Fulbright Scholar -- 2013/2014 Saint Louis, Senegal

A Bientôt

“It would take an act of god,” I thought when I submitted my application for a Fulbright fellowship to teach American and African American Literature in Senegal.  I was a French major who had never found the resources to study or work in a francophone country.  I had passed the written test but failed the oral exam for Foreign Service applicants three times.  I had applied to the Peace Corps four times without success.  So last March when I learned I had been selected as a Fulbright Fellow for the 2013-2014 academic year, I broke down and cried.

Africa, Atlanta, and the Aéropostale

When I left Atlanta for Senegal on an Air France flight operated by Delta Air Lines, I thought that Aéropostale was just the name of a retail outlet.  Although the exploits of Jean Mermoz and other Aéropostale aviators rank with those of the Wright brothers or Charles Lindberg, I had never heard of these cockpit cowboys who pioneered an airborne equivalent of the Pony Express.

Keur Domu Sagar

If a little Senegalese girl is lucky enough to own a doll, it will most likely be white.  Consequently girls often name their dolls “Bébé Toubab.”  Since toubab means “foreigner,” it applies to black Americans like me as well as to Europeans and Asians but outside of the display dolls made for the tourist trade, there are almost no dolls that look like people of African descent available here in Senegal. 

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Regards d'enfants

At the end of my Fulbright tenure, I co-curated a children’s art exhibit with Alioune Kébé titled “Regards d’enfants” at the Institut Français’ Galérie du fleuve. The exhibit featured works created by children who participated in workshops I had conducted in conjunction with the gallery shows from January through May.  We organized a day of workshops on Islamic art during the “Regards d’enfants” exhibition and a 12-year-old boy I trained shot this 4-minute documentary about the event with an iPod Touch 5. 

Welcome to Gorée Island

I had dreamed of visiting Senegal and making a pilgrimage to Gorée Island for over 30 years.  In April my friend, Freddi Williams Evans was invited to give several presentations in Dakar. Freddi is the author of Congo Square: African Roots in New Orleans, which won the 2011 Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities award.  While we were in Dakar, Freddi and I visited Gorée Island.  Afterwards I produced this short documentary about Insa Sané, a sand painter

The Digital Book

I had brought a Mobile Media Lab consisting of six iPod Touch 5 devices with me intending to use them to make eBooks available to my university students during class meetings.  Since I ended up teaching English conversation at ISM instead of literature classes at UGB, I used the iPods to conduct digital storytelling and drawing workshops.  This video documents the digital storytelling workshops I conducted for the Institut Français booth at the Foire du livre in Dakar in December 2013.