Chapter XV – Rabat – Morocco

It’s always disturbing to arrive in a country without any strong contact or things to do or to expect …

So i’ve been driving all the way around from Ceuta to Rabat where I knew I was about to meet Parfait there but wasn’t sure about the date, place etc …
It’s a kind of wandering somehow, you don’t know where to go, what to do etc … you just know why you’re here for and you pray for it to happen … and it happened of course.

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Two minutes after arriving in the capital, I went to the African cultural center, met Jesus, Parfait, Jackie and the other people from the center.

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The majority of them were artists, musicians, writers, painters … and migrants.
They’re coming from cote d’Ivoire, Congo, and the other west sub-saharian countries …

exile-2-0-part-ii-13They told me about their stories and welcomed me in their house at the same time.

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I was then realising that the migrants situation in the country was a bit similar to what I’ve been seeing in Turkey : these people were somehow scattered all over the place, living in town, in more or less bad conditions.

exile-2-0-part-ii-71They told me about the ambient racism they’re facing … being black wasn’t that easy in an arabic country.

We wen’t to a hidden place (a tiny little flat turned into a meeting room) where they used to gather to hang out without being in trouble with the Moroccan.

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They introduced me to their traditional meals, traditions (like … never eating with forck and knife : always with your hands), I enjoyed their “Belet” : the traditional alcohol … Well … as they told me I was no white anymore … I was as “black” as them. Living, creating, sharing story, sleeping, struggling … everything with them. I was a host within the migrants.

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And the Africans in the city were like a big family, supporting themselves through the daily difficulties … even if they were also all different, coming from different countries and having different cultures.
Sometimes they’re as racist as the Arabic people with them.
Sometimes I was chocked to realise how narrow minded they could be … it was weird coming from them who were understanding so much things

“these guys are from Cameroon they think they’re better than you” … “this woman is from Togo so she can’t speak with us” … “I’m not talking to Arabic people, they all are robbers and lyers” … “the whites are better than the blacks” … these kind of things.
Through I didn’t wanted to blame them as they were conditioned by their origins and their life.
I didn’t wanted to argue about the place of god in the world or what should a woman do etc … as European I didn’t have the right to tell them they were wrong, as they’re mainly thinking this way “because” of us.
I could only listen and watch their habits and way of living to try to understand how far our “occidental empiricism” has been changing the way they were seeing themselves.
“The Africans aren’t good people, they are jealous and the continent is in this situation BECAUSE of the Africans … not only because of the white man who has been colonized us”.
“If Africa is struggling nowadays, it’s because of the rivalry between people who’re thinking about themselves first of all.”
“If the whites would take over Africa, it’d be much better, because the white man is cleverer than the black …”

Tells you that I wasn’t sure if they were kidding first … but no.
As they were trying to explain me how things were working back in their country and the further I was discovering how they’re interacting each other … I was realising that was something they’re sure about it.

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And everyday, I was going to the African cultural center.
Everyday I could see how this little place was putting together all the people.
The same people who were struggling for life everyday were gathering there to create, interact and share.

Painters, dancers, musicians, singers, writers etc … all of them were here.
Papis, Jean-Baptiste, Jackie, Jesus, Andy, Gyslain etc … the center was a place were you could taste the African tradition in whatever you could do.

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And as I could not help the way I use to, being part of a humanitarian organisation, I feel the need to share with them a different way.
Mixing my art with their creation, if it could help them to go on and to get further.
I’ve been playing percussion, painting with Jackie, Filming music video with Jesus and Yannick, I would have dance with Gyslain and Andy if I could …

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Jackie Zappa

Jackie was an Ivorian who had been involved in the civil war in 2011-2012 and who had to flee his country when his group loose the fight.

Since then, he never received any paper or protection from the unhcr and was here in Morocco illegally without any support.
He hosted me first as he couldn’t help seeing me sleeping in the van but soon, due to the precarious situation he was living, he had to leave the place he was living in and he moved back sleeping in a corner of the African cultural center, I moved back to Marcel.
Even though life was harsh for him, Jackie was a strong guy and he wasn’t giving up, keeping on painting, believing in his dream to reach France at the end to carry on in his art without worrying about everything else.
I wish I could help him.

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Helping here in Morocco is tricky and difficult. Making me thinking about the situation in Turkey at some point. But here is harder to find people or organisation who can trust.
Jackie and many other people were advising me not to believe everything people would tell me, as they would lie to get some money for them pretending to help.
“My ngo is helping all the young migrants in all the African countries, now you’re here it reminded me that we’ve a house we’ve been pushed out because of money, all the kids there had to leave in the streets … It’s 3000dh” told me a reggae singer.
“Our kids would go to school if you’d give our group some money to protect them as they wouldn’t have to worry about earning money to live” told me another … well, these kids mainly don’t care about school but are looking for money to leave and to cross to Europe …

Then It’s a pity to realise that you can’t help by yourself and that you need people you trust to advice you.

First I didn’t wanted to listen my African fellows and I thought I could help by myself … knowing what to do, who to help etc … but I realised I could not do anything alone as everyone seemed to take advantage of my situation of white rich and ignorant European.
So I decided not to rush, asking to “see the needs and the people in trouble” to be sure of their situation.
Asking my friends about a guy pretending to do this or that, collecting stories about him to judge if he was trusty or not.

Another project i’ve been involved in was the AAMM minors hostel project that we (Camara Mafa, his organisation and I) tried to improve by setting up a crownfunding campaign.

Unfortunately and as I expected, my first plans weren’t going to work.
As a matter of fact, I didn’t knew that you couldn’t cross the border between Morocco and Algeria …
Since the last troubles between the two countries, this frontier has been a big problem, being reinforced with a huge wall, patrolled by the army …
It seems I won’t be able to continue with Marcel as I planned.

Then I still have options :
– going further south, passing by western Sahara, Mauritania and Mali to reach ivory coast (which would represent 5000km and a lot of money spend on border crossing, security convoy and visas … to reach a country where I know lot of things could be done but nothing specific …).
– going back to Europe, first … back to Spain from melilla, then to go to Italy and Sicily to help the migrants there, to go to Malta and to try to volunteer with MOAS to understand the hugely important work they’re doing on the international seas … then crossing again to north Africa to Tunisia, Libya or Egypt to document the situation there … (a choice that would be cheaper, safer and probably more helpful for the people in need ..)

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