If you want to know if the slavery still exists, you onlyneed to visit the village of Zango Abolo, in Niger. It is a different community, where all its inhabitants have the word slave written in their heart.
We visited it when we were filming the first part of the documentary. Hadijatou wanted us to accompany her there. And the impression is still with us.
When we arrived we saw women who were beating millet. No men’s track. When Hadijatou appeared a circle was created around her. They had heard about her and she was a kind of heroine in that small community where they, all the women, without exception, were ex-slaves. It was exciting to see how women were adding to the group, all with desire of greeting Hadijatou and, later we discovered too, anxiously to explain her own experiences as slaves. There was constituted a kind of improvised meeting in an esplanade of the village. And they allowed us to be witnesses of their intimacy. Share their suffering was like a balsam for them. Hadijatou’s story was not deferring so much of others’, but she was capable of denouncing her status and had to carry with the consequences. But finally she got it. And this was what she tried to transmit them. They shouldn’t run and hide there, protected by the NGO Timidria. They could denounce their situation and get to be declared officially free.
Those were touching testimonies that are gathered in the documentary and that give us the dimension of what slavery is. Some people’s delirium: they think they can own other people; people who do not understand the meaning of the word freedom; that live anchored in a past and protected by institutions and governments that wanted to ignore this situation.
Listening to them was a privilege that made us better people. Being there, we also gave them hope that their stories still interested the rest of the world. They promised to denounce. They asked us to accompany them, and we did it. And they asked us to come back to follow their evolutions. We haven’t been able yet, and it hurts me.
Still now I have in the deepest of my heart, the song that they gave us as a present before leaving. And our promise: we will come back.