“That man who finds his homeland sweet is only a raw beginner; the man for whom each country is as his own is already strong; but only the man for whom the whole world is as a foreign country is perfect”
Tvetan Todorov, The Conquest of America: the Question of the Other
African society is usually -and unfairly- portrayed as a culture that is far from European traditions, which are given more voice, prominence and, hence, truth. In a context where African migration increases almost every day, reaching totally disproportioned numbers, the blind society we live in keeps on caring not about the land -and here we must acknowledge families and cultures too- that Africans leave behind, but rather on the fact that these people are occupying a country that ‘is not theirs’ (Genesis, Lord, 15:13). The hypocrisy that lies behind the concept of ‘making ours’ something that does not actually belong to anybody is even heightened when issues of race and ethnicity are brought to the surface: is white society rejecting outsiders or is it in fact black outcasts who are being despised? Due to the prominence given to the black subject as an immigrant is dimming the peaks of African culture.
As previously stated, their tradition is constantly withdrawn and it is subordinated to the power of migration in a world aimed at ‘conceptualizing an international culture, based not on the exoticism of multiculturalism or the diversity of cultures, but on the inscription and articulation of culture’s hybridity’ (Bhabha, 2006). Hence, often blinded by this erroneous but widespread portrayal of the Other, it is fairly impossible to look beyond the stereotypically crafted immigrant. Doing such an effort, though, would reveal a world full of possibilities, full of beautiful and mesmerizing cultures and full of long-lasting traditions and folklore. The question that arises here is whether it is possible or not to be able to remove the afore-mentioned burden – that of not trusting everything we hear or see. Only then will we be allowed to believe in something triggered by our inner moral precepts. This project aims at unraveling the futile characterizations imposed not only in African people but in Africa as a continent too. While doing so, the paper will also deconstruct all the myths that have been crafted in order to make sense of our current situation: the migratory movements that are very unjustly misleading and prompt the hatred towards the black race. Are they really occupying Europe? The truth is, after having done a meticulous study on the topic – as clarified in further sections, that African people emigrate to other African countries rather than abroad, clearly opening the questions as the extent to which it is possible to
succeed in such a prototypically withdrawn culture. Only by lifting the veil it is possible to observe that Africa is a continent full of possibilities.
This project can be thus said to have a bifocal perspective and hence a dual objective. As mentioned above, the first one embraces the deconstruction of the African myth of emigration. The second one, tightly related to the first one, would claim for the possibilities for succeeding in the continent. Both issues will be addressed to in the interview done to Aliou Sylla, a Senegalese man who, after the World Trade Center’s failure and hence his impossibility to continue working in an American-based NGO, abandoned his homeland in order to earn a living in Spain. Here, he has managed to stand out as a professional worker in the tertiary sector as he wistfully remembers his youth in Senegal. His political involvement there and his articulated fight for feminism and equality blend in order to make of him a man who once was able to fulfill a dream in Africa and who is now concerned with issues of migration and diasporic elements remaining of the beloved culture he left behind. His story -as well as his words- has been read as a possible way of confirming or disregarding the two aforementioned hypotheses this project is grounded on. The attached portfolio will somehow describe, alongside Aliou’s narrative, different perspectives from which migration can be observed. A short story will be aimed at explaining how different it can be for a black emigrant to succeed in another country that is not his/her own, and what are the hidden chances for him/her to value the importance of the homeland. After discussing here one of the hypothesis described above – possibilities to achieve a full life in Africa, a video will be used as proof to foreground the myth of migration. Finally, a section where different photographs accounting for Aliou’s life will wrap up the portfolio.
Isabel Flaquer Beltrán
Sílvia Pérez Carro
Mireia Trejo Domingo
Ada Guiteras Canal
Eva Puyuelo Ureña
Aliou agreed on being interviewed almost immediately. Having previously talked about his personal experience as an African citizen in a television programme known as Tot un món, he was deeply interested in revealing the truth about his continent and in conveying his personal approach to migratory movements. As portrayed in depth in the following section of the project, he was born in Senegal in 1975. After having obtained the baccalaureate there, he decided to apply for a place in the University of Senegal where he would study Economics. At the end of his degree he began his life as a co-worker in an NGO, but in 2001 he decided to move to France. Two years later he moved to Spain, where he is now working as a baker. His personal experience and his high level of studies make of him a man whose country remains as his essence, and who does not want to forget nor to blur his paradoxically illusory harsh land. He welcomes us to their small flat in Granollers, Barcelona, the afternoon of a rainy Wednesday. He is elated with telling us about all the things he is proud of. And so, hearing the rain-drops tapping on the window pain and ignoring that that experience will change our lives forever, the interview begins.
Q: Good afternoon Ali. First of all, thank you for agreeing on being interviewed. We really appreciate it. Could you begin telling us about your studies? Did you study in Senegal?
A: I have got University level studies. I studied economics in my country. At first, at school, we did Maths and all of that. Afterwards, I studied secondary education and the baccalaureate. The baccalaureate I studied was half scientific, between science and literature. It was the most difficult one, because I had to do subjects from both areas. I did Maths, Social Science, Technology and Literature. I needed more than a 10, a 12, to pass the baccalaureate. I got it and so I went to the University. I studied for two years despite the struggles and difficulties of my family, because we are twelve siblings.
Q: Twelve siblings! What about your parents? Wasn’t it difficult to raise the family?
A: My father was lucky and he could work. We were a middle-class family in Africa, which means we were neither very rich neither too poor. See, my father had the opportunity to have a job, he was a soldier. But still, the job was not enough to maintain twelve children. We had to be bright and witty to succeed.
Q: Are they still there in Senegal?
A: Well, today I have a brother in the United States, in New York. Another one who is an engineer in Paris; he is the manager of a business. And I am here. The rest of my siblings are in Senegal, but each of them has managed. One is a soldier, another one works…
Q: What did you work as in Senegal?
A: At the University there was a bidding because they needed volunteers to spread the idea that malnutrition rate was very high in Senegal. So they created a project to give jobs to the people. There were three hundred candidates from which they would only take twenty. These people were to raise the awareness of the whole country. We had to go from town to town informing women, for instance, of the importance of breastfeeding. Also, we had to inform of the different kinds of diets and their importance, especially when it comes to children. I spent two years doing that.
I then found an American NGO that was hiring people with experience in the field and who had communicative skills. By that time, I had started to work with women. I was therefore made responsible of a programme whose aim was to raise awareness of the rights of women. We talked about female circumcision and healthy life conditions and habits. Also, we raised consciousness to achieve equality in the working field. We tried to make people realise how women need to have the same rights as men so that, in a way, they got a more westernised vision of gender equality. Senegal is a country where Muslim religion is widespread. Women are much dominated by men.
Q: Why did you decide to come to Europe?
A: Things were not going well economically so I took the opportunity to look for a job abroad. I had friends here and I thought that if I came here I would have the opportunity to do more things. When I was about to come, a friend of mine who studied in France told me there were many opportunities for us. I came to see the situation and to find a job. After two months I had a job.
Q: Do you think coming to Europe is the only way to succeed?
A: Definitely not, but people is pushed to come. Some people come looking for a job, but some others come because of the difficult social conditions. There is barely access to health insurance, they have no job, they have no economical resources… Life becomes very hard sometimes and people in Africa can see that. Those who have are living here and go back to tell others about their improvements and their savings and the rest also want to come. Getting to Europe becomes a matter of life and death, they believe that here they will get out of their precarious situation.
Q: You told us a friend of yours recommended you to stay in Africa.
A: Yes, before leaving Senegal, a friend who had a job there advised me it was unworthy. He had studied in Africa and came back to work to Spain, but then he headed for Africa again. He advised me not to come because things were not the way I thought. I was not going to have it easy and because of my experience I would have more opportunities in Africa. However, I did not listen to him, I paid no attention because I had no job there and I wanted to come here to improve. If I had not found a job I would have gone back, but I had to come and try, at least.
Q: Do you believe young people in Africa have the possibility of working and earn a living there?
A: Yes, some of them. But it is very difficult because they lack economic resources that would allow them to have a basis to start. That is the biggest problem in Africa. There are many people with great ideas, but they have no opportunities. For instance, banks would put many conditions to give you a loan to start a company. People do not have what they ask for so they cannot be entrepreneurs. Here, with your payship you can access some things quite easily. It is not as hard to obtain a loan. If you want to study and have no money you have the opportunity to receive one to do so. In Africa there are no such things. All of these make it hard for someone to establish themselves and create something.
Q: Did surprise you, then, the different situation you found here?
A: Yes, very much. What I thought was that here it was very easy to study, that I could easily get a job… And when I came I saw that you could easily get a job in comparison to Africa, but with your earnings you cannot save anything. In Africa you are more calmed because you know that if you do not have enough you can go to your father’s house, to a cousin’s house, you can go to the countryside and eat… There is no such a pressure of having to find something. Here, no one helps you; you need to be bright and sharp. The difference is that here if you work hard you do find the opportunities, whereas in Africa that is not true. There are no opportunities there to improve your life.
Q: Would you go back to live in Africa?
A: Yes, I am sure. [He smiles melancholically] First of all, because of patriotism I would like to return to my country. I am sure I will go back. The question is when [he laughs], when is the biggest question. Right now I need to plan my return, but I cannot return yet.
Q: What struck you as most surprising when you first came to Europe? What was the most different thing in relation to Africa?
A: The most different thing? I would say my case is different because I had had the opportunity to get out of my country before coming here. But the most surprising things were the buildings and the roads. This colossal inversion made in Europe and which we do not and cannot have in Africa shocked me.
Q: You talked about your involvement in feminist issues.
A: Yes, I worked in an NGO for the rights of women. There, I had a hundred and twenty workers who had to train people and raise their awareness towards the issue. I taught them communication techniques, how to get close to people so that they would not get upset, to accept their advices… It is very difficult for people to change their customs and behaviour. I told them how to speak to people so that they would accept it and see the reality. They gave example so that they saw that what they were saying was true. They had to learn to see the rights of women as something normal. For example, we had a picture where a woman was in a garage repairing a car. We could say, ‘Look! A woman can also repair a car’. It should not be surprising. This way, people saw that they could also do that in their lives.
Q: Do you think it is very difficult to manage to change this image of women?
A: It is very difficult to change. There are always people and religions that are obstacles. They do not want these people; they believe they are westernized people who want to change their customs. There is a confrontation between cultures.
Q: How did your situation change when you first arrived here?
A: When I worked there I had a car, a chauffeur… When I left all of those and I first came here and found a cleaning job, they asked me if I knew what I had done. Friends of mine, who were here and knew the job I had, told me I had been so stupid to come here and leave all those opportunities. The first week I was paid, we were paid weekly, I got home and converted it to my home country currency. I realised that was almost what I earned in a month back in Senegal, so it was four times my previous salary. I thought I could organise myself with that money and help my country and make a plan to return. Even though I was cleaning the cutlery, it did not matter. There will be a day when I get to where I want. It is the strongest motivation I have ever had. As of working conditions, they were better there than here.
Q: What about racism? Have you ever had any problems because of your race?
A: The main problem is the people’s beliefs. Here in Europe there is also a large amount of people without a high level of studies. There are people who do not travel, who do not get out. There are people who do not read. That makes the person closed-minded. NGOs, with whom I worked and which I ended up disliking when I came to Europe, do not present a positive image of Africa. They always give the bad image to earn money and take it there. That is the reason for them not showing the good image. On TV it is always about, ‘Oh, poor people in the streets…’. They do not show the good buildings, the people that live well and the things that work alright. They just get the worst part and bring it here to show on TV. They play with people’s feelings and take their money. Someone who does not travel, does not go out, does not read… Someone who just watches TV and sees this bad image of poor suffering people… Believes that all Africans are like that. If you come here you have problems to integrate because they always think ‘he’s no one, he’s nothing, he knows nothing…’. These people that know so little, they become an obstacle and you always have problems with them. As an African, you also have to prove yourself more, show that you can set yourself and find your place. All Africans have these problems, even people that work in big enterprises. This, added to the centuries of slavery, worsens the image of coloured people. Thus, we coloured people fight to improve our situation. This constant battle brings us problems and confrontations; racism. It is like the case in the United States, where they have killed a young man. It has been a white man, so they do not go into the streets and demonstrate, nothing happens, the killer was white. But we Africans see our low situation and whenever there is a problem with an African person, they seem to take it personally, which creates confrontation. There are people in Europe who have studied and have been to Africa that value people independently of their skin colour. There is no African I know who has lived in Europe, in the Western world, that cannot say ‘I have felt offended’. For example, if someone comes to me and tells me ‘do you eat in Africa?’, you know they have said it with good intentions, because they do not know, they have not been there, they have not travelled and they want to know. But it still offends me a little because I realise they see me as a poor African man. This creates a reaction, you get upset, I get upset, and this is it, there is confrontation. It has always been there and will always be because many Africans want to improve and there will always be someone who wants to humiliate them to stop them.
Q: Do you think that because of racism African culture is less valued in Europe? Do you believe we Europeans see racism and are unable to see beyond that?
A: That is such a difficult question to answer. Nowadays, as there is globalisation and technology is so advanced, racism is not an obstacle for culture. But in the past it has been so strong. Today people know more, they read more, they are aware of what happens in other places… So it is not an obstacle, but it was a huge one in the past.
Q: Do you have any children? Would you say they feel Senegalese or European? What do you think?
A: Because of a sense of inferiority, they do not want to be identified with Africa. That is the bitter truth. It is normal, each of us wants to be at the top, everyone wants to be Shakira’s friend and Michael Jackson’s friend… They want to be famous. Children want to feel European, but as they grow up, and with a good educational background, they are happy to be African. I am very proud of myself being African. A part of me can even say I am a bit racist. Not in the negative sense but in the positive one. In the positive sense, because I fight for the good image of Africa. If I am working I want to do it in the best possible way, so that they can say ‘the negro is the best’. In regards to clothes, I want to be dressed in the best way, so that they say ‘the negro is the best’. In everything, against a white man, I want to do it even better than he does. That way, I can feel I am at his level. Whenever I have an African by my side, I support him more than anything, because I feel he is at the bottom. And this is racism, but a positive one.
Q: Would you like your children to go to live to Africa?
A: There are always nuances. I know I will go back, but I am not that sure about them. I will try to convince them to go back. They have possibilities there, and I am investing so that whenever they want to return, as they have grown up here, they can. But they have Western viewpoints. However, in Africa, they would have good life conditions, a good home… And they would feel better. I fight for this. I would like them to return to Africa, I would be delighted and I will always try to convince them to go back. I believe that the world has evolved. This is called exponential growth. It refers to something that is constantly evolving; it keeps going up until it reaches its highest point and starts going down. In Maths, it is called exponential growth, because it keeps going up until it has to go down. I believe Europe has reached its highest point, opportunities are at its highest. The future lies in those countries that are not exploited, like Africa and China. Opportunities are there now. [He laughs] In this sense, I congratulate you because you have a very broad vision. You value that the future is in those countries. There, there are jobs to make roads, and here you do not need that anymore; you renew them, but do not make them. If people want to make roads, they need to go there, where they are not done. It is a country that also has several mineral resources, Africa, there’s marble, gold, nickel, zinc, iron… There is everything. And they are still untouched. This needs to be exported, and to export it someone needs to go there. Therefore, the future lies there. I do not know in how many years, or even if we will be alive by then, but the future is there because it is not contaminated by technologies.
Q: Do you think your life would have been very different if you had stayed there in Senegal? Would it have been for better or for worse?
A: Yes. Somehow it would have been for worse. Here in Europe I improved my living a lot. I have allowed myself some luxuries I could never have dreamed of. Working there, I never thought I would have the opportunity to have my own house in the capital of my country, because that is very expensive. Working here, I was able to save money and buy this house. This is a luxury that being there, I cannot say I would not have, but I can say that would have been more difficult. Here I have it because I was lucky to find a job, to fight, and find kind people that helped me organise and plan to get to this level. If I were in Africa, it would all be different. Secondly, the open-minded ideology here widened my horizons. It has allowed me to melt African and European culture. There, it is very difficult, so that has been another improvement for me. Thirdly, coming here has allowed me to live a liveable life, and hence to help my family. Back there, it was very difficult to have that. Helping your family was almost impossible because the earnings were not as high.
Q: How do you see the political situation in Senegal? Do you think the government tries to improve the situation?
A: It is the most democratic country in Western Africa. We have the third democratically-elected president. All of the countries surrounding Senegal have always been at war, they have always had a military regime, but we never did. Secondly, it is also a country where people are very just and constitutional, they are very nice, very open-minded… The first president of Senegal was a Christian, a Christian who managed to unite the Muslims and the Christians. He created a union so that there is tolerance between them. This has played an important role in coexisting together. He was a very philosophical president, you need to know him.
Q: Do you mean that Europeans do not know a lot about Africa, generally speaking?
A: That upsets me a lot. Indeed, there is no European that knows Africa, but every African knows Europe. If I am asked about the history of France, or the history of the United States or the history of Spain, I can tell you about it. But no European knows the history of Africa. If you ask me about the big names in literature and things like that, I can tell you. But do you know who invented carbon-14?
Q: We don’t…
A: Why? Because he is from Africa. Willard Libby. He was born in my country, he invented carbon-14. This has been useful to determine where was the first man born in History. If it had been a European everyone would know about it. It is shocking, it is shocking. This is what we fight for. There are so many other things, the kings of Africa, no one knows about them. My children, they do not know. I have studied the population of the United States, the Melting Pot, American political and democratic movements. I studied the Alps, the Pyrenees in European Geography. But do you know about the Kilimanjaro? It’s the highest mountain in Africa. This kills me.
Q: Thank you for such sincere answers, Ali. We would like now to tell you about some statements we made up that offer a stereotypical portrayal of Africa. We want your reactions, just as they come to your mind. One, There are no opportunities for people to live a good life in Africa.
A: That’s not true. There are opportunities.
Q: Two, we still have a lot of racism in Spain.
A: Not much, but it is there. I say not much because today there are laws, there are many things, but there is still racism. Not much, but it is there.
Q: Three, Africa is normally seen as a very exotic continent. We believe it is a land of tribes and rituals.
A: Yes, it is true. That is very typical of Africa. It is not a stereotype, it is real. In Africa there are tribes, and it is exotic because that is what we have lived. There is around a 40% of people that have gotten out of that culture, but the remaining 60% are still at that point.
Q: Statement four has two parts. The first one, describe Africa in 3 words.
A: The world of difficulties, the world of socialism, and the world of sharing and preserving.
Q: The second part: describe Europe in 3 words.
A: The world of opportunism, for everyone looks for their own benefit, the world of opportunities, and the world where no one is a no-one and no one is nothing. Everything gets confused here in Europe. I told many friends that in Europe it is difficult to know the rich one from the poor one because everyone lives in a flat. If you do not have money you do not go out. Everyone can have a great car no matter if they have money or not. In Africa it is not like that, if you have, you do, if you have not, you do not. There is no inbetween. It is either yes or no.
Q: The last statement, number five. When immigrants get to Europe they do not want to go back to Africa.
A: Yes, they do want to return. But they also want to return with something. All Africans want to go back, but they want to go back with something. To get that something is impossible, well not impossible, but it is very difficult. All Africans want to return, there is no immigrant, there are very few, a 2%, that tell you ‘no, I am in Europe and I am fine, I do not want to return to Africa’. They all want to go back, but they want to go back with something. To have that something, though, in the end you stay.
Q: That is the end of the interview, Ali. Thank you very much for helping us. It has been quite a revealing conversation. You helped us not only with the project, but with the widening of our perspectives towards Africa.
A: Thank you for asking me all those things and for having such an open vision of Africa and migration. What do you want to do in the future?
Q: [We think for a moment]. We love literature. We would like to do something related to that, for sure.
A: Literature is important. As I told you, there are two ways of changing the world. One is travelling, the other is reading. You have the power in your hands. So take all the things I have been telling you about, go there, and change the world. Make the difference.
Isabel Flaquer Beltrán
Sílvia Pérez Carro
Mireia Trejo Domingo
Ada Guiteras Canal
Eva Puyuelo Ureña
Aliou was born in 1975, eleven years after Senegal was proclaimed independent. As he himself claims, ‘Senegal is the most democratic country in Western Africa’. Indeed, having an established multi-party system and a tradition of civilian rule, Senegal has been held up as one of Africa’s model democracies. Its economy, which is derived mainly by agriculture, is considered one of the region’s more stable economies. However, poverty and unemployment continue to be issues that need to be tackled. Starting with a brief description of Senegal’s history, this section of the project aims at providing historical background for Ali’s life’s journey. A journey which starts in Senegal in 1975 and moves on to France in 2001 and Spain in 2003.
3.1. The history of Senegal
The history of Senegal has been widely influenced by the presence of the French, who established their first post at the mouth of Senegal in the 17th century, thus becoming the first colonisers of the region. In 1763, Great Britain captured all the French posts and they formed the colony of Senegambia, which was Britain’s first colony in Africa. Although France regained its posts during the American Revolutionary War (1775-83), Britain captured them again during the Napoleonic Wars. Eventually, the posts were returned to France in 1815. At this time, the French presence was limited to Saint-Louis, Gorée, and Rufisque, but during the period from 1854 to 1865, Louis Faidherbe, who was Senegal’s governor at the time, extended French influence up the Senegal. In 1895, Senegal was made a French colony with its capital at Saint-Louis, hence becoming part of French West Africa. In 1946, Senegal, together with the rest of French West Africa, became part of the French Union, and French citizenship was extended to all Senegalese.
During the 20th century, many Senegalese viewed France as the ‘motherland’ and fought for France during the First and Second World wars. In fact, the French values of ‘equality and freedom’ pervaded the region and were probably the ones that triggered the fight for independence. Thus, after World War II, independence movements gained in popularity and Senegal became fully independent in 1964, with Léopold Sédar Senghor as the first president. Senghor stepped down in 1980 and was succeeded by Abdou Diouf. In 2000, Mr Diouf’s party lost power under the country’s democratic system and was replaced by Abdoulaye Wade. In 2012, Macky Sall won elections to become president of Senegal. As Aliou asserts, it is because of its stable democracy that Senegal remains the only country in West Africa never to have experienced a military coup, where the army seizes power from an elected government.
3.2. The fight for Feminism
In Senegal, women suffer from all kinds of discrimination. The image of women has been shaped by religion and traditional beliefs, which have had a major influence in the definition of the role of women in society. Thus, in order to change the precarious situation of women, it is necessary to change the traditional and religion beliefs that contribute to the marginalisation of women. However, religion and traditional beliefs are not easy to transform, since they play a very important role in the daily life of Senegal. As regards religion, the majority of the Senegalese population, a significant 92%, is Muslim. Therefore, Islam is the main religion in Senegal, followed by Christianism, which is practiced by 2% of the population. Islamic religion has had a major impact on the discrimination of women, since it has established a community that is mainly dominated by men. Senegalese women do not only suffer from discrimination, but also from illiteracy, labour exploitation, domestic violence and deep-rooted cultural prejudices. Moreover, they are excluded from the formal system of employment, where they represent less than a 10%. The work of women’s organisations aims at dealing with these forms of discrimination and raising awareness of women’s situation. However, these subjects concerning women have always been little considered by the government.
The struggle to change the traditional image of the Senegalese woman started just after the independence and has continued over the years. Senghor, the first president of Senegal, intended to modernise the role of women in Senegalese society and he established ‘Foyers Féminins’ (Women’s Centres) across the country, whose aim was to educate women from rural areas. From 1981 onwards, however, under the presidency of the former Prime Minister, Abdou Diouf, approaches to feminism within the Senegalese state began to change. The new president wanted to make his mark and turned away from the focus on black identity addressed by his predecessor. Although he was involved in the action of women’s movements and he supported the empowerment of women, he operated them remotely. During this period, and despite the fortuitous involvement of the government, some organisations were established and became the basis for feminisms in 1990’s Senegal. Moreover, after the Fourth World Conference on Women of Beijing in 1995, these groups began receiving financial and political support from international organisations. However, women in Senegal still suffer from discrimination of all kinds. For instance, women discrimination is very palpable in the political environment, since they only make up 13% of the government and 22% of the parliament. As Joelle Palmieri claims in her article ‘From institutionalisation to direct democracy: women’s movement in Senegal and South Africa’: ‘they [women’s rights activists] are recognised as animators rather than enactors of change, and their struggles are not reflected in the hierarchy of power […] women activists are ‘tolerated’ while they lead discussions, but remain marginal characters within political office.’ Nevertheless, in her article, Palmieri hints at the possibility of a better future as she claims that ‘African women are moving towards a definition of feminist citizenship.’
In the interview, Aliou tells us about his fight for feminism and equality of genders. After finishing his degree in Economics, he started working for an American NGO whose goal was to raise awareness of the rights of women. He tells us about the topics they addressed: ‘We talked about female circumcision and healthy life conditions and habits. Also, we raised consciousness to achieve equality in the working field. We tried to make people realise how women need to have the same rights as men so that, in a way, they got a more westernised vision of gender equality. Senegal is a country where Muslim religion is widespread. Women are much dominated by men.’ According to his point of view, the situation of women is very difficult to change due to the obstacles constituted by religion and close-mindedness.
Taking everything into consideration, it is clear that the fight for feminism is not over and that women’s organisations still have a long way to go before achieving gender equality. As Aliou affirms, the difficulty in this fight for feminism lays in the fact that it is a fight against religion and traditional beliefs, which are deep-rooted in Senegalese people’s minds. One of the possible reasons why they hold tight to their traditional beliefs is because these beliefs act as a barrier against westernization. However, feminist organisations struggle against this closed-mindedness and provide hope for the future of Senegalese women.
3.3. From France to Spain
In 2001, the towers of the World Trade Center collapsed after an attack by Al-Qaeda, a militant Islamist organisation. As a consequence, Aliou had to leave his job in the American NGO in Senegal and decided to move to France. In France, the president at the time was Jacques Chirac, who was in the Élysée from 1995 to 2007. Tensions arose as the 2002 presidential and parliamentary elections approached. Therefore, the year 2001 was marked mainly by the tension between the two main rivals for the presidency: Lionel Jospin and Jacques Chirac, who eventually won the election. After the elections, an important transition took place with the replacement of francs by euros, which were given way at the beginning of 2002.
In 2003, following the advice of a friend, Ali decided to go to Spain. In that time, Spain’s economy was prosperous; actually, Spain was the second fastest-growing economy in the European Union in 2003. The president at the time was José María Aznar, who was in power from 1990 to 2004. It seems that Spain’s economy reached its peak during this period and then, in 2009, it started to go down and entered recession for the first time since 1993. Thus, the economic crisis began. This constant fluctuation of economy proves Aliou’s exponential growth theory. He claims that everything is constantly evolving and that everything that reaches the peak has to go down eventually. As he explains: ‘I believe that the world has evolved. This is called exponential growth. It refers to something that is constantly evolving; it keeps going up until it reaches its highest point and starts going down. In Maths, it is called exponential growth, because it keeps going up until it has to go down. I believe Europe has reached its highest point, opportunities are at its highest. The future lies in those countries that are not exploited, like Africa and China. Opportunities are there now.’ This view contributes to the deconstruction of the African myth, since it proves that Africa has possibilities to grow and evolve. It proves that Africa is a world full of hidden possibilities, a world where new opportunities are being sowed.
Isabel Flaquer Beltrán
Sílvia Pérez Carro
Mireia Trejo Domingo
Ada Guiteras Canal
Eva Puyuelo Ureña
The aim of this project was to deconstruct the myth of African emigration and question the possibilities these newcomers can find in Europe. The first step in doing so was to conduct thorough research about Africa in general to find information about African migration in the last years and life conditions in Africa. Most of this information, we recorded in a documentary video. The next step in deconstructing the existing stereotype was to carry an interview with an African that could provide us first-hand information about their home country, immigration policies and compare life in Europe and Africa based on a personal experience. Although we were not lucky at first, we eventually found Aliou Sylla, a Senegalese who has been living in Spain since 2003. He helped us more than any article, documentary or piece of news could ever have, as he was sensible and honest to an extent that is difficult to find in many people. After having interviewed Aliou, the remaining thing to do was to find more information about Senegal to complete everything he had shared with us. His ideas and experiences helped us complete the fictional short story in which we compare African and European lifestyles in the 21st century.
All in all, we have been able to find evidence to our initial theories. It is possible to live in Africa nowadays, especially if we invest to improve life-conditions there. Aliou spoke of his life in Africa as a successful one in terms of jobs, family and social involvement and he admitted his wish to return to Senegal in some years. He also mentioned some of his siblings living and working in Senegal, which probably would not be the case if they had seen such a magnificent improvement in their brothers’ lives abroad. Furthermore, the myth that large amounts of African people are coming here to ‘occupy something which is not theirs’ has been proved false, as many of them are migrating inside the African continent. These African migratory movements show people rather stay in Africa as well.
To conclude, with this project we also realised how difficult it is to remain objective and impartial when carrying such a research project. Even though, as Aliou himself said, we had a broad vision of reality, at times we had to reanalyse our questions and writings so that they were in no way judgemental or presenting a stereotypical vision of the African continent. Therefore, this project has not only allowed us to present a different reality about Africa, but also helped us to overcome many preconceived ideas about the continent which proved to be false.
Isabel Flaquer Beltrán
Sílvia Pérez Carro
Mireia Trejo Domingo
Ada Guiteras Canal
Eva Puyuelo Ureña
All in all, the interview and the historical research have been key factors to understand the deconstruction of the African myth, both in terms of success and migration, and alsp to realise that the image that Europe portrays of Africa is not entirely true. Sometimes, and as discussed above, it is a real struggle for African people to be accepted in the host country and to find a job where they can succeed. Besides, Europe’s biased belief that it is almost impossible to earn a living in Africa has been dimmed taking into account the fact that, as Aliou mentions in the interview, Africa is a continent with a wide amount of chances in store for its inhabitants. Hence, the created portfolio is aimed at supporting the above-mentioned ideas.
Firstly, we invented a short story that clearly mirrors the difficulties that immigrants have to undergo when arriving to Europe alongside the possibilities to find a job and to live a successful live in the African continent. Besides, a documentary has been recorded in order to provide information about migration policies coming from real data obtained directly from official web pages and books that masterly deal with the aforementioned topic. Finally, the portfolio contains an album with pictures Aliou gave us in order to illustrate his life in Africa and, using his own words, his “shift into being a European citizen”. The cover of the portfolio highlights, with the picture of luggage, the idea of migrating in order to find a better life in another country. The globe underscores Aliou’s route from Senegal to France and, eventually, to Spain.
The video entitled “Mapping Migration: The Deconstruction of a Myth”, is the clearest example that underscores the reality hidden behind the flux of migration that is usually displayed. After a very scrupulous and deep study on migration, paying special attention to African migratory movements, it has been observed that a lot of Africans leave the country and seek for comfort in Europe. Among the countries that are usually chosen as the destination for African immigrants feature France (which, worthy of mention, is the first place Aliou emigrated to), UK, Italy, Germany or Spain. It is important to value that such a careful study of African migration has revealed that some of these countries, as exemplified in the video, have become harshly racist, developing policies against black immigrants (Juba, 2003). Therefore, the barriers they have to overcome are not only those of a difficult and dangerous journey, but also a situation of racism in most cases. Emigration thus needs to be read as a process that involves multiple decisions -including the abandonment of a family, a culture and a homeland- and which usually derives into the disappointment of the emigrant when arriving to the place of destination. The aforementioned portrayal can only account for those emigrants who actually leave Africa as a continent. But is that really the unique type of migration that is taking place in Africa? The video reveals that this is not so. While we are only offered images of black people il/legally migrating to Europe, the number of African people who claim for intra-migration is actually outnumbering that of people who decide to leave the continent. Hence, more migration within Africa takes place than migration outside Africa (Koutonin, 2014). Mass media seems to be a direct element affecting the perception of black migration, and thus it is a determinant factor when it comes to craft European beliefs about racism, rejection and hatred. This reveals not only that a lot of people decide to stay within the confinements of Africa, but also that it is a country full of possibilities. We should not believe everything that we are told, because, sometimes, reality is far away from it.
In order to complete the piece of work with a more creative and informal part, it was decided to create a tale. This story presents two friends, Aarif and Kaamil, who live in a small town in Senegal and struggle to create their own story in the world.
As in Africa it is very difficult to find good job opportunities to make a living, Kaamil decides to look for those opportunities in Spain, whereas Aarif stays in Africa looking for those same possibilities. In a series of letters these friends send one another, we have a glimpse of the struggles a black person may undergo when in a European country. The main purpose of the story is to provide the reader with an overview of those struggles as anecdotes that lead to the adaptation of the immigrant to the new country and lifestyle. The drawings have been made by hand and afterwards photoshopped so as to introduce some real elements to the original drawings. Moreover, the letters have been written as if we were those fictional characters in the story, trying to show the emotions and worries they would feel.
Sometimes, those Africans who need to leave the country and need to acquire false identities in order to be accepted as factual part of the destination demography, they need to stop at places such as Cape Verde. This problematises their journey towards a new land, for they have to fight for achieving a new identity and hence abandoning anything they claimed for before.
Isabel Flaquer Beltrán
Sílvia Pérez Carro
Mireia Trejo Domingo
Ada Guiteras Canal
Eva Puyuelo Ureña
MAPPING MIGRATION: THE DECOSTRUCTION OF A MYTH
[Read by E. Puyuelo]
Africa. The continent of wilderness, power and freedom. The invisible land of native cultures and pure art. A voiceless home. A silenced paradise. African emigration nowadays seems to be constantly increasing. Although the presence of African people has always been palpable in Europe, the number of emigrants leaving their homeland is eventually outnumbering that of people who stay in the continent. Over 0.44 million of African population are estimated to emigrate every year, fact that arises multiple questions related to Africa’s ethical politics, diaspora, economy, culture and, above all, to its chances to succeed in an emerging modern and functional society.
[Read by I. Flaquer]
Africa has always been described taking into account its darkness, its lack of goods and moral beliefs and its violence. Mass media is constantly reminding us of how dangerous and inaccessible African society is, and it directly affects the creation of clichés and stereotypes that withdraw Africa in a marginal position in the universal scenario. First-hand information, directly obtained from the Migration Policy Institute, confirms that among the determinant factors that prompt emigration, we should highlight “seasonal patterns and flight from ecological disasters or civil conflict”. Although family and ethnic ties seem to retain people in their homeland, the constant state of warfare and the drowning economy are key points to understand migratory movements in Africa. Most of African emigrants leave to industrial, middle-income countries, and thus Germany, Canada, the UK and the US are the places that receive a wider number of immigrants. We should not forget, though, that false documents are obtained in order for emigrants to be accepted ads residents in their country of destination. This forces them to stop in places such as Cape Verde or New Guinea, which really problematizes their journey towards an actual hopeless future in Europe.
AN UNWELCOMING DESTINATION
[Read by A. Guiteras]
However, and taking into account the ethics that characterize our generation, we should not forget the barriers emigrants are forced to overcome when they get to the place of destination. Racism is palpable everywhere. In Europe, Australia. Even in the US, although having fought against it for many centuries and having a black president, many situations in which racism has been exploited have ended with death. This opens new questions as to the extent to which an African emigrant may be welcomed in a place that is not his own. Does having a job really suffocate the loss of one’s identity? Is it worth leaving your homeland?
[Read by S. Pérez]
Although most migratory movements take place within Africa, there is prominent migration to Europe. Actually, approximately 7 million African people left Europe in 2007. France remains as the country that receives more African emigrants, with an estimated stock of 4.5 million in 2011. United Kingdom, as previously stated, welcomed almost 3 million Africans in that same year. Italy, Germany and Spain directly follow the aforementioned countries. Thus, 5.3% of the population in North Africa emigrated during those days. But what happens to the rest of the people?
WILL AFRICA BE EVENTUALLY EMPTY?
[Read by M. Trejo]
Mawuna Remarque Koutonin affirmed that “contrary to what you see on the BBC, CNN and RFI, Africans are not desperate folks seeking prosperity in Europe” Recent polls compiled from Peoplemov.in show that, actually, most Africans emigrate to other African countries rather than elsewhere. Cote d’Ivoire features as the place that receives more African emigrants. Over its 21.058.798 inhabitants, 2.406.713 are actually African immigrants from Burkina Faso, Mali or New Guinea, seeking for prosperity without leaving the continent. Nigeria also has quite a high number of immigrants, 1.127.668, stock that, again, demolishes the early theory of African people abandoning the beauty, the purity, the innocence of a harshly portrayed country.
[Read by A. Guiteras]
Taking everything into consideration, it seems like mass media directly intervenes in describing Africa as a country full of violence, war, poverty and hunger. This unfair characterization of Africans deeply influences the emergence of racism and, all in all, the decay of moral values in Western societies. We should not forget, though, that we only receive a 1% of what is really going on in Africa. We are allowed to see only the tip of a huge iceberg. There are possibilities to live there, chances to work, chances to succeed. We only need to value who can speak for whom. And we should listen more to the silences that hide constant truths, than to the voices that yell futile lies.