Monday, May 31, 2010


Photos (top to bottom): photo1: Cecile in make-up, assisted by 5th grade teacher Jenn Kellett; photo2: Ada commented that it would take hours to get the knots out of her hair; photo3: Florien with Annie curls; photo4: Cecile & Vanessa, two orphans; photo5: Vanessa, Sofie and Anouck, as Sandy; photo6: Selma and her video camera-attacking teddy bear; photo7: a pensive Florien in the wings backstage; photo8: Anouck and Florien rehearse a song just before the curtain opens; photo9, 11, 12: the orphans in performance; photo10: Maria solos during the New York scene; photo13: Florien on-stage toward the show's conclusion; photo14: leads take a bow just after Florien's brother (returning from the stage, bottom) presents her with flowers.

Congratulations to the cast and crew of Annie! who performed to rave reviews last Friday night and Saturday afternoon. Cudos to our music teacher, Rebecca Brink, whose patient work over the past several months paid off nicely. Great work all.

Most of the cast were from the middle school, and a majority of them were sixth graders: Cecile, Ada, Carlota, Vanessa, Sofie, Anouck, Maria, Alexandra and, of course, Florien, in the lead role as Annie. These girls are not only classmates, but good friends, which added to their presence on-stage. Several in the cast are former students, now seventh graders: Filipa, Selma, Ben, Mariama and Marie. (Marie, you've got to break out of your shell!)

Florien graciously allowed me to follow and film her on opening night: in make-up before the show, behind the curtains and in the wings during the show, and in celebration backstage after the show.

My media has all been uploaded to YouTube. Sadly, our school stage is set at one end of a basketball gym, and the mic system/acoustics are, as you might expect, not ideal. Note the links below.

Opening Night Prep & Behind-the-Scenes clip1 clip2 clip3 clip4

You'll find over 200 still images on BOT.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

To Ile de Madeleine With the Scouts


A spring weekend on Ile de Madeleine with the ISD Cub Scout troop, many of whom are incoming grade 6 students. A highlight of the trip was encountering a non-venomous green snake (photo5). Photo 6 shows the baobab tree where the protector jinn of the island resides. Visitors are asked to remove their shoes as a sign of respect, as you might entering a mosque, or other sacred places.

Abdul N'Daiye: My Wolof Coach & Sunday School Teacher

Abdul is an over-educated, under-employed Senegalese father two two young children whom I befriended in the spring of '09 when he was selling ice cream at the Shady Shack (a snack bar adjacent to ISD). Abdul is in disguise: he is a university professor of philosophy and linguistics posing as a dishwasher. You might not recognize him were you sitting beside him on a car rapide; he might not reveal himself were you to engage him in conversation. But Abdul is a thinker, a passionate and articulate learner, with a warm, attentive and generous presence.

Abdul and I are reading the Holy Quran together, back to front, the shorter suras coming first. In this way, he is my Sunday School teacher, helping to interpret the ins and outs of Islam and Sufism as they are practiced in Senegal. Abdul offers a unique perspective, being of the culture, but educated in the sciences. He also shares an interest in the practice of Sufism, and a more internal/psychological interpretation of the Holy Quran.

I've included a handful of video clips of Abdul, recorded during a couple of our weekly chats:

Clip1: prophesy, numerology and the Hadis
Clip2: Islamic view of Judgement
Clip3: Islamic view of the soul, sin and forgiveness
Clip4: Sufism in Senegal1
Clip5: Sufism in Senegal2

Clip6: divination and ones personal rab
Clip7: rowans and their influence in our lives
Clip8: rowans and their influence in our lives
Clip9: West African view of jinns, and how our cultural world view shapes our sense/perception of reality

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Collaboration With Lebou Historian Oumar N'Galla Gueye 5

Almamy and I met with Lebou historian, Oumar N’Galla Gueye, again yesterday in Yoff. The two-hour interview was conducted at the home of Omar N’Galla Diene the Grand Diarraf of the Republic of Yoff, an exceptionally important and respected role in Lebou society. Oumar highly respects Mr. Diene, and wishes that we, in the future, include meetings/conversations with notables of the Yoff community.

Oumar possesses one of the most remarkable minds and memory I’ve ever seen. It’s stunning what he can recall, without notes. The specificity and depth is amazing.

This day the interview followed two lines. I initially invited Oumar to speak about the relationship between the Portuguese and the Lebou during the slavery period on Goree. Interestingly, Mr. Diene moved the theme of slavery to the felt sense of slavery under French colonization. He went on to speak about the protection of Lebou cultural values in the present an future.

Oumar then went on to respond to my question about slavery, and two other questions , the first about the roots of Lebou spiritual/religious beliefs (the origin of the jinn, rab, and tuur), and the second about the relationship between the Lebou and the Portuguese.

All clips are to uploaded to Look for the clips of 5.22.

The following video was filmed on 5.13 from Oumar's home during an interview break.

A Friday Evening Performance of the Mouride Zikrullah & Bamba Qasida

Almamy is a Baye Fall. He is a disciple of Iba Fall, who was a disciple and contemporary of Chiekh Amadou Bamba, founder of the Mouride Brotherhood here in Senegal.

Almamy has often referred to his Baye Fall parties on Thursday nights, though these parties involve chanting and prayer rather than beer and nuts.

He invited me to attend a gathering at his marabout’s home in Mermoz Friday night. (The marabout is Almamy’s spiritual teacher, along with thousand of others talibes, or students, some Baye Fall, most simply Mourides.) A group would be performing the zikrullah and a series of Bamba’s poems, called Qasida. The marabout had granted permission for my recording the event as I wanted, so I came armed with both video and audio-recording gear.

The performance began outside the marabout’s home, the group sang the zikrullah, continued into a small living room, lined with couches (we all sat on the floor), then settled in the round, in the center of the room, around eight little stands supporting copies of the Qasida. The group sang a variety of Bamba’s poetry over about 90 minutes. Around midnight, the marabout joined us, and addressed to the group.

Almamy later admonished me for not videotaping the event and, in particular, his marabout’s speech to the group. He was not sympathetic to my felt need to be respectful and not intrude. I had permission, and that was enough.

I found the audio to be very moving, and asked Almamy if he would offer a commentary to accompany a short movie. He deferred to the leader of the performing group, Amadou, and explained that he would offer a better commentary and would be happy to help. So, this we did lat night, here in Ouakam. Amadou spoke about performing the zikrullah and the Qasida, with Almamy’s translation.

You’ll find edited recordings of the zikrullah and Qasida with commentary at




Abdul N'Diaye comments on zikrullah1 2

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Grade 6ers Perform Pirates of Penzance

Our 6th graders last week performed the musical Pirates of Penzance to a packed house of parents, siblings and friends. The performance was videotaped and captured using a digital audio recorder, for a very clean soundtrack. While the kids may flinch at seeing/hearing themselves now, I expect that the recordings will hold important memories for the future.

Cudos to our music teacher, Becca Brink, for taking on such an ambitious task. As with most areas of the arts, the performance of Pirates required much more of students than other content areas. Memorizing lines, assuming a character, singing and acting in front of your classmates, coping with nerves – all this reveals parts of ourselves safely hidden away in a math class.

Note files uploaded to You Tube:

video1 video2 video3 video4 video5 video6 video7 video8 video9 video10 video11 video12 video13 video14 video15 video16

soundtrack1 soundtrack2 soundtrack3 soundtrack4 soundtrack5 soundtrack6 soundtrack7 soundtrack8 soundtrack9 soundtrack10 soundtrack11 soundtrack12 soundtrack13 soundtrack14