I was born in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire and I spent my childhood in the village of Ahougnansou, where I was raised by my maternal family. My village is located 5 kilometres from Dimbokro, 80 kilometres from Yamoussoukro (the administrative capital), and 240 km from Abidjan (the economic capital). This area is called the ‘loop of coffee and cocoa’ for its prosperity, but in the history of the Côte d'Ivoire, it is also known for being a center of popular uprisings for the rights of farmers.
I went to the village school, and this is also where I took my first dance steps with the traditional dance troupe in which my uncle was the director. The dances still performed in my village are the Django and the N’dolo. My family is the guardian of the Django dance and my uncle is still the director of the troupe, as well as a farmer in the village. He worries because none of his children will replace him as guardian, and this dance will eventually disappear. Amongst other things, I would like to collect testimony on my uncle’s life and his dancing to generate renewed interest among young people.
Nowadays, the population of the village consists mainly of women, children and elderly people. In my youth, when Dimbokro was a dynamic city with its train station and factories, people of my village lived off the agricultural products they sold to Dimbokro. With the economic crisis, many villagers left to join the ranks of the unemployed in big cities hoping to find work.
Yet, after years of economic hardship, we are currently witnessing a resurgence of activity of Dimbokro. Technological progress will enable Ahougnansou to install electricity. But for this, we will have to displace the entire village to the main road. Despite the benefits brought by modernization, if this relocation is done without the utmost consideration, the village might lose its soul, its traditions, its culture and its way of life. Indeed, for future generations it is important to leave traces of the past, and to preserve its cultural and local resources.
Pour avancer dans la vie, il faut savoir d’où on vient.
Yao Eby, our Key Player for the Côte d’Ivoire, is a dancer-choreographer and teacher of African dance. He was born in Ivory Coast and has danced since the age of five. He completed his dance training in France at the American Center in Paris and also studied Dunham technique at the Ailey School in NYC. In the 1980’s, Yao opened his own dance school in Reunion Island, and since the 1990’s, he has lived in Lyon, France, where he has performed and taught at the National School of Music, Dance and Theatre in Villeurbanne and the Lyon Conservatory. He is also a high school professor of economics.
Here is one example of the project titled 'This is my Neighborhood'.
It's a starting point for working with Yao Eby to develop the materials and media that will help us understand and present the cultural evolution, current state, and future plans for this village.