In a northern part of the West African nation known as Côte d'Ivoire the savanna undulates and baobab trees rule over the horizon. Nambonkaha, village of Nabon (Stranger), has often been forgotten by the world. Sorcerers here still conjure magic. Electricity's arrival has been endlessly delayed. Sunrise brings the tok tok of women grinding corn with pestles. At times of dancing, young boys smack calabash drum so fast their bare hands blur.
Yet Nambonkaha, for all its innocence, is a little world on the cusp of enormous change—another spot where the modern issues facing all of Africa are beginning to disturb and disrupt. Sarah Erdman, a Peace Corps volunteer in the village for two years, shows us all the reasons we should care, drawing us into the lives of this funny, colorful, and haunting place. Beginning with the faithful but overworked village nurse and his sometimes cantankerous wife, we meet a gallery of village residents—salt sellers and seers, cotton farmers and vieilles, witch doctors and genies—and witness their way of life, death, celebration, and survival. We visit market day, where bejeweled tribeswomen snap up bargain bushrat and glitter for girls' faces. We observe a sacrifice to the ancestors, births complicated by sorcery, and an all-night wedding festival. We attend a graduation where children whose chores leave no time for schoolwork watch diplomas, and the opportunities they represent, pass them by. Erdman also shows us Nambonkaha's first AIDS loss and the beginning of the villagers' struggle to fight against the disease that could destroy their futures and the community that has sustained them. Beautifully written and observed, Nine Hills to Nambonkaha is filled with the grace, dreams, and spirit of this place and its beautiful, unforgettable people.