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

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
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.

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.”