« These masks which distress our silence
Ludovic Obiang, L’Enfant des masques
L’Harmattan/Ed. Ndzé, 1999, p. 13.
Yes, the question mark accompanying the 36th issue of Africultures on culture in Gabon is of course painful. Libreville is far from being a cultural desert, as this dossier goes to show. But, when culture gets so little backing – to say the very least a certain lethargy can clearly be detected on the ground. This takes the form of a mixture of disenchanted resignation and nostalgia for an elsewhere. It takes inordinately vast creative energy to carve out a niche for oneself and to shake off the inertia!
By giving Gabon the chance to speak out here (quite literally, as this dossier follows on from our Benin dossier in a series compiled entirely on the ground with complete editorial freedom – at the risk, moreover, of putting some people’s noses out of joint), Africultures is neither trying to be trendy nor to take an easy option. It is even less about profitability (but let’s spare ourselves the litany on tight budgets). The point is discovery. Let’s allow ourselves be surprised by this little country in which the cultural milieu is trying to survive – and successfully so in many fields! It is no accident, therefore, that the young filmmaker Imunga Ivanga coordinated this dossier. Active in his country, he has recently greatly contributed to reviving Gabonese cinema with a film that has won top awards at Cannes Junior and Carthage.
People will say « Africa again! » despite the fact that we are published in Paris and that our pet subject should be the African Diaspora and its cultural integration. We are regularly criticized for focusing on the cultural or on communities. By which we can read, for furthering the division of French society by taking a radical stance on a fixed culture, supposedly defending it from all attacks from outside quarters. Wrong: quite the opposite is going on! It is because I know my original culture that I am able to fit into the host country. If I am not familiar with it, I lack markers, criteria of judgement, roots and the malaise of my disorientation only gets worse because I cannot really open up to the Other. The ghetto is absolutely fine, as long as you do not get stuck in it.
More still, if the Other the one who takes me in is able to recognize that I am already a part of him/her, that African culture is already an integral part of a plural and multicultural French society, enriching and making it evolve, all that was a source of conflict becomes relation, exchange, solidarity. One lesson worth bearing in mind is that all civilizations which have closed the door to foreigners have ended up going round in circles, spiralling into decadence before finally being swept away!
All that to say that it’s Gabon I’m interested in!
///Article N° : 5492