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

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the latest edition of "Beyond Category" blues singer and guitarist Corey Harris performs with his band and talks about his travels in West Africa tracing the roots of the blues.