Interview with Mahamadou Boureima 2 – The River Nomads

We’re now trying to learn more regarding the Yaurance. What do you know about them?
The Yaurance are a folk that live by the river and make a living out of it. [0:36-0:43]
They (the Yaurance) usually settle near river banks in order to fish. They then oven-smoke the fish and depending on the amount of fish caught, some of it is put on a pinnace heading back to Nigeria. The smoked fish will be sold there. [0:49-1:15]
When they sell their fish in Nigeria, they can then buy various goods they will need once they return to their fishing grounds. [1:16-1:25]
I’ve constantly seen the Yaurance passing by here ever since I was a toddler. I saw them passing by here back when they used to row their way on the river with paddles. Their crossing occurs yearly.
[1:31-1:42]

Do they ever settle around here?
The Yaurance never settled here. They just pass by.  [1:52-1:55]
So you’ve never got the opportunity to exchange with them?
I never spoke with them. [1:58-2:00]
Do you know their primary language? Is it Hausa or Zarma?
Yes, I do know their main language. They speak Hausa. [2:05-2:07]

So you’ve been noticing them ever since you were a toddler. Why didn’t you approach them?
I’ve never approached them because they are always on the move and passing by, and you can’t just intercept somebody passing by just to talk. If you happen to know where one of them lives for example you could visit them to talk.  [2:18-2:37]
One time we went fishing at Kandadji and we stayed over with them.  [2:38-2:45]
Unfortunately I heard that the Yaurance there have been evicted from that area following the construction of the Kandadji Dam. [2:47-2:51]
<Learn more about the construction of the Kandaji Dam and its effects by clicking here>

So you’re a fisherman yourself?
Well, I partake in many activities. Besides fishing, I also  farm.  [3:03-3:10]
In your opinion, if fishing a profitable activity?
Sometimes fishing yields abundantly and other times it yields poorly, especially during the cold season when fish becomes rare. [3:30-3:41]
But when the water levels drop, fish can be found wherever there is “burgu” (river grass), and it is particularly in such conditions that fish could abundantly be caught. [3:44-3:51]
Although these recent years, the amount of fish in the river has been diminishing because the “burgu” in which the fish reproduce is disappearing. Since there is no “burgu“, the fish simply don’t stay in the area. [3:55-4:14]
Some areas in the river where rocks and boulders served as shelter for fish are also disappearing, with the backfilling and silting of the river happening. Since the fish have nowhere to settle and hide anymore, they pass through the area to find another area with shelters.  [4:21-4:47]
Do you think the Yaurance are capable of knowing were fish could abundantly be caught? ~ Zarma Translation to be confirmed.
The areas with abundant amounts of fish are very far away. Not just any fisherman can reach these areas to fish. Even if you end up going there to fish, you need to cover very long distances in order to find out the fish.  [5:11-5:29]

We previously spoke to some individuals who claim that the Yaurance are exceptionally knowledgeable about fishing in the river, and they even use something extra (black magic, talismans) in order to be advantageous. In your opinion, is this true?
Yes, some people claim that the Yaurance  have occult and mystic practices that allow to be more effective in catching fish than others fishermen. These are ancient practices unknown to many fishermen.  [5:56-6:03]
In order to acquire knowledge about these occult and mystic practices, one must earn the trust of a fisherman that knows them and is willing to teach them to the seeker. [6:05-6:11]
Fishermen who know about these practices generally learned them from their parents, but I should also point out the fact that parents don’t teach these secret practices to just any of their children. It is a secret that one keeps to oneself. [6:18-6:28]

Do such occult and mystic fishing practices align with the practice and teachings of Islam?
The occult and mystic fishing practices and Islam do not mix well and are mutually exclusive. The fishing practices make people distance themselves from Islam. [6:37-6:48]
Although some fishermen still use such fishing practices, and others don’t in order to respect the principles of Islam. [6:53-7:02]
The fishermen still employing the ancient practices do it discreetly, but between us, we know exactly who uses them and who doesn’t. [7:04-7:17]

Lets return to the subject of your childhood; did your parents ever forbid you from approaching the Yaurance when they’re were passing by? When we were in Goudel, we heard that in the past, children were forbidden from approaching the Yaurance. In your opinion, why this?
I frankly do not know. [7:58-8:03]
Children were probably forbidden from approaching the Yaurance  because it is simply a good idea to not let one’s children approach strangers. [8:29-8:34]
According to some people from Goudel, children were forbidden from approaching the Yaurance in the past because the Yaurance were suspected of being soul eaters (of children in particular). What do you think regarding this?
The Yaurance are fishermen. Their lives revolve around that activity and they can’t bring themselves to doing something such as kidnapping children, contrary to what some people think. People that kidnap children to sell are people who do nothing but that. They are of a different kind of people. [8:48-9:04]
<Learn more about the Yaurance and the “soul eating” allegations by clicking here>

Thank you infinitely for your time.

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