Meet ILBOUDO Tinga Abraham. He lives in Burkina Faso which is a country in West Africa. Shortly after this photo was taken he proceeded to do a very convincing George W. Bush impersonation. When I first met him he was introduced to me as Abraham, so that is what I called him for almost a year. One day I was thinking about what I called him and it occurred to me that anytime anybody else addressed him they called him Tinga. So one dark November night I phoned him to talk to him about this. Through the static, echo and delay he explained to me that Tinga is his given name and Abraham is his “Christian” name. He often will introduce himself as Abraham to foreigners because it is easier for them to pronounce and remember, but that he would prefer it if I were to call him Tinga. That is what his friends and family call him.
I first met Tinga when he and another man named Paul came to see my wife and I in the small town of Boura, Burkina Faso where we were helping some friends of ours get ready to move back home to Canada. They wanted to tell us about the school that they had started and were working in. Tinga was very different from the other Burkinabe men that we had met up to that point. He was soft spoken, awkward and had a honest humility about him.
Shortly after that meeting we decided we would move to their town of Leo and help them teach in their school. We worked closely with Tinga and quickly became very good friends. Underneath his shy awkwardness, we discovered, lived a very passionate and caring man. His love for educating children and helping others became very clear. He never asked for much more than, “how can I help?” In his evenings he taught French to adults, on Sundays he hosted the region’s only weekly English radio program, and met with a group of local intellectuals to practice speaking English together. Whenever I was with him going somewhere specific it would take twice as long because so many people wanted to greet him. He also likes to be photographed in newly purchased clothes.
In Tinga’s native tongue his name means “land.” Which to me is very appropriate. He is a man of his land and of his country. He loves to talk about the politics of his land and remember the glory days of Thomas Sankara: West Africa’s Che Guevera. He loves to show his land off to me. He has arranged meetings with village chiefs, taken me to get my haircut, brought me to a man who would iron my clothes and teach me his language, shown me ancient historical sites, and introduced me to the social ritual of “african tea” drinking just because he wanted me to experience his country. In return I introduced him to swimming pools, wrapping paper, chicken sandwiches, and The Three Amigos (it’s easy to see who got the better end of that deal). He is proud of where he lives and what his countrymen produce. That is why it was not surprising to me that when my wife and I came back to Canada we began to receive packages in the mail from Tinga with mix CDs and VCDs of Burkinabe artists and musicians. I would like to share one of the more recent collections with you via the AKRADIO (click on the AKRADIO link at the top of www.asthmatickitty.com) Here is the track list:
1. tintin by Meguerito
2. avec plaisir by Meguerito
3. Bitioulou by Solo Dja Kabako
4. Minata by Bamogo de Nobré
5. warba by Bamogo Jean Claude
6. Celine by Yoni
7. zambèla by Idack Bassavé
8. Tanga sèga by Issouf Compaoré
9. Bissongo by Bilgo
10. Wend Konta by Bilgo
11. pende by Tall Mourataga
12. amicha by Théo Blaise
While you are listening to this Tinga is deep into starting a new school in a town called Sapouy. He has named this school The Great Provider Academy and has already built a small office building and a chicken coop on the land that the village elders have set aside for the school. Tinga’s vision for the Great Provider Academy is to provide the children in this region with an education based on the national curriculum augmented with practical training in various applicable trades as well as a solid spiritual foundation that they can use to help provide for themselves and their families in the future. Even if some students are forced to end their education early they will have acquired some valuable skills that they would not have received at any other school in the region.
We are organizing a fundraiser for the school in Calgary, Alberta, Canada on June 27th, 2009. If you or someone you know would like to help out in anyway you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is a photo of Tinga with Asthmatic Kitty recording artist Hermas Zopoula and my wife Heather!