I just painted this mural inside the “Centre Culturel Jean-Rouch”, the French-Nigerien cultural center based in Niamey, Niger. I’ve been staying here for the last 4 weeks, and have been welcomed so generously by its staff.
Jean Rouch was a French filmmaker and anthropologist who worked a lot in Niger during the 20th century. I painted this for the opening of a new exhibition on the his work called “Jean Rouch, l’aventure continue”. Thank you to Olivia Marsaud for the picture!
“I would like you to paint the word “Sabu” which means “praise be to god” in Zerma. I went to a school set up by the mission during the colonial era and I was a christan like my father. When I got married I became a muslim, but whatever I call my god, and regardless of how I pray, I’ve always thanked god for the life he’s given me. I have 5 children and 6 grandchildren and everyday I say “Sabu”. ” – Yvonne in the slum of Kombo, in Niamey, Niger.
Sourou (=Patience in Zerma) was chosen by Koda La Cadette. “Patience is a necessary vertue here as nothing comes quickly and easily.” It’s the 145th mural I’ve painted as part of Share The Word Project and it’s the first time that the word “Patience” is given to me!
Most walls in the slum of Kombo are made of dried mud. These constructions are often damaged during the wet season, but they are cheap to make and keep the house cooler than corrugated iron. Most of these walls are very rough, but Lampo’s house seemed to have a slightly smoother surface, so I thought I’d give it a go. I asked him for a word and he thought for a while before giving me the word “bani” (=health in Zerma). Health is a huge issue for the population of Kombo especially due to do the high risk of malaria, as well as many other diseases caused by poor hygiene and the consumption of non-drinkable water. Everyday we meet kids who have malaria, and adults who are sick. Lampo and his son Moussa told me that health is the first issue that the community has to address, and development will follow.
Moussa, 25 years old, chose the word “Union” to stress how important it is for different ethnic groups to come together as one. He’s originally from Burkina Faso, his family having left to find work in Niger in the early 90s. But whether people are Zerma, Hausa, Tuarag, or from foreign ethnic groups, the most important thing is to work together.
“In my religion, “jihad” means a struggle to be a better person or a better society. In this particular case, I’m referring to the struggle we are facing to keep our neighbourhood of Kombo. There are plans of destroying our community in order to build hotels on the banks of the river. We will probably have to move to the outskirts of the city, and all be separated and will have to change the way we live. We have been fishing and growing vegetables by the river for generations and my jihad is to do everything I can to keep our neighbourhood still standing.” Karim – 16 years old