Saturday, April 9 2011: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/10/world/africa/10ivory.html?hpThings are not good in Cote d’Ivoire which in its heyday was called “The Paris of Africa.” The battles between Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara are turning into a civil war but there has been a low-grade battle between these parties for much of 2000s so conditions have already deteriorated to a new low for what was a prominent and successful West African city. Today’s Times brings more bad news after a week of battles which seemed to be leading to Gbagbo’s ouster. Not that the other guy is a prize but I suppose it says something that he was elected.
In 1999 and 2001 I went Abidjan to the Arts and Spectacle Market or MASA as it was known. The city was experiencing unrest and even a minor coup or two on either side of these events but the show did go on in those years. My notes describe a calm sunny city, friendly, good food, artists everywhere. I stayed at the Hotel Ivoire and saw my first African contemporary dance. Lots of it. Much of it powerful and original—some pieces like Vincent Mantsoe’s Gula , vivid and unforgettable however many times I see it. So, even though the city and country were fraying at the edges the dancing never stopped.