Mr. Mohamed Bouya Ould Bamba, PHD Fulbrighter in Kent State University, Ohio. He is also one of the Mauritanian, brilliant, young writers, he wrote recently a novel, dealing with several issues related to the Mauritanian life. To shed more light on this literary work, PEACE conducted the following interview:
Peace: You wrote last year a first Mauritanian novel in English entitled “Angels of Mauritania and the Curse of the Language“, could you please talk to us about the motivations behind such literary work?
Mohamed Bouya: When I graduated from the university of Nouakchott in 2005 I was extremely disappointed to know that I can do nothing with the degree I earned. I felt like I hit a ton of bricks with my head. I did not know what to do. I said to myself I should at least write about the difficulties I go through and the background that I came from. But I could not write anything for a year, then I got busy, going to Morocco and coming back with another degree with which I could not do anything. I stopped and said I have gone through enough drama I can write about but I wrote nothing. Then came the joy when I got the chance to go to the US for education. Hearing from my friends about the hardship of my people pushed me to commit myself to find time to write this work. The result is that I confined myself for almost two months in the library until I got it even though with imperfections.
Peace: What did you exactly want to reveal?
Mohamed Bouya: I wanted to reveal a bitter reality: as I lived there and I am a Muslim, from a personal experience the human being has no value, you have to find value in yourself and find hope otherwise you will end up wiping the shoes of someone and it happened to me several times. But I believed that there are few human beings who care but due to some circumstance they decided to keep quiet and avoid any kind of trouble but I can read the kindness in their eyes and behavior with me and any other friend who had to go through the hardships of living in Mauritania. To grow up and know that you have no value of any sort is what pushes a lot of young men to take extreme measures in order to survive or leave this world. For me hope and the pursuit of happiness are my source of inspiration.
Peace: To what extent do you think that you focused more on raising controversial historical, social issues?
Mohamed Bouya: People always asked me what the title has to do with the event of the novel or with Mauritania. The interesting thing is that major events that shape the coexistence of ethnicities in Mauritania were shaped by some sort of a linguistic conflict and the issue of language is unsolved till now and you remember that things went crazy in the country over the issue of Arabization and there are Mauritanians who think that real
Mauritanians are the ones who speak all national languages and you know that one of the major unfulfilled Coups in 1980s was aiming to take the country to a different linguistic direction. So I believe that unresolved linguistic issues in Mauritania are a sleeping enemy to this nation.
Peace: Why did you choose the city of Nouakchott to be the setting of the novel?
Mohamed Bouya: I chose Nouakchott because I spent there the worst yet inspiring years of my life. In Nouakchott I faced the bitter reality that Mauritanians are not born equal. Oh! that was a slap on the face. I was surprised to discover the implied meaning of the expression “Mahou woul Ezbel”. This expression implies that there are people who are “Sons of [excuse my French] Shit”. It is tough to live in this environment where the first thing you are asked “You are the son of who?” and if your name does not show up among the names of the top family, you are seriously a “piece of crap”. Well you gotta be tough to live in Mauritania, brother. I learnt all these things in Nouakchott so I chose it for my work.
Peace: How do you assess the feedback of your readers?
Mohamed Bouya: Well I got wonderful feedback from some of my readers and it was very positive which in a sense would help me continue to write but the majority of my readers or people who read it decided to remain silent so I seriously do not know what they think of it.
Peace: Do you think of writing other similar works in the future?
Mohamed Bouya: Yes. I plan to write a fictional work every summer for the time I am working on my PhD but when I graduate I plan to write two fictional works every year. As a matter of fact I plan to release this summer a novel entitled “As I stand burning” also taking place majorly in Nouakchott.