Capcov: Have the inhabitants of the neighborhood appropriated Aya?
Marguerite Abouet: They live Aya! I am often there, in Yopougon. When I show up anonymously, no one cares. But when they learn that I’m the screenwriter for Aya, people jump on me. They even give me ideas. Ivorians are super proud because this comic is known all over the world: in France, Canada, Brazil, Sri Lanka, and even in South Asia. This character is really school. She is an ambassador, because she is studying and wants to succeed. Aya is a fictional character who it is is no longer.
Ivory Coast – Marguerite Abouet: “Ouattara, Gbagbo and Bédié? I hope they have addressed the issue of poverty”
What major changes in the Yopougon district have you observed in 50 years?
Yopougon is no longer the small, open, airy and clean neighborhood that I knew in my childhood, in the 1970s. The fair class no longer exists. I’m not talking about the middle class, but about the one whose children lacked nothing and ate three times a day. These had at least one of their two parents who worked, and they went on vacation to the village, to the grandparents. Today, these parents have no pension and have to set up makeshift huts in front of their house to sell everything and anything. They live with their children and grandchildren. Rooms have been added to the house with the means at hand to accommodate everyone. All this changes the face of the neighborhood.
Marguerite Abouet: hope of a whole generation of creatives
What does this impoverishment reflect in your opinion?
Let the country regress. A large part of the population is marked by the civil war, and it is this one who lives in the slums of the city undermined by all kinds of trafficking: drugs, paid love… People live in poverty and have to choose the children who go to school, usually little boys. Street children, who are called “germs”, disappear since they are killed and abandoned. We never cared about them. We could have trained them and put them back on the right path.
Marguerite Abouet: “Ivorian women are less free than before”
What about the development of Abidjan and its infrastructure more broadly?
Like all large cities, Abidjan is expanding more and more. And not necessarily in a good way. There are more than 200 ghettos in Côte d’Ivoire, which have been set up in the heart of Abidjan, especially in chic neighborhoods like Cocody. It changes a city for you. We build beautiful interchanges and pretty bridges, but the population is harmed. From Houphouët, we saw the creation of the small plateau, this well-industrialized “little Manhattan”, put in this location so that it is the first thing that foreigners see when arriving in Abidjan. It was magic back then.
But today, it is not possible to let people live in these conditions, where criminal networks, such as drug trafficking from Niger and Morocco, are powerful. Small associations exist to help the neglected children of the ghettos, who are drugged most of the time and commit theft, but these are overwhelmed by the situation. Abidjan is a big megalopolis, but its growth rate benefits some and does not slow down the activities criminals.