The Village of Bamboula: Jean-Pascal Zadi recounts a staggering dive into a human zoo…

In 1994, 25 Ivorian men, women and children lived for 6 months held in an animal park in Port Saint-Père, with the blessing of the public authorities. Her name ? The village of Bamboula. A stunning documentary to see in replay on france.tv

the village of bamboula: jean-pascal zadi recounts a staggering dive into a human zoo...
Hauteville Productions

“Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to relive it” wrote the great Hispanic-American philosopher george santayana, in 1905. In the small town of Port-Saint-Père, located in the Loire-Atlantique department, not far from Nantes, an eminently painful past resurfaced without warning, in a relative indifference and amnesia of the society of the time, and with the blessing of the public authorities.

In 1994, 25 Ivorian men, women and children spent six months held in an animal park located in Port-Saint-Père. A story also linked to that of a chocolate biscuit invented by the Saint-Michel brand in 1985, Bamboula, which will give its name to this infamous place: The Bamboula village.

Here is the trailer for the documentary…

Below, an advertisement for Bamboula biscuits, dated 1988…

Stunning 52-minute documentary that has the vigor of an uppercut, narrated in voice-over by Jean-Pascal Zadi and available until February 6 on the france.tv platform, The Village of Bamboula begins his hallucinating story with a wish. That of Dany Laurent, designer and director of this park designed as an African safari.

“Make our fellow citizens dream…”

“I believe that the purpose of this safari is a dream day for the visitor, discovering wildlife”. Only by car, as in nature reserves in Africa. “In our world of gloom and stress, our fellow citizens need dream days” continues the person concerned.

And even if it means dreaming, you might as well think big: why not build an authentic replica of an African village, going so far as to bring in all the construction equipment, and set it up in this African safari?

Thus, in the wake of the death of the President of Côte d’Ivoire Félix Houphouët-Boigny, in 1993, Dany Laurent recruited a troupe of Ivorian dancers and other local artisans, to install them in this village in the heart of the park. But there is more: the latter will be subject only to Ivorian legislation; the village functioning as an enclave; somewhat like an embassy which has the extraterritoriality status.

A health problem? No outside doctor, they will be examined by the park’s veterinarians… The members of the Ivorian troops and craftsmen sleep on a simple mattress on the ground, are only paid a fraction of the minimum wage, the children who work there (! ) are also out of school, see their passports confiscated to prevent them from going out… On April 13, 1994, it is the inauguration with great fanfare, made by the Ivorian Prime Minister at the time, accompanied by his Minister of Tourism and of the environment.

“Bamboula at the Safari-park”; “Saga Africa at the gates of Nantes”; “Make you want to travel” headlines the Regional Press without complexes; but not only. But the worm is already in the fruit. Because such a place awakens old demons.

Those of the infamous colonial exhibitions and its zoo humans, which prevailed at the time of the colonial empires, presenting “typical” villages of a country or an ethnic group, such as the exhibition of “mysterious Africa”. And it is even the double penalty, also because of the past of the city of Nantes, which was then considerably enriched thanks to the triangular trade and the slave trade.

It will take all the force of action of a large collective, baptized “No to the Human Reserve”, bringing together in particular several NGOs and unions, to put an end by way of justice to what was, rightly, considered as an ignoble and scandalous attack on human dignity.

“The Village of Bamboula”, told by Jean-Pascal Zadi, to see in replay until February 6 on france.tv

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