Friday, February 6, 2009

art in the village!

i've always felt that one of the keys to development is developing creativity within children. this hasn't been made any clearer than in senegal. there is a style of "this is the way things have always been done" in senegal which makes venturing into new ideas or projects somewhat difficult at times. education in this country is not the best nor does it focus on giving children options or choices or stimulus in creativity. kids learn to write the same, recite the same, often, think the same. therefore, i feel like if we start encouraging creativity in kids, start prodding them to think outside of the box, when they get older, they may be more apt to new ideas and new ways of doing things.

i had a talk with emmanuel, the new french teacher who has been affecte'ed (sent) to our village, about this and asked if i could start working with his students doing some art classes. he heartily agreed.

i just had my first art class and it was lots of fun and i'm in love with all 31 of the students (ranging in ages 4 to 11). for our first project, i decided to do an "evaluation" project -- i wanted to see where they were at in terms of creativity, ability, independence , and willingness. so we wrote our names, drew ourselves, and a few things about ourselves. for an example, i drew myself, a book, a cat, a carrot (things i like to eat), and a tree.

at first they were completely befuddled. even writing their names was a process -- most of them didn't even know how (shows the quality of the french school...). when it came to drawing themselves, they all claimed they didn't know how...which i guess makes sense since barely anybody has a mirror, and if they do, it is just a small piece of one. so emmanuel drew a generic one on the board and that got them started -- although some of them actually went their own route.

one kid, ablaye, was even drawing and talking to himself and at one point exclaimed, "ey wey! xoolal sama tank baram!" ("hey, wow! look at my toes!) as he was drawing his feet. i wanted to scoop him up and hug him.

they were again stumped when it came to drawing things about themselves -- i had to list things they might want to draw: huts, soccer balls, mortars and pestles (the little girls pound millet and other things in gigantic wooden mortars and pestles). it is hard for them, i guess, to think of their "favorite" things as they aren't given much choice in their lives, but after a stall they all got really into it. they were very diligent and there was a hushed clamoring for sharing crayons and erasers and rulers (some of them are perfectionists).

every now and then there was a sparkle, a hint of creativity -- basically something nobody else hadn't dawn yet like a cow, a car, a bowl of ceeb u jen (fish and rice), somebody making tea, a dress. as soon as i would comment on the new item, everybody else would scramble to draw it as well.

of course there were a few cats, but no books (disappointingly). ultimately i was happy because nobody drew themselves as a chinois with a lip ring. they were so cute! i totally enjoyed that class and can't wait to have the next.

earlier in the day i was moping around my room because i have a horrible cough that really hurts and it was cold and grey when the world vision car came up to the house with talla and malick -- they had come to get me because the health person from mbirkelane had come all the way out to come meet me. he works for world vision in partnership with USAID and when he heard there was a PCV in the bush, he said he had to come and meet me so that we could start working together. he speaks a little english, which makes me feel a bit more relaxed, as we both speak broken versions of each other's language. i guess it makes me feel a little less like an idiot. we have a temporary meeting planned for the 20th. i'm excited -- now i can get mosquito nets and have health related projects.

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