Ivorian journalist and writer Serge Bilé published a few months ago “Yasuke, the black samurai”. This is the exciting adventure of a slave torn from his native Africa, who then became the first foreigner to join the prestigious Japanese warrior elite.
Who is Yasuke ?
He is a man from the Makua community of present-day Mozambique, who was captured by slave traders in the 16th century and sold to Goa in India by Portuguese slave traders. Becoming the servant of an Italian Jesuit, he accompanied him on a trip to Macau, China, and then to the island of Kyushu in Japan.
There, he is spotted by a local lord, who, impressed by his size and strength, offers him to become a fighter at his service. This lord raises him to the rank of samurai, the first in history not to be Japanese.
Serge Bilé and the writing of the novel
Although he is the first foreigner to become a samurai, his existence has almost disappeared from the national memory. Testimonies about his life are rare. Serge Bilé turned to the Japanese and Portuguese archives to feed his work. He also imagined what could be the journey of the samurai from the information he obtained, without disguising the story, an exercise he has been doing for fifteen years.
Serge Bilé, as in all of his works, highlights the black personalities whose history is too often obscured: “I like to tell forgotten stories because I tell myself that we had a role in history that is a role that has been overshadowed (…). We forget a lot of things because precisely there is a memory that is selective. I want to find that forgotten memory because it is the memory of our ancestors, it is the memory of our parents. ”