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Monday, February 23, 2009

Mamy Wata and the Monster by Veronique Tadjo

February 23, 2009 –This post is dedicated to Tante Harriet and Tante Dedra, who help me to keep my memories of Cote d’Ivoire sweet.

Mamy Wata and the Monster written and illustrated by Veronique Tadjo
Reviewed by Sojourner Ahebee
Published by Milet Publishing

A few weeks ago, I was suppose to interview a girl from Kenya, who goes to college in the Philadelphia area. The interview was to be about how difficult things are in Kenya. Though I was honored someone thought enough of me and my abilities to do this interview, my heart was not in it. I know firsthand the challenges facing Africa, but that is all that seems to get reported.
My memories of Cote d’Ivoire, my African home, are sweet. I loved hearing the women move through the streets shouting attieke chaud, attieke chaud and the laughter of children playing soccer. I loved dressing up in gorgeous African fabrics, I loved visiting my doctor- Dr. Kassi- who was a French woman who married an Ivoirian man. I loved visiting the Banco Rainforest during the rainy season. I loved dancing at weddings and baptisms and first communion celebrations. I loved celebrating Ramadan and Tabaski with my Muslim friends. I loved the musicians who my parents invited to our home for parties and who played the balafon and the kora . I loved the food-fufu, sauce arachnid, sauce graine, sauce kedjenou, aloco, besop, grilled chicken and fish. I loved going to my grandfather’s village-N’Gattadolikro-in August for our family reunions. I loved our friends who were from all over the world. I loved the fact I could speak French and English and a little of my father’s language –Baoule.
My strongest memory of Cote d’Ivoire is of my family’s Sunday trips to the beach, in Grand Bassam. We often went to a guesthouse called Chateau Blanc and we spent the whole day having fun with the ocean. I have vivid recollections of my mother relaxing in a lounge chair and holding my baby brother while I played in the ocean with my father. My mother would shout to my father and me, when she thought we had gone too far into the ocean-You better watch out, Mamy Wata doesn’t save fools.
Veronique Tadjo is a writer from Cote d’Ivoire who used to visit my school-The International Community School of Abidjan- and read her books to the students. She now lives abroad. She writes books both for children and adults. I like her as a writer because she writes of the beauty of Africa and of its negative parts.
I grew up listening and reading her books and those of another writer named Fatou Keita. Veronique Tadjo’s Mamy Wata and the Monster is one of my favorites. Mamy Wata is a figure in West African folklore. Ask any West African and they can tell you who Mamy Wata is. Even the Africans who were brought to the Caribbean to work as slaves, brought their stories of Mamy Wata with them. So, Mamy Wata is a part of Caribbean folklore, too.
In Veronique Tadjo’s Mamy Wata and the Monster ,the reader is first introduced to Mamy Wata, a beautiful African mermaid who is clearly in charge of the water. Mamy Wata is kind and generous and shares the lakes, rivers and seas with all who needs them like fishermen, children playing or women collecting water for the community. But one day, she is warned that a monster is terrorizing the village communities. Veronique Tadjo is also the illustrator of this book and her colorful drawings are amazing. The artwork pulls the reader into the world of Mamy Wata and that of the monster that has swallowed many villagers. Mamy Wata, the protector of those who use her waters, discovers where the monster lives and waits to deal with him. She also discovers a very sensitive side to this monster and instead of approaching him with anger, she greets him with love. The monster is transformed by Mamy Wata’s kindness and the readers discovers, too, the interesting history of this monster who turns out to be a handsome, young man.
You’ll have to get this book to get all of the details. I hesitate to just call this book a children’s book, which is, because I, as a teenager, am still delighted by the story and the pictures. Get the book and discover some of the tales and characters of another culture.
Veronique Tadjo has some other amazing books for children and the young at heart. They are The Lucky Grain of Corn and Grandma Nana which I will review in upcoming posts.
These books of Veronique Tadjo’s are read around the world and are published in many languages. The copies I have are in English, English and Chinese, English and Vietnamese. She is beloved.
To order her books contact Milet Publishing at or email at .

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Political Leadership Retreat for High School Girls in Washington, D.C.

Every June I send a birthday card to Aung San Suu Kyi. She is an amazing woman. She is a human rights activist who fights for rights of the people of Burma. Many times the government leaders of Burma have placed her under house arrest and do not allow her to leave her home, but she still demands that the government must respect its people. I also admire Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who is the president of Liberia and Africa’s first woman president. I respect Hillary Rodham Clinton who demonstrates over and over again how capable and committed women leaders can be.

Women throughout the world, including the United States, have had a difficult time trying to become leaders. It has been a hard fight. But today, we are so lucky that there are many programs that help prepare women to be effective leaders and some of these programs start the training process early; when the participants are teenagers. Here is one GREAT program.

Running Start is accepting applications for their 2009 Young Woman's Political Leadership Retreat. Please share with teachers and encourage any high school girls you know to apply!!! They do not need to be interested in politics to be chosen to attend! The program is entirely FREE of charge, and travel scholarships are available to sophomores, juniors and seniors! Running Start encourages high school girls from across the country to channel their leadership into politics. Participants will meet extraordinary women leaders of diverse backgrounds and learn the importance of having more women in political leadership and running for office. Even if the girls are not interested in politics, this is a great program for them to build self-esteem, practice public speaking and learn to collaborate with other young women.

WHO: Open to rising sophomores, juniors and seniors in high school
WHERE: American University, Washington D.C.0D WHEN: July 15-19, 2009 (no applications will be accepted after February 16, 2009)
COST: The program is entirely FREE of charge, and travel scholarships are available. APPLY ONLINE: For more information, or for specific attachments contact Susannah Shakow at 202.421-4102 or info@runningstart. org.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Angela Davis To Speak At Bryn Mawr College

There is this great website called Be A Hero For a Better World and its has hundreds of coloring pages of people, past and present, who have changed the world. Every now and then my mom will print out a page for my brother and me to color and for us to learn a little about an amazing person. One coloring page that just grabbed me was the one of Angela Davis. I didn’t know who she was, but she, as illustrated in coloring page, looked strong and confident and made me want to learn more about her.

Well, guess what? I’ll actually get the chance to meet and hear her on Wednesday, February 4, 2009. She will give the keynote address as a part of Bryn Mawr College’s celebration of Black History Month. Angela Davis will speak in the Thomas Great Hall at 7:30 p.m. This event is free and open to the public.

The title of her presentation is Democracy, Social Change and Civil Engagement.
To learn more about this event and Angela Davis click on the following link. or call 610-526-6594
I like the quote by Angela Davis found on the bottom of the coloring page which features her.
"You can never stop and as older people, we have to learn how to take leadership from the youth."