A Fortune Teller in Niger

In a new article on GoNOMAD, writer Alexis Wolff talks about a trip to Niger, and how she met with the fortune tellers in the villages. Here’s a selection from the article.

Women in Niger pounding millet - photos by Alexis Wolff
Women in Niger pounding millet – photos by Alexis Wolff

It was a month or so into my semester abroad in Niger — a West African country that few Americans have heard of, let alone visited — and my Zarma professor had decided that instead of having our normal class, she was going to take me and the two other American students to see her zima, also known as a fetisher, or a seer, or reader of cowry shells.

I’d never had much faith in such things, but if this was a part of Nigerian culture, I was eager to experience it. Opportunities like this were why I’d decided to study abroad here.

I wanted to learn about West Africa, but I knew that since the region — and Niger in particular — had almost no tourist industry, the few foreigners who visited had trouble tapping into the local culture.

The director of my study abroad program, however, was an American who had lived in Niger for almost two decades; her connections allowed the other students and me to experience things few foreigners ever had.

When I saw that the zima was wearing FUBU jeans and thick gold chain, though, I lost any hope of authenticity. I no longer expected to witness an age-old Nigerien tradition. Still, mostly because I suspected it would be amusing, I followed the zima into the thatched hut behind his home and sat cross-legged beside my professor and the other students.

Read the rest of the article at GoNOMAD.com