We can hardly remember it,
but, looking a baby how they smile of happiness, remembers us that once we were like them.
Unlike all other smiles,
the once from babies looks more real, more innocent,
and express, inside the world of early childhood, a plentiful of happiness,
That they share among anybody, for the sake of their pleasure.
The author of this poem is called Armel Roméo and he is part of the new young generation of writers in Yopougon. Armel owns a cyber-cafe where neighbors from Youpougon Sidesi Lem, go to connect to the Internet via Wifi or cable, make copies, id or passport photos and other issues regarding reprography.
Africahugs did not want to leave Ivory Coast, did not want to say good bye for now to Yopougon without listening Armel Roméo’s voice reading one of his poems in “Le sourire d’un enfant”, his first published book, (soon in Africahugs YouTube Channel). You can book it here,
Available not only in paper book but also ebook.