When I met Ismail, I saw a spark in his eye that I recognised from deep inside myself. An ignited human being, someone with the courage to step out of our common conception of 'normal'.
Ismail Benlamlihs travelled through eight countries in five months with a mission - bringing clean water to people in need, and a dream - crossing a continent with local transport. He survived malaria and hepatitis to surf the best wave in the world, Skeleton Bay. African أنا (I'm African) is his story, a documentary about a journey through Africa crossing Morocco, Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Ghana and Namibia. 'I'm African' is not only a record of Ismail's travels, but an example of a surfers individual determination to live closer to nature - leading to local action on the environmental issues of plastic pollution and access to clean water. Since we met in Morocco, we have talked about this common fire, and here are some of his reflections..
"In my short life of 24 years, I have seen a bit of everything - ghettos, jungles, deserts, nightclubs, islands, stadiums, and a bit of everywhere - Asia, Europe, Africa. As a human being I'm now questioning myself and making some new reflections. I realized that what has been driving me towards the north as I grew up, the "first world countries" was the fantasm of consumption. What is driving me towards the so-called "third world countries" is different. I am not looking for economic growth. I am looking to grow as a human being, evolving in the arches of the environment.
What a crazy century we are part of, the abundance of available knowledge seems to have fucked up this globe because it has been not used constructively so far. Can we really talk about a positive evolution when such a large part of the society is depressed, schizophrenic and unhappy?
Where and how do I want to evolve? Do I want to be part of the big circus? This everyday fakeness, where many aspects of life have disappeared, such as love, compassion and sharing? Or do I want to travel on in a sustainable way, marvelling over every aspect of this reality? I've seen the poorest people having the best time of their life whether jamming, dancing or just being. And it feels like I've seen the truth.
I have faced death many times, and found myself more amazed then ever. Going through tough situations allowed me to face my ego and reflect on what my mission is on this planet. I'm now following my own path, my individual anthropological journey on earth. I want to document the happiest people on this planet, I want to choose my own reality. I want to cycle the world, looking for its wonder and live with what I have - not what I wish I had."