Speaking truth in Mauritania

“I always say to my mom: I will not give you grandchildren, but the revolution”. Zac is a novice rapper, performing with his cousin with the crew name “SF SOW”. Their logo is a face, which could be of any gender, with strong, passionate eyes and an open mouth. The source of a single word: Gonga. Truth.

by Guendalina Marzulli,, student at DNS2017

 

We had travelled non-stop for 72 hours through the desert from Nouadhibou to Nouakchott, the capital. A straight road, an exciting chromatic monotony of sand and blue and blue and sand.

After three days on the road, it is necessary to stop and spend some days in a comfortable place to recover, so on our arrival to Nouakchott we went straight to the “Auberge Sahara”, a colourful and quiet hostel, perfect for a break, while we were waiting for the rest of our team mates to catch up. They were scattered all over the country field investigations.

 

Night talks

I have always had difficulties to fall asleep, but I never worry so much about it, I usually enjoy the night time. As it turned out, my ordinary insomnia became an opportunity of unforgettable and important dialogues.

I met Zac the first night of our arrival. He is a skinny young man aged 26, who has worked in the “Auberge Sahara” for a year or so. He was doing the night shift the first night I was there.

I was on the red sofa, in the garden and under a typical Mauritanian tent, enjoying finally a cool breeze after a hot day. I had a clear intention: to write new passages in my logbook, which is my tool for reflecting on the daily experiences, and for storing data, personal impressions and information and stories of people I have met. I collect all of this in this book that became my most precious item, during and after the travel.

The job of Zac is to take care of the needs of the customers and to create a nice atmosphere where they can feel this care. For this reason, he started to talk to me, not anticipating that our conversation would last the next three nights.

“What do you do? Why are you in Maurtitania? What do you think about the country? Where do you come from?”– from his side.

“Do you live here? How is Nouakchott? How is your family? What are you doing and what do you want to do in your life?” – from mine. General conversations accompanied by a nice soundtrack coming from his phone.

Soon we started to talk about music. I always try to extend my music taste and knowledge, so I asked him to suggest local artists I could explore further. In this way, I discovered that Zac is a novice rapper, performing with his cousin with the crew name “SF SOW”. Their logo is a face, which could be of any gender, with strong, passionate eyes and an open mouth. The source of a single word: Gonga.

 

Speaking the truth

In Mauritania, many languages are spoken, and in one of them, Pulaar, “gonga” means “truth”. Language is an interesting topic in Western African countries. It reflects the social complexity and tracks the local history, before and after colonialism.

One of the most common expressions when you meet people is: “Mauritania, c’est magnifique, il n’y a pas de problèmes”. Mauritania is wonderful, there are no problems. Yes, Mauritania is beautiful, the desert is impressive and mysterious, like its population who is spread in little, isolated, colourful villages, if not concentrated in the two main cities.

Huge problems do in fact exist in Mauritania, even if they are not immediately visible – despite the frequent repetition of that common but superficial sentence “il n’y a pas de problèmes”.

 

Artists with a mission

Seen in this light, Zac and his cousin represent a brave exception. Through their art, combining piercing texts and catchy melodies, they call out loud the obstacles to the real social, cultural and political development in Mauritania and other countries.

Zac talks about Italy and Europe as utopian possibilities of a satisfying life, but he loves his country and he wants to stay and fight for it, acting in the present and against certain aspects of the actual system, for a better and possible future, taking a strong personal responsibility for it.

“I always say to my mom: I will not give you grandchildren, but the revolution”.

“I want to become a famous rapper with lots of money. With them I will create a big house for all the children that at present hang around in the street, waiting for nothing, without perspective and without awareness about their power”.

The stark realities of oppression, no freedom of speech, violation of very basic needs and rights, malnutrition, political corruption, strong influence of neo-colonialism on one hand.  Hope, cohesion of strengths that are acting for a change, creativity, humanity, hospitality, on the other hand.

This was and is for me Mauritania, the only country on our route where I didn’t feel completely fine and comfortable, but where I experienced the warmest, political, powerful, deep, human connection.

When I think about Mauritania, I smile. Because Zac is an exception – but in this struggle, he is not alone.

 

 

Rendez-vous avec Zac

« La Mauritanie est magnifique, il n’y a pas de problèmes », disent les gens. Mais, la vérité est une autre chose, que Zac exprime dans sa musique. Il parle de la cohésion des forces qui agissent ensemble pour le changement.

Guendalina Marzulli

Guendalina Marzulli

Student at DNS 2017

DNS The Necessary Teacher Training College - non-traditional university

Guendalina and Zac

This was and is for me Mauritania, the only country on our route where I didn’t feel completely fine and comfortable, but where I experienced the warmest, political, powerful, deep, human connection.

DNS The Necessary Teacher Training College - non-traditional university

Auberge Sahara in Nouakchott

Meet the Dunes

It has always been something fascinating but at the same time extremely far away. Something to dream about. The dunes of the desert. To experience these majestic natural phenomena is a life changing experience.

We are all migrants

When we accidently crossed a national park in the southern Mauritania, I felt like a child. For the first time in my life I saw migrating birds in their winter habitat. It was deeply moving experience.

WordPress Lightbox