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I never forget my roots

In April 2023, Social Fabric presented an interactive project "Rooted-Uprooted: Postcard Conversations" at the Human Rights Film Festival Zurich, inviting attendees to share their thoughts on what does being rooted (or uprooted) mean to them. Kouassi Amoussou Doh, a longtime production team member, contributed a narrative recorded by Barbara Imobersteg.

Human Rights Film Festival and Social Fabric interactive project "Rooted - Uprooted: Postcard Conversations"

My roots — these are the traditions and customs, the history and culture of the country where I come from and was born. I am connected to them wherever I am. I eat Adémè*, I close my eyes, and I am in Togo. I've been in Switzerland for 35 years now — for a lifetime — and it's still exactly the same.

You can't leave your roots behind and take new ones somewhere else.

A tree that loses its roots dies. A person also needs roots to have a future, just as a house needs a foundation to stand firm and be built on. Many things can be added. I have learned a lot and added a lot to my culture, but I have not changed my roots. That is not possible. Even after a very long time, you can't do that.

No matter how long a tree trunk floats in the river, it won't become a crocodile.

When children are born here, they naturally have their roots here too and it is the parents' job to pass on the culture of their ancestors to them. These are important points of reference. When you're young, you might not realize it yet. You are less interested in it. Some also want to leave everything behind, forget everything, and no longer represent their own past. But that's how they lose their bearings. I've always been preoccupied with my history, and I've studied it here too. I have read and informed myself. A lot has changed in Africa, for better or for worse. The communities used to be stronger, people stuck together, were sad together, and were happy together.

The community was the roots, the common ground.

Only on this common ground could something individual develop. Now there is more individuality—but also more selfishness. Women have fought for their freedom and are standing up for their rights. Polygamy has been abolished. We are part of globalization, everything is mixing, and all people exchange ideas.

Prejudices can be overcome because fears disappear when people really meet.

Xenophobia only arises when people don't know each other, when they are influenced by cultural or religious ideas: You've heard something and don't check whether it's true. That's how borders are constructed. I reflect a lot, also about my roots. As I get older, I realize how important and valuable the connection to my culture is. My roots are like a mother tongue, I never forget them.

* a green leafy vegetable from Togolese cuisine


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