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Na nga def! Bonjour! Salmaama Aleekum!
Third grade students at PS 295 shared greetings in Woloff, French and Arabic, three of the many languages spoken in Senegal. For the second year in a row, students at the South Slope school explored the culture and music of a West African nation through The Bringing World Cultures to Life program, generously funded by the Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation. Guided by BAC Teaching Artists, Asma Feyijimni and Oneza Lafontant, students and teachers explored traditional and contemporary sounds of Senegal and the African Diaspora. While playing percussion rhythms on djembe drums and shekeres, students expanded their cultural and musical vocabulary and learned the importance of working together as they developed polyrhythmic beats. They studied call and response chants and community building skills such as leadership, tolerance, and respect. During the culminating performance in February, an “open studio” facilitated by Feyijimni and Lafontant that was attended by many of the students’ parents, the third graders demonstrated their newfound knowledge of West African culture through drumming and dance demonstrations, while also defining and explaining key terms. At the reception immediately following the sharing, students and their guests enjoyed a taste of West African cuisine--vegetable pastilles provided by a local restaurant. Through the work of BAC’s dedicated teaching artists, the music, language, and culture of Africa became a rich and unforgettable part of these Brooklyn students’ lives.
Photos by Arts in Education Manager Wéma Harris.