It was a privilege and an honour to get to know Ariane over the past few days. And now, equally, it is my pleasure to introduce her to you, my global audience.
But who is she?
Well, Ariane works at Refuge de Farino, where I spent the last five days, and this is how we met. She is the “femme de ménage”, which is without doubt the most important job on the compound. She has been doing this work for sixteen years now.
Every time we met, we would smile at each other (it’s hard not to smile back at such a face, I tell you) and exchange a few words in French. Because my knowledge of this beautiful language is rather limited, so were our conversations. But nonetheless, it was always a pleasure to talk to her.
Today, on the day of my departure from Farino, I took all my courage and asked if I might take some photos of her and ask her a few questions. Needless to say, she said yes without hesitation.
I have to admit I was a bit nervous, but that went away very quickly. I think she was a bit surprised but also a little bit flattered that I wanted to write an article about her. I know she is going to read it, because I gave her the URL of this blog.
(Salut, Ariane! Ça va?)
Ariane told me that she was born in nearby La Foa and has lived in this region ever since. She now lives with the Kanak tribe (tribu) of Grand Couli. They are one of three tribes in the village of Sarraméa, the other two being Petit Couli and the Sarraméa tribe. When I asked whether she could ever imagine to live elsewhere, perhaps in a city, the reply was a very clear NO. At home she speaks the local Melanesian language, but she has also always known French as a second language. It can be very practical to know both languages – sometimes maybe you don’t want to be understood, so you just switch from French to your mother tongue…
You may have heard about the discussion in this country (sometimes an open conflict even) about a possible complete separation from France, and about Nouvelle-Calédonie becoming the independent state of Kanaky as a result. Ariane said she was in favour of such an independence, but that such a new state should be a home for all kinds of people, regardless of their ethnicity, origin or skin colour. She also made it clear (that was actually after the end of our little interview) that there is everyday racism in New Caledonia. She mentioned several cases in which people of colour were discriminated against because of their ‘race’, for instance on the labour market. When I asked if things were improving in this regard, she said she didn’t think so. It may not be as bad as in Australia with the marginalisation of the Aboriginal people, but that is rather cold comfort and not much solace.
Here she is, mother of four children, three of whom are already in their late twenties, plus one latecomer who is ten years old (le petit) and goes to primary school in La Foa.
When we parted, we both agreed that we have to meet again one day. In the meantime, I wish her and her family all the best. Merci pour l’entretien. Ta-ta!
PS: I have added a new category to this blog, “meet the locals”. There are two entries in it so far, “Alice” and now “Ariane”. To be continued!
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