Myah Freeman's Experience
When I first arrived in Saint-Louis, it was very difficult
for me to adjust to the newfound culture and language. However, I was quickly reminded by the talibés of
Maison de la Gare that there is no greater language than love.
I sought my position as an Arts, Music, and Excursions teacher primarily because of my love for the arts and my strong belief in its power to transform lives. During my first week, I began to get to know the talibés of the center. At first, they were not the most comfortable with me because they were not fond of me. But I knew to expect this and that it would take time to earn their trust.
Our very first activity consisted of painting a sunset. What inspired me to do this project was Senegal’s beautiful beach scenery. The children really enjoyed my first effort, so I continued to go in this direction. From my previous conversations and research, I had learned a lot about the talibé lifestyle and experience. I was sure to remember one very important fact, that the talibés do not get experiences like this very often. So, something as simple as coloring can be very enjoyable to them. I made it my mission to open them up to as many of these experiences as possible.
After some time, I began to notice the steady growth of excitement about the activities that we were doing. The children would make hand gestures telling me they wanted to draw, following me anytime I was walking toward the classrooms with keys in my hand. I would reply, “Talibés, kay bindu!” (come and give me your names) and they’d come without hesitation. One of my favorite parts about working with the children was their wittiness. Whenever they would follow me, they repeatedly shouted “Myah! Myah!” until they got my attention, pointing at their work in pursuit of my affirmation. Once I replied “Rafetna!” (It’s pretty), they would smile ear to ear or make this silly expression where they flick their tongue out and nod their head, and then proceed to create their masterpieces.
When I first arrived, there was a minimal amount of art on the classroom walls. The talibés did an amazing job changing that. After every project, I had the pleasure of hanging their work up on the walls and bit-by-bit, the classroom transformed into an art gallery. My favorite part about this was them being able to look at their work and be proud. Too often, the arts go unnoticed and unappreciated, so this was a first step toward changing that.
The pieces that they created can serve as a reminder to the talibés that they are a lot more capable than they know, and I hope that it encourages them to continue to try something new. Working with the talibés has helped me to discover new things about myself. It was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had thus far.
So, to the talibés I say thank you. Thank you for allowing me to share my passion with you. Thank you for embracing me into your community. Thank you for reminding me that, despite the language barriers, ultimately love is the most universal language.
Please click here for the full article that Myah wrote about her experiences at Maison de la Gare, illustrated with many photos.