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Odienné by Night

Dr. André Chappatte

Beyond spatial proximity, the night is often sensed as a shadow play in provincial towns of the West African savannah because the interplay between the darkness of the night and the dim light of street lighting reveals the sketchy "silhouettes" of activities but hardly their "faces"; people´s social experiences of the urban night complete the drawing of their facial features. After a long day of work, do such protean aesthetics, caused by the urban penumbra, arouse bodies and minds in specifi c ways? From praying God during the deep [silent] night of after midnight to following sexual fantasies into the purple darkness of a brothel, passing by listening to the programme 'confidentialités' at 10 pm on a local radio, this ambiance of twilight gives rises to a phenomenology of mystery in which both evil and godly forces arouse human vulnerability [field of shameful desires and spiritual calls] and lead to people's intimacy in many ways. Based on 14 to 18 months of ethnographic fi eldwork, this project in social anthropology explores how the acolytes of the urban night live it as a potentially risky, unsettling but educative path. Living "Odienné by Night" is about opening oneself up to an ethical resonance which is as bottomless as its darkness.