Last updated: 30 april, 2009 - 17:26 GMT


West African Journeys - Part Four

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Award-winning journalist Sorious Samura takes a trip through four neighbouring countries in West Africa. In each location he meets up with someone who takes him on a journey.

Fishermen on a boat off the shores of a fishing village called Godrich near Freetown

Fishermen on a boat off the shores of a fishing village called Godrich near Freetown

Part four - A Fisherman's Story

This journey begins on the shores of a fishing village called Godrich near Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone and Sorious's hometown.

Sorious meets Aruna Cole, a fisherman like his father. At 48 years old Aruna has done well. He is the master of two fishing boats, a 30 foot inshore boat called Virgin and a 50 foot deep sea boat called Leonestar but when Sorious meets him, things are not good. Only Virgin is sea-worthy and the fishing has been bad.

Aruna, perhaps like fishermen the world over, is very attentive to the spirits, and one particular spirit called Mammy-Wata, the she devil of the water. Without her blessing or understanding, Aruna tells Sorious, no fisherman can expect success at sea. She must be feared and respected.

Fishermen bring in a net on the beach

Fishermen bring in a net on the beach

As Aruna takes Sorious and his crew to sea, he tells of his strange relationship with the sea devil, how Mammy-Wata propositioned him and how he rejected her advances.

He also tells Sorious that the fishing has declining for years and Aruna is convinced that the reason for this is that the fishermen have offended Mammy-Wata and the other spirits. Sacrifices have been made but things haven't got better.

Aruna tells how Chinese trawlers regularly impinge on the local fishing grounds, but he refuses to see the decline in fish as anything other than the curse of Mammy-Wata.

The catch on their first fishing trip is terrible. The pressure is on, and through Aruna, his wife, other fishermen and local musicians we begin to understand the parallel world of the spirits and the underworld that dominates their everyday existence.

Through Aruna's story Sorious reflects on the many influences that tradition and the spirit world have on modern West Africa, and in keeping with a theme that threads though all four documentaries in this series, he asks whether Africa can ever move forward whilst so many, including himself, hold on to these ancient traditions.

In the end, he confesses, these journeys have forced him like never before to question his own beliefs.

First broadcast on 11 May 2009

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