Cultural update

Arriving in Abidjan a few hours after the birth of my son, the space to visit friends and engage in cultural activities during my two weeks in Cote d’Ivoire were understandably limited. Coming from Freetown – which I increasingly view as more of a town than a city – the abundance of cultural activities is impressive. Among other things, I ended up missing the latest TEDx event (bizarrely my visits to Abidjan almost always coincide with a TEDx event), the Festival des Grillades, the Top 10 Fashion awards, and a modern dance festival at the Institut Goethe and French cultural centre. On almost my final evening, I had to skip the launch of artist Aboudia’s latest exhibition at the Cecile Fakhoury gallery, despite being keen to catch up both Aboudia and Cecile. It sadly clashed with the literature event mentioned below.

Nevertheless, the two events for which I obtained permission from my wife to attend proved to be well-chosen: the award ceremony for the annual Ivorian blogging awards, and the kick-off event for a new literature event, AbidjanLit. At the former, I’d had the privilege of being one of the judges (even if most competition entrants probably see more website visits than this blog :-)), and even more oddly, at the literature discussion, I was placed on the panel (officially as the event’s anglophone Twitter-er) despite my grand total of zero published works of fiction. I would have felt distinctly happier at the back of the room, rather than sitting next to the event’s main guest, Ivorian author Regina Yaou. To cap it off, I was even late, although perhaps oversleeping with exhaustion can be excused in the father of a newborn.

Both events, allowed me to see a maximum number of friends in just two settings. There are truly some amazing people in Abidjan that I certainly miss hanging out with. At least these brief visits are a way to remind people of my continuing existence, with the hope of keeping ties going until an eventual return can be worked out.

One observation to close. I was rather surprised at both events to be mentioned by name during the presentations. In one acceptance speech at the blog awards, the winner in the female category said that she was fearful about applying for the awards because she didn’t know any of the judges, except…me. I was rather surprised, as we’d never met or spoken. However she said that she counted me among her acquaintances because I had left several comments on her blog posts. At the literature event, Tchonte Silue, said I’d sparked her into thinking about getting a Kindle because of a comment I’d left on one of her Facebook posts. Anyway, I thought it highlighted the small but occasionally significant impact we can have from a far just by adding a comment occasionally to blog posts and other work. It encouraged me to do more of this, as I know it can be an encouragement to me (hint hint).

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