In this photo I am walking toward the third laterite of the Recasement quarter in Niamey with my daughter, Indima.
I have lived in the Recasement quarter since 2012, and it has since become my home. I walk over two hours every day to discover its hidden treasures, and meet the diverse people that make it such a calm, lively, and serene place to live. I find solace seeing the same people day in and day out, knowing exactly where they will be and what they will be doing, and anticipating who they will be sitting with throughout the day.
At the same time, I am bewildered by their unchanging lives. I envy them… their capacity to handle daily routines, their ability to look toward another day without fearing that it will be almost an exact copy of every single day that they have lived previously. And yet, I am reminded that uncertainty and the unknown also accompanies the reassurance of day to day activities. For instance, Aichatou the pancake lady, wonders if she will sell enough pancakes to be able to pay for lunch for her children. Abdoulkarim, the donkey man, questions his ability to find work transporting chairs to family events. If he does not, how will he pay school fees? Abdoulaye runs the neighbourhood borehole, and holds a little boutique on the side. He too asks himself if ends will meet at the end of the month. What if one of his children catches malaria or meningitis? He does not have wiggle room to pay for medicines and clinic fees.
And so, while I see the unwavering smiles of my neighbours, and share friendly “fofos” (hello in Djerma), their lives are so much deeper and complex than what I see on a daily basis. Through my next series, I would like to share a fraction of the reality of their lives with you. I will attempt to delve deeper than their day to day routine, to understand their joy and concerns behind their smiles.