Tuesday, June 23, 2009

More Photos From the Abissa

The Abissa, an 11-day celebration that includes singing, dancing, the honoring of chiefs, and an appearance by the King and the Queen Mother, offers an incredible opportunity to take lots of great photos. Here are the first few in the series I took in Oct-Nov 2008.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Portrait at the Abissa

Here's one of the portraits I took in 2008 at the Abissa celebration in Grand Bassam.

Interestingly enough, genetic analysis has revealed that at least 30 percent of our present-day African-American population is descended from people in this area, people from the N'Zima tribe. Duting the slave trade, slaves from this area were valued more highly than others. They were thought to be more beautiful, more handsome, and stronger. They were given the nickname "Apollo slaves."

Friday, June 12, 2009

Getting to Cote d'Ivoire from the United States

Twice I have traveled to Abdijan, Cote d'Ivoire, from the United States. Each time I went by a different route. I thought for those of you contemplating going to this part of West Africa, my experiences might help you decide which airline to take.

On my first trip, I went via Emirates Airlines. Since I am in Northern California, I first had to fly to JFK in New York, then board the Emirates Airlines flight. This flight took me across Africa (and across the Sahara) to Dubai, were I had about 8 hours layover. Emirates included a free night on a nearby hotel, so I got at least five hours sleep before boarding my next Emirates flight. To reach West Africa (first a brief stop at Accra, Ghana, and then a one hour flight on the same plane from Ghana to Cote d'Ivoire), we onhce again had to cross the Sahara. Let me tell you, the Sahara is immense. Simply overflying it in either direction took a huge amount of time. The Emirates trip took forever. I think I was traveling close to two days. not something you want to do if you can avoid it.

Fortunately for us folks on the West Coast, Emirates has since started flight from San Francisco and Los Angeles to Ghana. If my sense of geography is not totally confused, this would involve only one overflight of the Sahara, and would also avoid the flights between San Francisco and New York. I haven't flown by this route yet -- perhaps I will try it the next time I go to Cote d'Ivoire.

Let me just say that Emirates is a superb airline. The service is wonderful and the food is considerably better than the food served on most of its competitors.

The next year (2008) I went to Cote d'Ivoire by a different route. Again I went to JFK, but this time I boarded an Air France flight to Paris. I had several hours at the airport in Paris, then I boarded the flight to Abidjan. Again, excellent service and excellent food.

So your choice must be based on convenience and whether or not you perhaps wish to spend a few days in Dubai or Paris. I plan to spend a little while in one or another the next time I journey to Cote d'Ivoire.

Photos of Chiefs # 1

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Portraits of the Chiefs # 2

Here are some portraits of chiefs that I took in 2008 when they were assembled at a function honoring them at the Abissa celebrations. My favorite ones are those that look straight into the eyes of the individual. Each one of these faces communicates something, and most of them differ in what they are communicating. Several of the 35 or so people there were women. I know just about nothing about the anthropology of Cote d'Ivoire and whether or not women are sometimes chiefs. But the culture is a matriarchal one -- inheritance goes through the mother, not the father -- so it seems at least possible that these women are indeed chiefs. If I discover otherwise, I will correct this narration.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Africa's Poor

In Cote d'Ivoire as in many other African countries you cannot help but notice that millions of people live in poverty. If you have struck up a friendship with any of these impoverished people, ma single questions nags at the back of your mind: how can these people be lifted out of their situation into something economically better

Between Abidjan and Grand Bassam lies a stretch of highway that passes through an area I was told is inhabited by Nigerians. The poverty there is dreadful. Huge piles of trash that make a few spots look like an American dump, thousands of rudimentary shelters, and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people. I mention the sight not to judge anyone, but to note that the sights in this stretch of road absolutely force anyone but the most jaded to reflect on poverty and the difficulties of lifting anyone out of it.

This is a problem I have been wrestling with for moire than a year.