Pourquoi le Lièvre a la Peau Tachetée de Blanc



Il y avait une fois un village qui se trouvait loin de toute rivière et de tout marigot.  Tous les jours, les habitants devaient faire une longue, longue marche pour aller prendre l’eau qui leur était nécessaire.  Et lorsqu’ils revenaient, portant les canaris pleins sur leur tête, ils étaient très fatigués.  Tous désiraient vivement que l’on creuse un puits dans le village afin de cesser tout va-et-vient pour transporter l’eau.  Mais, pour faire creuser un puits, il faut de l’argent.  Et personne n’en avait.

Le chef, Lion, songeait sans arrêt à ce problème.  Un beau jour, il lui vient une idée.  Il convoque les habitants et leur dit : « Frères animaux, voici ce que je vous propose.  Chacun d’entre nous va ôter sa peau et aller la vendre au marché ou bien il la tannera pour en faire un tam-tam qu’il vendra également.  Ainsi nous aurons l’argent nécessaire pour faire construire le puits. »

Tous les animaux acceptent.  Ils ôtent leur peau, la portent au marché et la vendent.  D’autres s’en servent pour fabriquer des tambours.  Bientôt, tous ont un peu d’argent.  Tous, sauf Compère Lièvre qui n’avait pas voulu sacrifier son cher pelage et s’était sauvé.  Les villageois achètent les outils et tout ce qu’il faut et entreprennent immédiatement la confection du puits.  Une fois, que celui-ci ait terminée, on fait une grande fête pour célébrer l’évènement.  Chaque soir, les épouses vont puiser de l’eau.  A la tombée de la nuit, on referme soigneusement le puits.

Puits africain
Puits africain

Or, un beau matin, les gens aperçoivent des traces humides sur la terre et sur la margelle.  Quelqu’un est venu prendre de l’eau pendant la nuit !  Mais qui a fait cela ?  Nul ne le sait.

Chef Lion demande à la panthère de monter la garde et de s’emparer de toute personne  qui s’approchera de l’eau.

Lorsque les ténèbres sont très épaisses, Compère Lièvre, car c’était lui le voleur, arrive tout doucement avec son canari.  Il voit la Panthère et se met à faire des bruits étranges pour qu’elle pense qu’il y a un fantôme par là.  Celle-ci entend ces bruits et, terrifiée, s’enfuit.  Alors, le lendemain, voyant qu’on avait encore touché à l’eau, les villageois préparent un piège.  Ils prennent un gros morceau de bois et le badigeonnent de glu puis le placent tout contre la margelle du puits.

Quand l’obscurité règne à nouveau, Compère lièvre arrive.  Il s’approche du puits, se penche sur le rebord en s’appuyant sur le bois.  Et ses mains se trouvent collées.  Compère lièvre croit que quelqu’un l’a saisi et ne veut plus le lâcher.  « Lâche-moi, il, lâche-moi ou je te donne des coups de pied

Se voyant encore prisonnier, Lièvre se débat violemment et tente de frapper son ennemi avec ses pieds qui, bientôt, se trouvent collés aussi.  A l’aube, les animaux arrivent au puits et découvrent Lièvre, bien fixé au morceau de bois par la glu.

« Nous allons le tuer ce vaurien ! crient-ils pour nous venger, nous allons le préparer comme de la viande fumée.  Vite, allumons un grand feu

Compère lièvre n’en mène pas large et il réfléchit au moyen de se tirer de ce tirer de ce mauvais pas.  « Voyons, mes amis, déclare-t-il, vous ne savez donc pas comment on fume un lièvre ?  Il faut toujours l’envelopper de coton et on met le feu à celui-ci. »

Alors les animaux du village le décollent du morceau de bois, apportent un sac de coton, le roulent dedans.  Avant qu’on n’ait eu le temps d’y mettre le feu, compère lièvre se libère et se sauve à toute vitesse.  Mais les lièvres ont toujours dans  leur pelage les petites touffes de coton blanc.

Conte Komkomba tiré de “Contes des Lagunes et Savanes,” Collection ‘Fleuve et Flamme,’ édition Edicef, 1975

African Queens of Textiles: the Nana Benz of Togo

Wax Hollandais
Wax Hollandais

Growing up, I remember watching documentaries about the Nana Benz of Togo: these powerful ladies who ‘owned’ the country solely by selling textiles.  I also remember that my grandmother was (and still is) very fond of ‘Wax Hollandais‘, and how many women will go through hoops to have access to these pricey wax prints traveling to Togo or Ghana to acquire them.  They all loved to dress in these bright colors, with these bright and often lavish wax prints.

Well,… the Nana Benz of Togo, made their mark internationally by trading in wax printed cloth starting in the 1930’s and 1950’s, before independence.  They started from nothing to rise to be among the country’s richest.  They imported the fabric from Dutch companies based in Indonesia.  From there the material arrived on Togo’s shores and the women distributed it throughout West and Central Africa. They became known as Nana Benz because in the mid-50’s through 80’s they had made so much money that they were the only people who could afford Mercedes Benz cars, so much so that the government used to hire their Mercedes Benz for important guests and state functions. The phrase ‘Nana Benz’ came to symbolize the freedom, ingenuity, creativity, pride, achievement, success, and courage of these women. A woman did not become a Nana Benz through inheritance, or society’s choice, but through ingenuity, and struggle.

Nana Benz in the 1970s
Nana Benz in the 1970s

The Nana Benz positioned Lomé, Togo’s capital, into a regional centre of textile distribution and dominated the trade in wax prints. Between 1976 and 1984, at least 40% of the commercial business in Togo which was in the informal sector, was in the hands of the Nana Benz. During the 1970’s, the scope of this trade in textile was so important that it exceeded Togo’s phosphate industry, the country’s primary source of revenue. The Nana Benz rose in wealth and power.  Although many were uneducated, they travelled abroad on business, and played a leading role in national politics under the one-party rule of the Rassemblement du Peuple Togolais (RPT). They rose in society’s echelons.  During his presidency, Gnassingbé Eyadéma, appointed them to high offices in the women’s wing of the RPT.  A leading Nana Benz, Madame A. Amedome, was appointed Minister of Social Welfare in 1977 even though she could not read or write.

A Nanette in Lome Market (Source: Arte TV)
A Nanette in Lomé Market (Source: Arte TV)

They sold the ‘wax hollandais’ made by the dutch, in particular by the dutch company VLISCO implanted in Togo since 1846 to sell textiles to Africans.  No offense, but implanted since 1846? Why are Togolese or Africans not making their own wax prints 150 years later? We love it… so we should make it too!  What were African textiles before then? was it mostly ‘bogolan‘-type of textile?  This should be the subject of another post.  In the meantime, let us celebrate the ingenuity of the Nana Benz.  Check out this photo-journal entitled The Nana Benz, An African Epopée by Bruno Zanzottera.  If you are ever in Lomé, make a stop at the market and buy the right fabric known as Vlisco that made the Nana Benz famous.  Listen to this song praising the Nana Benz by the Togolese singer King Mensah. Don’t forget to check out the documentary Reflets Sud on ‘le tissu pagne’, as well as the Togolese opera Madame Paradji ou la Reine des Nana Benz which describes to life of a powerful Nana Benz.

Blood in Valentine’s Day Chocolate: Why celebrate?


I was not planning on writing anything, but then I remembered the blood of Ivorians, and all the big cocoa’s sellers scheme in that country, and their influence in the current bloody atmosphere in Côte d’Ivoire, the world number one producer of cocoa… then I cringed… I had to write.  As Hallmark and the media try to make us celebrate a day when Cupidon supposedly hit us with his arrow of love, and we all then run to the store to buy chocolates, and everything lovey-dovey… I remembered that over 3000 miles away some children were dying in some cocoa plantations for people in the developed world to show love to their loved ones.

A box of Valentine's day chocolate
A box of Valentine's day chocolate

Is it really necessary?  do people need all that chocolate to feel loved?  do they need the heart-shaped box full of heart-shaped chocolates to feel loved?  and why not any other day?  could people not renew their love for each other any other day of the year?  or fall in love any other day?  does it have to happen at the expense of some kid and poor family in another hemisphere?  Well… after the event of April 11, 2011 in Côte d’Ivoire, I have decided to refrain myself from my love of chocolate… and we all should.  We can all refrain from it… there will be less wars!… and less caries!

Zambia wins the African Cup of Nations

Zambia's national team celebrate their win of the African Cup of Nations (Source: AFP)
Zambia’s national team celebrate their win of the African Cup of Nations (Source: Issouf Sanogo/AFP)

Wow, I started watching the finals yesterday rooting for Zambia to win against Côte d’Ivoire… I had watched them throughout the cup, and the last one as well, and knew that they were a young strong team to reckon with.  Throughout the game, I prayed that the memory of those Zambian players who died in a plane crash in 1993 in Gabon be honored.  At the time when the crash occurred, the Zambian team was on its way to Senegal from Libreville (Gabon) to play a world-cup qualifier.  We, Africans, were all stunned, and cried as an entire country had lost their heroes.  One of the only survivors was Kalusha Bwalya who would have been on the plane during the crash, but had found his own way to Senegal (he was playing for PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands, and had to make separate arrangements to meet the team in Dakar).  We watched and cried with Kalusha who had lost all his teammates.

Zambia's national team, the Chipolopolo
Zambia’s national team, the Chipolopolo

Imagine rebuilding an entire mature team who had just crashed? It will take a lot of years to foster the same talent and train them.  The country had just lost a generation of extremely talented football players.  Kalusha went on to become coach of Zambia (at the 2006 CAN), and is currently the president of the football association of his country. It is extremely symbolic that Zambia won last night in Libreville (Gabon) against Côte d’Ivoire (who played outstandingly well), only a few hundred metres inland from the crash site.  The Chipolopolo (the Copper Bullets) dedicated their victory to the ones who lost their lives in the 1993 tragedy.

Celebrating the Life of a Great Economist: Paul-Antoine Bohoun Bouabré

Paul-Antoine Bohoun Bouabré (Source Abidjan.net)
Paul-Antoine Bohoun Bouabré (Source Abidjan.net)

On January 12, 2012, Paul-Antoine Bohoun Bouabré left us. Who was Paul-Antoine? and why should we care?

Well, Paul-Antoine Bohoun Bouabré was a great economist from Côte d’Ivoire.  His genius successfully protected his country from bankruptcy during the years when Côte d’Ivoire was under siege by France (i.e. 2000 – 2011).  Educated in the great schools of his country and in France, he earned a PhD in economics with a specialty in development in 1985.  He then returned to his country where he taught economics at the Universities of Cocody, and Bouaké, and at the Côte d’Ivoire National School of Administration.  In 2000, he joined the government of Laurent Gbagbo, for whom he had great respect, as the minister of Economy and Finances.  After the chaotic military transition of the years 2000 (from Gueï’s coup on 24 December 1999 to the elections of 2000) he single-handedly created a ‘secured budget’ to face all the financial problems of the state of Côte d’Ivoire, as the foreign investors and donors were no longer investing in the country.  His motto was “live within your means and don’t borrow from the outside.”  He did just that: the ‘secured budget’ was founded entirely on internal revenues of the state which increased due to the financial reforms put in place.  He managed to keep Côte d’Ivoire afloat.  After the rebellion of 2002, which totally destabilized the country by splitting it into two, thus depriving the state of more than half of its revenues and territory, Paul-Antoine created the ‘backup budget’ or the ‘safeguard budget’ or ‘the protection budget’ through which he managed to pay all the salaries, and all the state charges for the entire country! All this was done, under the eyes of the rebellion and its foreign allies who gave Gbagbo and his government no less than 3 months to survive; they survived over 8 years in this state of asphyxiation, thanks in part to his efforts!

Flag of Côte d'Ivoire
Flag of Côte d'Ivoire

It just pains me to see how a bright son of Africa has been depicted and demonized in the foreign press.  This great man, and economist kept an entire country afloat through all the foreign pressures.  Imagine for a single moment, a country asphyxiated by all (France, E.U., USA, IMF, World Bank, etc…), and beleaguered from all sides, trying to stay afloat, to pay salaries, and keep the state from sinking….  Imagine the livelihood of millions of people depending on these external forces, forces which do not accept the people’s vote, but prefer their own jockey…  Imagine providing for millions of  men and women, and their children!  Truly, this man, and his entire team, deeply loved their country.  Any man in their right mind would have quit such a job, or would have accused others for their downfall… but Bohoun Bouabré, like so many, stayed in place, and steered the ship in the right direction.  Many may disagree, but Bohoun Bouabré did what the Greek minister of finances could not do when faced with a financial crisis, he did what the Irish could not do, or what the Portuguese cannot do while being faced with a crisis.  All these European countries benefit from the support of their counterparts (E.U.), the US, the IMF, and the World bank, and yet… they cannot and have not been able to keep their ships afloat.  Today, some people want us to believe lies about him, but the truth will always be that Bohoun Bouabré was a great economist, who managed to keep a country like Côte d’Ivoire besieged from all sides, with a population (of 20 millions) bigger than Portugal (10 millions), Greece (10 millions) and Ireland (6 millions) afloat. Yes… this man was a true giant No offense to the Irish, Portuguese, and Greeks, but their finance ministers should take example on Paul-Antoine Bohoun Bouabré, a proud son of Côte d’Ivoire!

The African Cup of Nations

The Africa Cup of Nations/ La Coupe d'Afrique des Nations
The Africa Cup of Nations/ La Coupe d'Afrique des Nations

The quarter-finals to the African Cup of Nations (Coupe d’Afrique des Nations) tournament took place yesterday.  The African Cup of Nations is a highly followed soccer tournament to which all African nations participate.  In essence, all African nations play qualifiers which ensures that about 16 nations on the continent will get a chance to play at the African Cup of Nations.  Since 1968, the tournament has taken place every two years, and every even year during the month of January and ends around mid-February: one month of intense fun.  If you are an avid soccer fan, as I am, you would love watching some of the greatest African teams and stars at their best (sometimes, at their worst too).  Recently, the pressure of big money FIFA has forced a change into the schedule of the CAN, forcing the tournament to now take place every odd years, so as ‘not to clash with the soccer world cup‘ (this change was forced by European big clubs/leagues to whom many African players belong).

CAN 2012
CAN 2012

The African Cup of Nations (CAN) tournament was first held in 1957 in Sudan, and only three countries participated: Egypt, Sudan, and EthiopiaEgypt has won the cup seven times, making it the record holder.  In recent years, Egypt won the cup three consecutive times. Cameroon and Ghana follow behind Egypt and have both won the tournament four times.  Cameroon and Egypt are not participating at this year’s African Cup of Nations, but Ghana is… and there is a strong chance that they might win the cup this year.  This year’s tournament, the 2012 CAN, is held in two countries: Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.  I believe that the final this year will be between Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire: the Black Stars vs the Elephants.  Although my heart is with the Elephants of Didier Drogba, I have slight edge towards Ghana of Michael Essien.

My dream is to see an African cup of Nations where all the coaches of African teams would be African…  I might have to wait a long time to see this, but in the meantime enjoy!  Mali just knocked out Gabon in penalty kicks and will be facing Côte d’Ivoire in semi-finals (this promises to be a good game).  The face-off to the other semi-final will be Ghana-Zambia, as Ghana defeated Tunisia 2-1.  Let’s wait and see!

Letter of a Freed Slave to his Old Master

A group of escaped slaves in Virginia in 1862 (courtesy of the Library of Congress)
A group of escaped slaves in Virginia in 1862 (courtesy of the Library of Congress)

A newly discovered letter from a freed former slave to his onetime master is creating a buzz. Letters of Note explains that in August of 1865, a Colonel P.H. Anderson of Big Spring, Tennessee wrote to his former slave Jourdan Anderson, requesting that Jourdan return to work on his farm.  In the time since escaping from slavery, Anderson had become emancipated, moved to Ohio where he found paid work and was now supporting his family. The letter turned up in the August 22 edition of the New York Daily Tribune. ENJOY!


Dayton, Ohio,

August 7, 1865

To My Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee

Sir: I got your letter, and was glad to find that you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this, for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Colonel Martin’s to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again, and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville Hospital, but one of the neighbors told me that Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.

I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here. I get twenty-five dollars a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy,—the folks call her Mrs. Anderson,—and the children—Milly, Jane, and Grundy—go to school and are learning well. The teacher says Grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday school, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated. Sometimes we overhear others saying, “Them colored people were slaves” down in Tennessee. The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks; but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Colonel Anderson. Many darkeys would have been proud, as I used to be, to call you master. Now if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.

Continue reading “Letter of a Freed Slave to his Old Master”

Un Prêté vaut un Rendu


Tortue et serpent étaient de très grands amis.  Ils se rencontraient fréquemment, passaient de longues heures à converser ensemble.  Souvent, Tortue invitait son compère à partager son repas, quand ce n’était pas serpent qui invitait sa commère.  Bref, tout le monde les appelait les inséparables.  Pourtant un jour, ils se sont fâchés et jamais plus on ne les a vus ensemble.  Leurs voisins étaient très intrigués par cette brouille et auraient bien voulu savoir ce qui s’était passé.  Ils les ont questionnés l’un et l’autre voici ce qu’ils ont fini par apprendre.

Tortue avait prié son ami de venir manger chez elle serpent s’est mis en route, ayant appétit.  Quand il arrive au domicile de son amie, une odeur délicieuse l’accueille, mais il n’y a personne pour le recevoir à l’entrée de la maison.  Il appelle; pas de réponse! alors, il pousse la porte et entre.  Au milieu de la pièce, se trouve une grosse calebasse d’où s’élève un fumet de bonne nourriture.  Mais le récipient est recouvert d’un énorme couvercle.  C’est tortue qui s’est étendue là pour jouer un vilain tour à son compère. Hé, compère, que fais-tu donc là ?  S’écrie serpent, fort surpris de cette attitude.  Ne vois-tu pas qu’avec ta grosse carapace, tu couvres tout le plat et que je ne puis me servir ?  Est-ce une chose à faire ?  ôte-toi de là car j’ai grand appétit.

Serpent (Cobra)
Serpent (Cobra)

Tortue ne bouge ni ne répond, si ce n’est par un ricanement moqueur.  Serpent attend quelques instants espérant qu’elle voudra bien  libérer la calebasse.  Puis voyant qu’elle se moque de lui, il s’en va, pas content du tout.

Quelques jours passent.  Enfin, un beau matin, serpent envoie un de ses fils inviter son amie tortue à venir partager son repas.  Celle-ci fait arrivée, elle découvre serpent soigneusement enroulé sur lui-même et formant un gros couvercle qui bouche entièrement le plat de nourriture avec les anneaux de son corps.

Hé compère, que fais-tu là ? S’écrie-t-elle.  En voilà un couvercle pour Une calebasse !  Pousse-toi donc afin que je me serve à manger.

Serpent se garde de bouger.  Mais il lui répond d’une voix sifflante de colère :

Chère sœur, as-tu donc oublié le vilain tour que tu m’as joué la dernière fois que j’ai été ton invité ?  Si c’est ainsi que tu reçois tes amis, pourquoi veux-tu que je n’aie pas la même attitude ?  Mon devoir est de te rendre la pareille.  Pour honorer ta générosité, je te rends ainsi le bon repas que tu m’as offert !  Peut-on garder des amis si on se moque d’eux ?  Si vous agissez mal envers quelqu’un, pourquoi voudriez-vous que, lui, agisse bien envers vous ?

Conte tiré de “Contes des Lagunes et Savanes,” Collection ‘Fleuve et Flamme,’ édition Edicef, 1975