Photo credit: Flavia Giordani
Seydu was born in Koutiala, a village in the Sikasso region of Mali. He is 35, has bright brown eyes, dreadlocks and calls himself a "Rastafari." He stands as head of the family, being the eldest of four siblings, after both his parents died. With few opportunities to work in his native village, he decided to migrate to Mauritania to take care of his family. He chose a village in the south east of the country, Bassiknou, where a large community of Malian migrants was already established.
“I have to admit, it was a leap of faith,” Seydu said, “I was young and I didn’t know what to expect or if I would be strong enough. But I had to do it,” he added. Seydu arrived in Bassinkou in 2011 with one dream: to open his own welding shop.
“I started doing small jobs here and there to scrape together the money to open my studio. I rented a room with no water, no electricity, for 15,000 Ouguiya a month (41 USD). It was not easy, but I was happy. I never felt the cold of loneliness because, since the beginning, locals treated me as one of them. Their secret is hospitality. Hospitality is a must here - like tea, three times a day!”
After two years of daily savings, he finally opened his own welding shop in 2013. He married a fellow Malian, Ibella, and they have two children. Seydu and his family have fully integrated in the local community. “I am a lucky man”, he said.
He recently signed a contract with an international NGO operating in Bassiknou, which provides him with a steady income, allowing him to send money to relatives in Mali. “My brothers and sisters have a house now in Mali, and our children will have a better future than us,” he added, beaming with pride. “I am doing well here. I would like to stay, at least until the political turmoil in my country calms down.”