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Yukon brought closer to Africa

Last summer, Thierry Haddad decided that he wanted to show the people of Whitehorse a little more about Africa.

Last summer, Thierry Haddad decided that he wanted to show the people of Whitehorse a little more about Africa.

But plane tickets are a bit expansive, so he decided to use film.

Haddad began Yukafrik, which is organizing a series of seven African films.

The series began in October, and will feature one film a month until May.

Haddad was born in the Ivory Coast.

He moved to Canada in March 2006 and made his way to Whitehorse.

 Understandably, he has found the Canadian North to be somewhat different from his homeland.

“In Africa when you meet someone you touch them and give them three kisses — men will hold hands walking down the street,” said Haddad.

“Here everyone has a personal space. It took me a little while to learn that.”

The African film series is the first of many events that Haddad hopes to organize to bridge the Yukon with Africa.

He hopes that the films inspire people to learn more about the continent and, perhaps, even travel there to see for themselves.

Eventually, he would like to start an exchange for artists, so that Yukoners could experience Africa first hand.

“We could send something like 10 people over there and then have 10 people come here to visit,” he said. “I think it could be fun.”

Yukafrik’s next film, showing at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow at the Whitehorse Public Library, is an adaptation of Bizet’s Carmen.

U-Carmen eKhayelitsha replaces the infamous gypsy woman with an alluring cigarette-factory worker who seduces a policeman who is engaged to another woman.

The musical reworks some of the original music from the tragic opera by adapting them into !osa (the exclamation point is pronounced with a click of the tongue).

For those with trouble understanding the clicking South African language, English subtitles are provided.

Aside from the film industry, Africa has a lot of art to share.

Music is another one of Africa’s greatest cultural exports.

Although rare in Canada, Congolese music is very popular in Europe and South Africa, said Fair Aid Society founder Joanne Leung.

Especially the music from the Congo’s capital city of Kinshasa.

“The country is so discombobulated; even the music in Kinshasa doesn’t necessarily filter  into the rest of the country,” she said.

“It would filter over here quicker.”

This is because of the lack of infrastructure in the country.

“There’s 3,000 kilometres of road and only 10,000 landlines for telephones for a country of 65 million people,” she said.

“It’s just totally isolated.”

Leung first travelled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1993 —when it was called Zaire — to do volunteer work.

She has since been back a number of times and founded the Fair Aid Society to raise money for medical treatment in the impoverish nation.

The film series is free, but moviegoers are encouraged to give a donation.

Half the money raised goes to Yukafrik, to be put towards getting new films and putting on more events.

The other half goes to the Yukon’s Fair Aid Society.

At the last show, $70 was raised.

That $35 could be used to pay for 12 HIV tests or 64 pairs of sterile gloves or 350 days worth of vitamins.

The film series appeals to two different types of people, said Haddad.

“There are people that travel a lot and are already interested in Africa.

“And there are kids and young adults who don’t know much about Africa and might be curious to learn more.

“We want to raise their awareness.”

Twenty-one people showed up for the first viewing — more than Haddad had expected.

He hopes that as word gets out, the film series will continue to grow.

“If there is enough interest, we might move to a different location, something bigger,” said Haddad.

“I’d love to fill a whole movie theatre.”

With the exception of the Constant Gardener, a British film, all of the movies being shown were created by African directors.

Films hail from South Africa, Mali, Senegal and Egypt.

The film genres are nearly as diverse as Africa itself, ranging from serious dramas to fantasy and a musical comedy.

For those unable to attend the movie night, the DVDs are available to borrow after the movies are shown.

Yukafrik is looking for partners to help sponsor the events.

Anyone that can help in any way is more than welcome.

A partner at the October film provided guests with free cookies.

Thursday’s movie night will be the last until the New Year as Haddad is planning to spend December visiting at home.

While back in the Ivory Coast, he will be searching out new films to bring back to share with Yukoners.

Leung will be going to Africa as well.

On November 24 she’ll travel to Lubumbashi, Congo’s second largest city.

She’ll be taking with her the thousands of dollars in Yukon donation money.

It looks as if the Yukon and Africa are doing a fair bit of exchanging already.