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Visual Narrative: A Graphic Novel by Al’Mata and Christophe Edimo

This graphic novel reflects different facets of emigration. In their series “Le retour d’Alphonse Madiba dit Daudet” (The return of Alphonse Madiba, called Daudet) Al’Mata and Christophe Edimo invent an imaginary country that stands for a representative experience.

“The return of Alphonse Madiba dit Daudet is a series of two comics, soon to be three, about the adventures of Alphonse Madiba, a Balafonian eternal student expelled from France, whose only dream is to return there.” (Al’Mata)

The anti-hero of this story, Alphonse Madiba, is confronted with all kinds of difficulties that accompany life as an immigrant in France: perpetually failed and recommenced studies, failed integration and a life of deceit and deception.

© Le retour d’Alphonse Madiba dit Daudet

Artist Al’Mata describes his work and the origins of the story:

THE IDEA BEHIND THE MADIBA SERIES

Le retour d’Alphonse Madiba dit Daudet is a series of two comics, soon to be three, about the adventures of Alphonse Madiba, a perpetual Balafonian student expelled from France, whose only dream is to return there. Because he is convinced that a good life is exclusively characterized by taking place exclusively in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower and reading the adventures of Tartarin de Tarascon with the beautiful Parisian women who, of course, are blond …

The original idea for the series (to tell the story of an African immigrant expelled from France) came from conversations between Christophe Edimo, a Cameroonian screenwriter and avid reader of the adventures of Asterix and Obelix, and Al’Mata, a Congolese humorous cartoonist. Edimo and Al’Mata decided to create a hero who is both down on his luck as well as funny. And they use the comedy of repetition: Alphonse Madiba’s attempts at emigration must fail repeatedly, but they must also make you laugh. The characters around the hero, whether African or European, are also meant to make readers: laugh.

In the course of his adventures, Alphonse Madiba, called Daudet, finally emerges as a figure who is certainly quirky, but also very modern, because although he comes from the Balafon, he feels so French that he takes the liberty of criticizing the French, who are not French enough in his eyes.

Alphonse Madiba has chosen culture and he chooses where to live: in France and in Paris! Alphonse Madiba is not naive: he knows that the authorities and the public immigration policy oppose this beautiful project. So he resolves to be resourceful and cunning to defy the adversities that have arisen in the ministries of France and Balafonie.

Geopolitics, the exploitation of Africa by France, neocolonialism? These are not the problems of Alphonse Madiba, who only wants to decide where he will live his life: in Paris! In this sense, Alphonse Madiba is unintentionally a kind of comic Frankenstein, created by the France that no longer wants him.

© Le retour d’Alphonse Madiba dit Daudet

THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE CHARACTERS OF ALPHONSE MADIBA CALLED DAUDET

Does Alphonse Madiba called Daudet exist? “Yes,” says Christophe Ngalle Edimo, the screenwriter. “We met him! As for me, I met him twice. Once, as a child in Douala, the economic capital of Cameroon. A certain Alphonse Madiba, resident of the Deido neighborhood in Douala, had earned the nickname Alphonse Daudet because he regularly read and recited the adventures of Tartarin de Tarascon (a character in a novel by the French writer Alphonse Daudet). This unusual gentleman obviously cultivated a strange love for France. I was too small and too shy to ask him about his passion for the French language, which he shared publicly. Later, at the University of Yaoundé, there was a young man among my fellow students nicknamed “The Frenchman.” This student acquired a refined accent, the kind you see in old French movies, dressed dapperly, and spoke constantly of France, where he had never been.”

Alphonse Madiba dit Daudet exists exemplarily throughout Central Africa. They can certainly be found in the SAPEURS societies (members of SAPE: Société des Ambianceurs et des personnes Élégantes) in Brazzaville and Kinshasa.

© Le retour d’Alphonse Madiba dit Daudet

BALAFONIA, A DICTATORSHIP SUPPORTED BY THE COUNTRY OF HUMAN RIGHTS

Alphonse Madiba, a lover of French culture and admirer of Alphonse Daudet, is of Balafonese nationality: he comes from Balafonia, an imaginary country that could be either Cameroon, Congo DRC, Congo Brazzaville or Gabon. Balafonie is a French-speaking dictatorship supported by Paris. Its inhabitants are either robbers (ministers, policemen, corrupt people, etc.) or victims. Victims who, in order not to fall into depression, band together by meeting in their favorite bar to tell each other light-hearted stories: no political statements, no desire to confront the dictatorship, no desire to provoke the authorities and their powerful Frenchmen. But when the lurking depression catches up with them, the Balafonais have another concern: to leave the country to go to France.

© Le retour d’Alphonse Madiba dit Daudet

Many readers wonder why Madiba wanted to come to France at any cost. Readers living in Africa have met many people who are willing to leave Africa at any cost. Sadly, this is an everyday situation. Madiba is part of the current reality in Africa. Somewhat less common, (though still existing) is the reason for Madiba’s departure: The person who feels he is French wants to live in France, a country where he was happy and where he will be again if he is lucky.

The reason for his immigration is neither economic, nor related to persecution or a climatic problem. Madiba wants to emigrate to live in the country he has chosen, surrounded by cheese, wine … and in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. Madiba will never give up, and he will continue to have the energy to try again. In this sense, Madiba is very African.

For Al’Mata, the cartoonist, some of our African readers from Europe are more nuanced: “Some regret that we can show the poverty of Africa in our cartoon, they regret that we don’t take sides politically in our approach. In the end, Madiba’s adventures are not the right place for us to attack neocolonialism, liberalism or dictatorship. Some people thought we were talking about Nelson Mandela, whose affectionate nickname in South Africa was Madiba. But by and large, readers are positive. The European readers, especially the French and Belgian ones we’ve encountered both in Europe and in Africa, are mostly comics lovers who recognize our Franco-Belgian ancestry and often ask us if there is an African style of comics that stands out from manga or Franco-Belgian comics. We are dealing with enthusiasts who are very attached to our character. Madiba’s adventures also allow many of these readers to understand the reality of Africa and its economic and political plight.”

A reunion is planned for December 2021 with Volume 3.

© Le retour d’Alphonse Madiba dit Daudet

LE RETOUR AU PAYS D’ALPHONSE MADIBA DIT DAUDET

Christophe Edimo (Script) / Al’Mata (Drawing, Colors)

Publisher: L’Harmattan BD
AFRIQUE SUBSAHARIENNE

Date of publication: December 1, 2010

Format: 22 x 30 cm – 54 pages

ISBN: 978-2-296-12196-6

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