On Saturday 19th January 2013, I battled through the snow and ice to see the screening of ‘The Pirogue’ or ‘La Pirogue’ at BFI Southbank.
The Pirogue by Moussa Toure is a dedication to the is the moving story of a group of Senegalese men who set off for Europe on a simple fishing boat, hoping for a better life. Baye Laye is the captain of a fishing pirogue who dreams of earning a better living for his family. When he is offered to lead one of the many pirogues that head towards Europe via the Canary Islands, he reluctantly accepts the job, knowing the dangers that lie ahead. Adroitly capturing the dilemmas facing these desperate men, The Pirogue is a powerful depiction of a story that is internationally relevant.
According to the film, between 2005 and 2010, more than 30,000 West Africans braved the Atlantic Ocean attempting to get to Europe aboard simple canoes. More than 5,000 died on their journey.
This is a beautiful, sad, emotional film that looks at the complex and sensitive issues of African people putting themselves at risk in these fishing boats in order to escape the hardships of Senegal. In the film, Spain was the destination that the passengers wanted to reach and as the filmed showed, not many survive the seven day journey.
When we visited Spain on our Moors Tour, we met Senegalese people selling their handbags on the beach front. I wonder how many of them have made the same journey or have lost loved ones during a pirogue crossing.
The discussion after the screening with June Givanni was interesting as it highlighted that migration is one of the biggest problems in Senegal and there is not much preventing the young people leaving Senegal in pursuit of fame and fortune. It was agreed that the young people must be informed of the reality of life for an immigrant in European countries. It was also agreed that adults must start to talk to the young people and that changes must be made in Senegal to give the youth education and hope.
I recommend everyone to see this film and support African Cinema.