Thursday, March 06, 2014

To leave à l’Aventure

 Pudiogou has left à l’aventure and so did Maman last year, but he is back now.
To leave for adventure  sounds to Western ears as something fun, like a gap year before university or like a kind of adventurous tourism: to go somewhere without making too many plans perhaps. The phrase also evokes  antiquity and the Greek youths that left to encounter Adventure and to prove themselves through killing monsters, conquering enemies or finding treasure before returning back in glory.
The Malian habit of ‘leaving à l’aventure’ has more to do with the Greek idea and precious little to do with the curiosity of  discovery or  the enjoyment of travel.   The film maker Jean Rouch made a wonderful documentary in the late fifties when he filmed a group of youths who left their native village in the Niger in order to find fortune in Ghana- they walked all the way to the coast. They found some work as guardians, as labourers in the port etc. This provided enough fortune to return home again, and so they did, bearing presents for their parents and those they had left behind.
In 2011  I met a group of old men in the village of Bankassi  (above) who spoke English to me to my great surprise.  It turned out that they too had walked to Ghana in the sixties - most young men of their village had left.  A few years later they had returned with something. And here is the important thing: one has to bring something back if one goes for Adventure. It may be just some cloth; a garment: a thermos etc for the parents and a football and sweets for the younger family members.
When Keita and I went for holiday to Togo in 2009 we stayed in a nice hotel on the beach quite close to the port of Lomé.  I wanted to laze by the pool of course and do other Toubab tourist things, but Keita discovered some Malians when he went for a stroll. They lived in pitiful conditions in a shanty town next to the port. They were old and ill and the patriotic Keita was appalled and bought them tea and sugar for the ceremonial and essential Malian tea drinking habit and then spent most of his time with them, trying to persuade them to come home to die in Mali at least. But they could not- they had gone à l’Aventure a long time ago but it had not turned out the way they hoped. They could therefore never come back...
There are many ways to go à l’Aventure  to find a better life with the dream of returning home with something: many go north and endure the terrifying hardships of trying to reach Europe: many do not make it, but those that do are the ones that are remembered and who perpetuate the myth, luring thousands more to attempt the journey.
Another very common way for young Malians  to go à l’Aventure is to work in the gold fields of southern Mali and northern Guinea. It was there that Maman went, leaving the hotel around spring time since he needed money for his family: more than he was earning with us.  He earned nothing in his one month of appalling hardship, but fortunately had the sense to return and he is working here again as usual. His tale of the gold fields of the Mandé is fascinating though, and I have now sent him back again  to do some undercover reporting since I cannot go myself, clearly being too conspicuous.  More about this later...


Blogger Mamen Afrikia said...

Thanks a lot for shearing; this incredible and so interesting ... !!

7:32 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

Thank you Mame Afrikia! let's hope there will be more of interest to share when Maman returns...

10:07 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

The gold story should be good. Sounds intriguing.

3:20 PM  

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