Africa Speaks: Outsiders

Potter at Boubon, Niger, 1992

Contents:. . . Shunned . . . Fences . . . Outsider in Niamey . . . In Lagos . . . Agadez . . . home page


Sani Dan Lamso, final exam 6/10/92

It all started when my father killed a respectable man in our village. My father accused Almou (the man he killed) of committing adultery. However, my father failed to prove the accusation, and he was put in prison.

As the villagers liked Almon very much, they decided to exclude all my father's family from everything. We were only three at that time, my mother, my sister Delou and I. The villagers refused to talk to us. Even when I greeted people, they refused to answer me.

My mother and my sister judged it better to stay at home. I still went to talk with groups of people, but they semed not to see me. They went on conversing without including me.

I wanted to play with the other boys but they refused to accept me. I hoped some of them would have pity on me and answer my greetings, but they refused.

Even when I went to market, people were talking ill about my family. I was insulted everywhere. I was sorry, worried, ashamed, and discouraged, but what could I do.

Before this drama happened, I had planned to marry a girl, but now if she sees me she refuses to talk to me or answer my greetings. I still try to explain to people that it was not my fault, but they consider that I must be cursed because of my father.

My friends have became my enemies. I have no friends. If people would talk with me I would explain to them that I am not the murderer, it was my father.

I really have a great problem because people refuse to listen to me. I think this shock may turn me mad. Whenever I think how I am excluded, I cry. I think that if the villagers continue to refuse to understand me, I will tell my family to leave the village forever.

Copyright © 1998 Sani Dan Lamso


Boys on Tillabery road near Karma, Niger, 1992


Issa Mariama 6/10/92

I. Last year I encountered a "fence" when I was in Ghana, when I wanted to be in one of their social groups. One day I was bargaining with an Ashantee trader to buy a cloth for the party that the Ghanaian students had organized. The Ashantee trader refused to sell me the cloths because I was not a girl of their tribe.

Even at the Ghanaian party the head of their federation expelled me because I'm not Ghanaian. He said, "No stranger can come to our Ghanaian party."

This is the first time I had been excluded from a group I wished to be in because of my race (Peulh) and my nationality (Nigerien), and it was by an Ashantee who is actually considered bad in Nigerien society.

All the happiness I had before going to the party was gone. I cried for a long while on a bench before coming home. I had been excluded from their social organization because of my language and identity.

And the real reason for my exclusion from the student group is that I had refused to be the girlfriend of an Ashantee because our language and customs are different even if we are all blacks. Anyway I was with my boyfriend, who is a Peulh, like me.

The Ghanaian students said, "If you refuse to be our girlfriend you can't come to our party."

This event made the me angry, Even today I will not change to be more suitable to the Ghanaian group. A similar thing will not happen again, because I will never go to their party again.

II. There was a man whose name was Teham, whose fences are different from my fences. This man was a Senegalese. He wanted to marry a Djerma girl, Nana. He was excluded from this social group because of his social status. He is a slave from Senegal.

The girl's family refused to marry their daughter to him because their social status was higher than Tehan's. This made Teham unhappy. He protested, and said that his parents were no longer slaves. His parents' past had ruined his life.

He was very unhappy to lose this Djerma girl. He couldn't decide what to do. Finally he went in the bush and hanged himself on a tree and died.

Copyright © 1998 Issa Mariama


Grand Marche, Niamey, Niger, 1992

Outsider in Niamey

Mahamane Hamadou

In 1982 I passed my baccalaureate and came to the University of Niamey. I am from Zinder and the first time I arrived in Niamey I was really lost, because I didn't know anybody except my friends with whom I made the trip to the capital.

There was no place for me to stay on campus. Fortunately, a friend of mine agreed to share his bed with me. It was a small room made for about three students, but there were eight of us in it.

After I found a place to sleep, it was time to resolve the problem of food, because the cafeteria of the University was not opened yet. Some of the friends I knew went to eat in town at the homes of their acquaintances. Those who didn't know anybody had to buy their food themselves at a restaurant not far from the campus.

Unfortunately I had't come with enough money. Before I left Zinder, my father told me he would send me some money soon. But I hadn't yet received that money, and I had no money at all. I spent twenty four hours without eating.

Fortunately Ibrahim, the same friend who I shared the bed with, noticed this fact and insisted on taking me to his aunt's house where he had been eating since his arrival. I can't forget these events, because at that time I suffered a lot but I also got the best friend one could ever find.

Copyright © 1998 Mahamane Hamadou


In Lagos

Sani Dan Lamso 1/27/92

My cousin Kulau, who left Niger for Nigeria a long time ago, invited me to visit him in Lagos. My parents gave me permission to go there during the summer holiday.

After a two-day journey, I arrived in Lagos late at night. In spite of the address Kulau sent me, it was difficult for the taxi drivers to find his house. And, before stopping a taxi man, I had to make sure that he didn't seem to be dangerous. I had been advised before leaving my house to be very careful, as in Lagos there were many taxi drivers who sold and ate outsiders.

I finally found a taxi driver who could speak my language, and he took me to my cousin's house about midnight. But because of some frightful events that had happened there recently, I found a climate of paranoia. People were so frightened of being attacked by thieves that they didn't dare open the gates to their houses.

Consequently, my cousin didn't open the door, in spite of my knocking on the door as hard as I could. Finally, about six in the morning, he opened the door as he had to go pray in the mosque. He was surprised to see me and said he was very sorry for letting me spend all night outside. He took my bag and showed me the bedroom I would stay in. He inquired about the members of my family, and his wife and I greeted each other respectfully,

As Kulau is a trader, we went to keep his shop. I made friends with a young man named Babaturu, who showed me around town, so I didn't have to stay in my cousin's shop. Sometimes I even went alone anywhere I wanted for curiosity.

But once a group of bandits followed me, thinking that I was rich. To avoid being killed, I was obliged to hide under an old car. After that, I ceased walking alone. I realized that Lagos was a very dangerous city. People were killed like animals and the killers, most of the time, weren't punished.

Copyright © 1998 Sani Dan-Lamso


Mosque near Bonkoukou, Niger, 1992


Mahamadou Warou 1/27/92

Three years ago I was invited by a classmate to visit his village. At first I was very happy to go, because I had never been to Agadez. My friend's village was about five miles from Agadez. The place was surrounded by big rocks and there was a big stream which divided the village into two parts. It was a Tuareg community which had jealously kept its traditions.

During my short stay among them I was very confused and life became unbearable for me. From the outset I was surprised to see that I was the only man in the village wearing a shirt and trousers. They all wore the traditional boubou. Everybody could easily see that I was a newcomer and I didn't belong to that social group. This fact disturbed me deeply but I didn't show my bitterness openly. I felt like my clothes had excluded me from this company.

My friend introduced me to his parents who welcomed me very well, but he didn't tell me the way one should greet old people. According to their customs, young people should kneel in respect of the elders. I remained standing while greeting them. Then my friend knelt, and I quickly imitated him. I was not used to this way of doing things. His father smiled as he saw me imitating his son. I was in a new world, I thought.

At dinner time we went into a small hut where we found a lot of dishes spread on a mat. Men should not eat in the open where women and children could see them. This was strange for me. While we were eating I started talking about my hard journey to the village. It was a great mistake. My friend whispered in my ear and told me to keep quiet because people should not talk during meal times.

Then came the time of evening prayer. Everybody performed his ablutions. They went to the mosque but I lay on a mat reading a book. When they came back I told them that I didn't know how to pray in their way. They were scandalized and they asked me if I came from a Christian family. If not, my behavior was not understandable. An old man said the European school had bad effects on the youth today.

In the morning, I woke up at seven o'clock. It was another scandal in the village. A man should not go on sleeping after sunrise. It was a sign of weakness and bad education. Worst of all, I tried to talk to a young girl in the presence of her parents, which was forbidden by their customs. My friend told me that I had broken a fundamental rule of the village. People tolerated it because I wasn't from the village. A young man of the village who did it would never have a wife among them.

I spent a terrible week with my friend. Everything was different from my own village. Traditions ruled their life. I could bear it no longer. I left the village and promised my friend to come back next year. I was glad to flee a place where I was really an outsider.

Copyright © 1998 Mahamadou Warou

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