Bingo: Africa; Postcard: Côte d’Ivoire
In Nouchi, the popular slang of the Ivoirian city of Abidjan, standing heavy means a lowly paid job that keeps the employee on their feet. This witty novel takes us into the heads of young men from Côte d’Ivoire at the end of long chains of Parisian subcontracted security services, their lack of papers overlooked so long as they meet the racist morphological profile – heavy-set, tall, strong, deferential, and scary.
Getting paid for standing is not as easy as it might seem. Surviving in the job “… requires either knowing how to empty your mind of every thought higher than instinct and spinal reflex or having a very engrossing inner life”. One strand of the narrative shares the fragmentary inner musings of a security guard as he wryly observes the customers and policies of high end retail, deconstructing the absurdities of late stage capitalism: “women (who) buy clothes as if they were perishable goods”, “children who are half-princeling, half prisoner”, a “daughter (who) still has many years of sulking ahead of her”, the likelihood of a garment being named after an endangered species increasing with its concentration of viscose, Sephora as Mecca with the Christian Dior concession as the Ka’bah towards which all women turn, hijabis exchanging beauty tips with escorts and trans women in the early hours.
The second strand places this stream of consciousness into its colonial context, telling the stories of three men who guard the flour mills by the river. Ferdinand arrives in the 60s, when the mills are a going concern, and his Ivoirian government owned accommodation is a hotbed of student activism. Ossiri and Kassoum arrive in the 90s, when the mills are empty awaiting gentrification and immigration is becoming dangerously racialised and politicised, even before Kassoum races back to his prehab guard station from filling his canine colleague’s bowl to watch the second tower falling on his TV.