We’re in Lome in the Togolese Republic, a city we had the pleasure of discovering in July 2017. Chez Brovi, the famous fish joint has become quite the familiar place. It’s my last professional mission for the year and Mamadi’s second to last mission. He came from Banjul, The Gambia and is going to Niamey, Niger next week ... I think.
This is the only way to finalize my TCK initiative! Combining my monthly article with a TCK interview. The man is busy! It’s a little dark but very warm on the corner table, which is equipped with a bell to call on the waitress’s attention when we need to. Truly I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing, but it sounds God awful to me, to use the bell to call on anybody’s attention. In any case, that’s besides the point haha.
We will soon be joined by our Togolese colleague, who just moved to Johannesburg from Nouakchott. In the meantime, let's proceed with the interview. I’ve known my friend for a little over a year, yet I learnt quite a bit conducting this interview that I dearly hope you enjoy 😊
Tuesday, December 4th 2018
As I greet him (holding the phone to his mouth, feeling quite anchorwoman-like mate!), he readily answers - “How are you MAguy!” It has become the running joke because, amongst Congolese people, and frankly most people really, no one wants to call me by my actual name! He then carries on in pidgin English for a little, much to my surprise, even though I know he has lived in Lagos.
1. When I ask you the question “where are you from?” What does it inspire in you?
If you ask me where I’m from, I would say I am from Guinea. At the same time however, I can say I am from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. That is what the question inspires in me.
2. What does being from nowhere even mean?
I consider myself a child of the world, a child of Africa. I have been lucky enough to travel a lot and to have lived in different countries from a young age. I am kind of linked to all the countries I was lucky enough to live in.
Despite being very attached to the continent, Mamadi truly considers himself French too. No French passport required. “What makes me more “child of Africa” than any other continent, are my traditions and roots, but I love France and know a lot about the country, From east to west, north to south! I’m deeply linked to France. I spent a third of my life there and I love that country dearly.”
Mamadi lived in France from 19 to 31 years old. Quite the constructive years in a person’s life! He claims being enrolled in the French educational system started his attachment to the country. Moving there cemented it. Mamadi counts Les fleurs du Mal (Baudelaire), as one of his favorite collection of poems. He has visited about 24 cities in the country, Montpellier literally being one of his loves. “I love France for its beauty and diversity. It’s a diverse country, no matter what is said about it!”
3. Can you please walk us through all the countries you’ve lived in? On the continent, which country do you feel most linked to?
“I was born in Ivory Coast. Half of my family lives there though not many people know this fact. My wife is half Ivorian too”. Mamadi married a TCK too, repping Ghana, Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire! He then lived in Conakry Guinea, before moving to Abidjan for a week and then being forced, due to political reasons to move immediately. This time, the destination would be Cotonou, in the Republic of Benin. “I lived in Cotonou for only 14 months, from 14 to 15 years old. However, I love that city. It’s an easy-going city and the people there are very nice, and calm”.
The following city was Lagos, Nigeria! This too is a city Mamadi is attached too. It is the country in which he learnt how to speak English, despite still being enrolled in a French school. He claims learning how to speak English had quite an impact on his way of visualizing the world around him. “Learning a language creates bonds. I feel like more people speak English than French. One opens himself/herself to the possibility of connecting with more people, by speaking English.”
Mamadi speaks English, French and Malinke (which is similar to Bambara, which Mamadi can therefore speak pretty easily with colleagues). He reads and understands Arabic. He understands Fulani too, And says hello to his people from Ethiopia, because he knows some words in Amharic ^^ (Yep, he did proceed to list the words he knows in Amharic, out loud lool).
As we drift into a history on his cultural heritage, he explains that he is Peul (I learnt that Peul and Fulani are basically interchangeable words – correct me if I’m wrong Mamadi!). His surname is a Fulani name. His family comes from a place called Wassoulou, located between Ivory coast, Mali and Guinea. His family members are Fulanis that have lost the Fulani language, so they speak Mandingue (Bambara, Djoula and Malinke basically being the same language.)
Back to Nigeria though…
“Nigeria is the most cosmopolitan country in Africa.” How so? “Is there an ethnicity I cannot find while living in Nigeria?”
Mamadi lived in Nigeria for a little over 3 years, before moving to France. The people he met while living there, form part of his fondest memories. “All in all, I loved everything in Nigeria. From the crazy traffic, to people alwayyyys saying sorry! For everything! You can find everything in Lagos. I truly felt a part of being African in Lagos. This is because of the diversity you find in the city and the feeling I had of never being stigmatized because I came from elsewhere on the continent”.
4. Do you think it’s very West African to be so welcoming? Or are there any other nations on the continent that stand out for being welcoming? (Just to add my two scents in here, I think my Congolese people are pretty welcoming heinn! On both sides of the river! 😊 )
“I think one of the aspects that characterizes the continent is the very fact that we are a very welcoming crowed. Three out of four African countries are very welcoming on the continent. There are countries where people are more guarded than in other nations. However, it takes a little bit of getting to know them, and eventually you see the beauty in them. I truly love Africa, for this and the diversity of experiences it offers”
Catch Mamadi Sidibe on Instagram @smamvino
We egde close to the end of our interview with this statement from Mamadi; “If you ask me whether I consider myself French, I would say yes! Absolutely! Guinean, yes! Nigerian? Hell Yes! Togolese? Beninese… Okayyyy, yesss! I mean, I love all of these countries haha”.
Thank you for answering my questions Mamadi! I’m reminiscing on the Fish we had, with a side of fries instead of Alloco (plantain), lool. We love Alloco but, an overdose of it is a possibility when you live in Abidjan, although I swear, many would beg to differ haha!
Til next time, bisous,