News / Arts & Entertainment

Writer Captures Flavor of Life in Multicultural Ivory Coast

Writer Captures Flavor of Life In Multicultural Ivory Coasti
X
August 12, 2013 9:25 PM
A series of French comic books set in the West African country of Ivory Coast has captivated readers both in Africa and overseas. Now, the film Aya de Yopougon has just been released in French movie houses and will soon be shown in the Ivorian economic capital of Abidjan. Film's author, Marguerite Abouet, a French-Ivorian writer is presently living in France. Lisa Bryant has more.
Lisa Bryant
A series of French comic books set in the West African country of Ivory Coast has captivated readers both in Africa and overseas. Now, the film Aya de Yopougon has just been released in French movie houses and will soon be shown in the Ivorian economic capital of Abidjan. French-Ivorian author Marguerite Abouet wrote Aya and currently lives in the suburbs of Paris.

In the movie the viewer travels to the Ivorian city of Abidjan in the 1970s to get caught up in the lives of Aya, Bintu, Fanta and Ignace…and all the other colorful characters living in the ethnically-mixed neighborhood of Yopougon.

The characters are the stars of a series of comic books - and now the new movie.

"I deliberately chose Muslim and Christian names for my characters, because I had the chance of living in Yopougon, and in Ivory Coast. Abidjan was the crossroads of West Africa at the time. Everything passed through the country. And my neighbors could be a Muslim who had married a Baoulé [one of Ivory Coast's many ethnic groups], and so in a single household you could have very different names," said Abouet.
 
A collaboration with French illustrator Clement Oubrerie, the Aya books are about daily life in Yopougon: the loves, the heartaches, the ambitions and the setbacks. They also touch on sensitive issues like homosexuality and infidelity.

The Aya series has become a best-seller both in Ivory Coast and in France, Abouet's adopted home. The film Aya de Yopougon was released in French cinemas in July.

In some ways the real Cinderella story is Abouet herself: the little girl from Yopougon who made it big in Paris. Abouet says she did not grow up in a bookish household, but story-telling was a family tradition.
 
"During vacations we would go to the village where our grandparents lived, with all our cousins. We had no electricity or running water. Our grandfather was our television. Every evening he'd gather us all around a big fire and tell us stories," she said.
 
Abouet brought those stories with her to France. As the only African in her class, it was her way of fitting in. Later, she began jotting down memories of her childhood in Yopougon. They became material for a series of children's books.
 
"I started to write down the stories so I wouldn't forget them. It was important for me to remember all of my stories, because I felt I was so far from home, so far from my parents, that I was afraid to forget them," said Abouet.
 
The colors and smells of Abouet's Yopougon also permeate the Aya series, although this time, the fictional characters are adults. For French publishing house Gallimard Jeunesse, the stories were a first foray into comic books, or graphic novels.
 
"It was completely original, completely exotic. We were able to discover the insider's Africa," said Gallimard editor Thierry Laroche. "And it wasn't talking about negative things - war or sickness. It doesn't mean hiding these problems, but talking about Africans and how they live."
 
The Aya comic books have attracted a diverse fan club in both Africa and France. Thirty-four-year-old Edia Aikessi, who bought a ticket to see the Aya movie in Paris, grew up in Abidjan.
 
"The books bring back the atmosphere of the city, the expressions, the dishes people eat, all the smells. It's really Abidjan for me, and they're funny and very well drawn," said Aikessi.
 
Years of conflict have scarred and impoverished Ivory Coast and the Yopougon of Abouet's childhood. But the author salutes the endurance of Ivorians living through those dark times - especially the mothers. The Aya movie is a tribute to them.

You May Like

China’s Influence Grows With New Infrastructure Bank

Multibillion-dollar China-backed and BRICS-supported Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank seen as possible challenger to such lenders as IMF, World Bank More

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

Rabbi Michel Serfaty makes the rounds in his friendship bus to encourage dialogue and break down barriers between the two groups More

Post-deal Iran Leaders Need 'Economic Momentum' to Solidify

Economists say deal could inject more than $100 billion into coffers - not enough to entirely rescue ailing economy - but maybe adequate to create 'economic momentum' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”