Togo

La Belle Vie

Song about gender equality off of my 2013 “Who Are My People?” album. The song was written for my Togolese middle school chorus as part of my work in Girls’ Education and Empowerment. Photos taken in northern Togo, West Africa.

La Belle Vie

La mère souhaite une belle vie pour ses enfants
Elle veut qu’ils soient très bien éduqués
Pour diriger une entreprise un jour
Pour être médecin ou professeur

Mais elle n’a même pas fréquenté l’école
C’est comment?

Changeons!
Réveillons-nous!

Oui les garçons peuvent balayer (et cuisiner)
Oui les filles peuvent bien étudier (et diriger)
Tout le monde peut avoir la carrière qui lui plaît (et le succès)
Si nous choisissons l’égalité
Si nous choisissons l’égalité

Changeons!
Réveillons-nous!

Tout le monde est digne de respect
Tout le monde a le droit à la santé
Tout le monde peut vivre en prospérité
Si nous choisissons l’égalité
Si nous choisissons l’égalité

Changeons!
Réveillons-nous!

Oui les garçons peuvent balayer (et cuisiner)
Oui les filles peuvent bien étudier (et diriger)
Tout le monde peut avoir la carrière qui lui plaît (et le succès)
Si nous choisissons l’égalité
Si nous choisissons l’égalité
Si nous choisissons l’égalité

A Beautiful Life (rough English translation)

A mother hopes for a nice life for her children
she wants them to have a good education
to run a business one day
to be a doctor or a teacher
But she has never been to school.

What do you think of this?

Let’s wake up, let’s change.

Yes, boys can sweep and cook
Yes, girls can study well and lead
Everyone can succeed in the career that they desire If we choose equality

Let’s wake up, let’s change.

Everyone is worthy of respect
everyone has the right to health care
Everyone can live in prosperity
If we choose equality

© 2010 Carla Seidl

Enough to Eat

“If I had money, I’d record
albums of the calls of children begging
their meals in the street. I’d address
books to all the rich people, to let them know that
in this world live millions of humans
who don’t have the rags that they burn.”
—Richard Dogbeh, Beninese Poet

Togo, 2010

Two women walk along the road in front of in colorfully patterned, matching pagne cloth. Assuming I don’t speak their language, one turns and brings one hand to her mouth as if eating. I respond, “Moi aussi, j’ai faim.” And the women laugh and look at one another. What a stupid yovo, if she with her white skin and privilege can’t find anything to eat! I guess we are not so bad off after all.

My own nighttime musing:

Legs under mosquito net
Every evening
slightly slimmer

Could losing weight
be one good thing about
this hunger
this heat?

I talk with a Togolese friend about whether my “hunger,” my stomach grumbling and losing weight from not having easy access to food options that appeal to me, feels any different from the hunger experienced by impoverished Africans. Unlike many locals, of course, I have the financial means to purchase food items; I am not at risk of starving. “I’m not sure,” he says, “but we are used to suffering here. Look around and you can be sure that some of the people you see haven’t eaten in a couple of days.”

No Dessert

Girl eating Togolese staple food “pâte.”

Dessert? Some people have never even heard of it. This 4.5-minute radio piece examines the cultural relativity of this sweet, after-meal food practice by contrasting views on dessert from the United States and Togo, West Africa. It aired on AARP’s Prime Time Postscript in 2012.

More Background:

I created this piece shortly after my return from Togo, West Africa, where I had been serving as a Girls’ Education and Empowerment volunteer with the Peace Corps. In Togo, there was very little variety in food choices, just mainly a staple starch food called pâte, made from corn flour and water, and served with some kind of sauce. In particular, I was struck by the lack of dessert in Togolese food culture. In other countries I’d lived in, such as Chile and Azerbaijan, there was no tradition of dessert either, but at least there were sweets — they were just eaten at other times of day, rather than directly after the meal.

“No Dessert ” (4:12) takes a humorous tone to tackle themes of guilt and greed within the subject of food and culture. The idea for this piece came to me as I was trying to make sense of the strikingly different food practices that awaited me upon my return to the US. After living in less economically developed areas, it is sometimes hard not to see the American tendency to overeat and have lots of sweets as unfair in some way when so many others eat just to sustain themselves. My intention was to investigate the topic of dessert and make people more aware of their own dessert culture and food choices.

The Togolese person I am interviewing is Catherine Talim, a librarian and my counterpart teacher and co-leader of my Girls’ Club at the local middle school in Kanté.

Simmer 2: The Rainbow or the Stick?

“The Rainbow or the Stick?: Teaching and Discipline Across Cultures” features interviews with Renee Owen, director of the Rainbow Mountain Children’s School in Asheville, North Carolina, and Monsieur Bayamna, a junior high school French teacher in Kante, Togo, West Africa.

Producer Carla Seidl starts off reflecting on her own teaching experiences in Azerbaijan from 2006 to 2008. She then juxtaposes perspectives of two teachers: Renee Owen, director of the Rainbow Mountain Children’s School in Asheville, North Carolina, and Monsieur Bayamna, a junior high school French teacher in Kante, Togo, West Africa, to create an thought-provoking reflection on teaching and discipline across cultures. Seidl spoke with Renee Owen in Asheville, NC in 2013 and interviewed Monsieur Bayamna in 2010 while serving as a Girls Education and Empowerment volunteer with the Peace Corps in Kante, Togo, West Africa.

Ça va aller

Over in Togo

Ça va aller. It will be all right. Just lay back and relax.
Wait all day by the side of the road to see
if a bus or truck
is going your way.
Go with the destiny.
God and the spirits control, not us. There is so much suffering; what can we do? Just bear it,
supporter.

The Yovo Song

Yovo, yovo, bonjour! Ça va bien? Merci!

This piece, recently aired on AARP’s Prime Time Postscript, was produced while Carla was serving as a Girls’ Education and Empowerment volunteer in Togo. It deals with the common annoyance faced by herself and other volunteers of being constantly confronted with a chant by local children that drew attention to their race, their whiteness, their difference — and this, when volunteers were doing their best to integrate into and become part of their new communities. “The Yovo Song” examines reactions to and history behind the song, ultimately concluding that acceptance of this chant is a better path than resistance.

Maba Ela

Singing with Togolese music group Kotr Wiss in Kante, Togo, December 2010.

“Malaria has killed my friends. Poverty has killed my neighbors. AIDS has killed my friends. Sorcerers have killed my companions.”

“I have only my voice to sing their memory. My guitar to cradle their crying hearts….my voice to bring back joy.”

—Klenwa Toua

Radio Réussite (Radio Success)

Radio Success: Togolese Girls’ Radio

Listen to the series here.

A series produced in French in Kante, Togo, West Africa, by Girls’ Education and Empowerment volunteer Carla Seidl in 2010. The goal of the program was to educate and empower Togolese girls. The program featured the voices of Togolese girls and women, as well as advice and inspiration that they could use toward achieving personal success. The show mixes interview, skits, poetry, and music.

Themes treated in the shows in the Radio Réussite series include: prostitution, forced marriage, gender equality, sexual harassment, beauty, infidelity, role models, the value of work, and study tips.

The show features original songs related to female empowerment composed and performed by Carla Seidl and the group Kotr Wiss of Kante.

Description en français:

“Réussite: La Radio des Filles Togolaises”

Radio Réussite était une initiative de l’americaine Carla Seidl, volontaire de Corps de la Paix à Kante, Togo, dans le domaine de l’éducation et la promotion de la jeune fille. Le but de cette émission, réalisée en 2010, était de valoriser les voix des filles togolaises en leur donnant l’opportunité de s’exprimer. On voulait aussi offrir des conseils et de l’inspiration qu’elles pouvaient utiliser pour réussir. L’émission mélange l’entrevue, la musique, la poésie, et des sketchs pour transmettre son message.

Thèmes traités dans les émissions de Radio Réussite sont: la prostitution, le mariage forcé, l’égalité genre, le harcèlement sexuel, la beauté, l’infidélité, les rôle modèles, la valeur du travail, et des conseils d’étude.