I haven’t yet been inside a banga, and all things considered, for the moment I’m not quite ready. A banga, in the past, was a hut in the forest, built out of natural materials by teenage boys in Mayotte, who then went to live there as an initiation into adulthood. But that custom has faded. Nowadays, banga refers to a slum dwelling, largely made of corrugated iron, where illegal immigrants live, having crossed to Mayotte from neighbouring Comoros. A more complete presentation of these shanty towns, in French – but with pics 🙂 – can be found here.
In daily dealings with the people of Mayotte, it’s difficult to know who’s illegal and who’s not. All are unfailingly friendly. But it’s not a great idea for a white person to stroll around a settlement of bangas uninvited.
Why would I want to, anyway? Basically, for research: Perfume Island, the sequel to One Green Bottle, is set here in Mayotte, and the immigration issue looms large. One day, for the sake of authenticity, I’ll need a first hand view. But wander round staring at poverty? I have a bit of trouble justifying that.
I hope that Perfume Island, whilst being a murder mystery, will also draw attention to the immigrants’ plight. I have no illusions that anything might change as a result, but currently, few people outside France are aware of Mayotte at all, let alone of its immigrants and slums. To raise awareness, however slightly, can only be good. Whether one day I’ll find that justification enough remains to be seen.
As a footnote, I was recently honoured to start off the series People Who Live in Small Places, with a brief presentation of life in Mayotte. It will be a regular feature of Clara Wiggins’s Expat Partner’s Survival Guide blog – worth checking out!