Book: Marguerite Abouet & Clément Oubrerie – Aya de Yopougon

Aya de Yopougon is the title of the charming, award-winning graphic novel written by Marguerite Abouet and illustrated by Clément Oubrerie, that follows a group of young people coming of age in Ivory Coast in the 1970s. At that time the Ivory Coast was an island of relative wealth and stability in West Africa – a golden time – work was plentiful, hospitals were clean and well equipped and school obligatory. For the teenagers of the town Yopougon, though, worries are plentiful, and life in Yop City is far from simple.

The book tells the story of the nineteen-year-old Aya and her carefree and loving friends Adjouna and Bintou. Navigating meddling relatives and neighbours, the girls spend the last summer of their childhood on the sun-warmed streets of Yop City – sneaking out for dancing at open-air bars, strong Solibra beer, chicken in Peanut sauce and avoiding at all costs the scandal pages of the Calamity Morning…

Clément Oubrerie´s sun-washed illustrations bring the neighborhood of Yopougon to life. He visited the Ivory Coast to capture the colours and forms to create the most authentic atmosphere.

Marguerite Abouet was born in Abidjan in 1971 and moved with her brother to France at the age of twelve. Her attempt is to show an Ivory Coast which stands in stark opposition to the images of civil wars and AIDS dominating the African continent. The book’s preface quotes Myriam Montrat’s 1988 essay From the Heart of an African:

“The vision of Africa in the American mind is shaped by films, music, art, entertainment and the news media… (but) only the news media have the mission to inform. With regard to Africa, the media fail in this mission.”

In an interview she told that the characters are based on her neighbors from the Ivory Coast. They had complicated stories and affairs with men. So the characters and places are things she knows in real life. The story itself is fiction. It was actually Marjane Satrapi who encouraged her to write a graphic novel.

Aya is a real captivating and entertaining portrayal of a colorful and varied Africa, we rarely get to know this way.

The book won in 2006 the Best First Album Award at the Angoulême International Comics Festival.


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