When? 30 October – 4 November 2023
Where? Tabacounda, Senegal
Institution: Tambacounda Regional Cultural Center
Facilitator: Dr Valeria Pica
Pre-Texts – Slamgraff
The Pre-Texts experience conducted in Senegal took place as part of the Slamgraff Festival organized by Slam’Art Tamba and the CLAP (Centre for Literature, Art, and Philosophy) developed within the Mame Cheikh Mbaye High School in Tambacounda. The Festival has reached its 4th edition and the theme proposed for 2023 was global warming and environmental protection which in this area acquires an even more important meaning. Indeed, Tambacounda is located approximately 460 km east-southeast of Dakar, the city is surrounded by a savannah with tall grass and acacia trees. Before French colonization, there was a Mandingo village, and following the French conquest the area acquired growing interest from settlers, and numerous buildings were built, including the railway station. At the beginning of the 20th century, nomadic shepherds from Mali arrived in the area and were mainly used for deforestation work which radically transformed the territory and the local economy leading to current economic issues in terms of global warming. Furthermore, the area has experienced a demographic increase which has seen the population grow from around 42,000 inhabitants in 1988 to the current 90,000 with consequences on the social fabric.
The preparation of the protocol also required a search for assessment scales validated in French, as this was the first workshop held in a French-speaking country. For this reason, questionnaires were prepared and submitted to the participants following the scales shown below:
In addition to the preparation of the questionnaires, the informed consent forms and releases for the use of the images and materials created during the laboratory for research purposes were also prepared. All the necessary supports have been prepared (prints, crayons, sheets of paper, clothespins, etc.) so as not to burden the organization of the festival and to make the work of the participants and the facilitator smoother. Finally, a complex text was chosen that had a connection with the theme of the festival in order to create coherence with other activities in which the participants were engaged. The text is Météorologie poétique: les nuages chez Goethe (Poetic meteorology: clouds in Goethe’s work), an article written by Giovanna Pinna on the descriptions and making of metaphors on clouds used by Goethe in his poetic production. This text provides many mental images and above all it is linked to the theme of the Festival, giving participants the possibility of inferring through artistic genres and building tracks for the creation of art starting from the text.
The phases of the laboratory respected the sequence of the protocol and starting from the ice-breaking action, Games for Actor and Non-Actors exercises allowed the participants to ease the tension and start a dialogue with all those present.
The reading aloud was held in the library of the Regional Cultural Center of Tambacounda where the entire workshop took place and where the Slamgraff Festival would also be held in the following days. A volunteer read the text about Goethe’s clouds and the others drawn the covers of the book following the suggestions that came to them from the text. The drawings were displayed on the clothesline and so at the end of the first session, everyone was able to see each other’s work in a very serene and friendly atmosphere.
The following day we asked questions to the text and this activity firstly allowed to share knowledge about what the science of meteorology is, what the scientific names of clouds are, who Goethe was, and why he was so interested in the topic. Some questions were more complex than others and required greater concentration from the participants to find an answer. At the end of the session, in the round of questions about what we had done, there was the first declaration of satisfaction from a girl who declared to be proud of herself for having spoken and being able to express her thoughts in public.
The participants then got off the tangent with a small variation. Since it was not possible to ask the participants to bring books or magazines from home, we used the texts present in the library, and the first part of the third day was dedicated to the choice of images with short texts that could have a reference to the text read the first day. When everyone had chosen their image, they were then asked to associate a word that expressed an emotion or an idea. From the word they choose, they were subsequently asked to write a short sentence that better explained that emotion.
In identifying the images, two groups were naturally created between those who had associated the clouds with the sea and those who had associated them with the earth; so, it was quite natural to create two working groups who then used all the “emotions” to create a collective slam. Therefore, through the sequence of tangents, it was possible to start from the theme of the festival (global warming and environment protection) which also required an awareness of the local community; afterwards, by going through the meanings of the complex text (Goethe and the clouds), it was possible to observe, analyze and describe the emotions tied to the clouds and define two working groups that identified the sea and the earth as the elements that were best associated with their emotions. Finally, the creative process allowed them to follow a natural sequence which from the tangent led to the association of images and words and then to the creation of a collective slam poetic text which was performed first during the festival.
Below are the slams in French created by the groups which were then divided into two macro areas, sea and land, and their respective English translations.
L’amour erre dans le ciel
L’homme s’accouple à l’image des nuages
Un voyage terrestre vers le ciel
La mer, berceau de mes Confidences
Oui, je me confie sans exigences
Mon être s’épanouit au bord de la mer
En scrutant ces buffets de fumée, je m’évade à travers ces merveilles
Ces nuages qui, m’éveillent et me surveillent
Content de ce temps où les vagues de la mer veillent
Oui, content de ce temps où la fraîcheur de la mer me réveille
Les vapeurs de la mer se condensent dans l’atmosphère
Le ciel est menacé par les hommes de cette terre
Les déchets brûlés font perturber l’atmosphère
Le manque de pluie est causé par ces phénomènes amères
Cette sensation que je ressens
Au plus profond de mon âme quand je contemple, les nuages où la mer est comme les étoiles
Oui, comme les étoiles,
Certains sont parfois visibles à l’œil nu, parfois cachés, mais quoiqu’il il arrive ils brillent toujours.
Love wanders in the sky
Man mates in the image of clouds
A journey from earth to heaven
The sea, cradle of my Confidences
Yes, I confide without demands
My being flourishes by the sea
By scrutinizing these buffets of smoke, I escape through these wonders
These clouds which wake me up and watch over me
Happy with this time when the waves of the sea watch
Yes, happy with this time when the freshness of the sea wakes me up
Sea vapors condense in the atmosphere
The sky is threatened by the men of this earth
Burned waste disrupts the atmosphere
Lack of rain is caused by these bitter phenomena
This feeling that I feel
Deep in my soul when I contemplate, the clouds where the sea is like the stars
Yes, like the stars,
Some are sometimes visible to the naked eye, sometimes hidden, but whatever happens they always shine.
Le désespoir s’efface et laisse place à ce sentiment qui m’anime
Qui me pousse à y croire et y faire croire aux autres
L’espoir m’anime et prend comme ami
Que les nuages en soi témoin face aux désastres humains
La beauté de la terre se calcule en moins
Sur la terre écorchée, l’orage gronde, le vent sifle, la mer vagabonde
Le soleil pleurer, sa chaleur se morfond, la planète saigne et l’humanité répond
Je rêve de voyager, de voir ces belles montagnes qui nous donnent envie d’y rester et admirer la lune qui brille
Si la terre est notre planète commune que chaque terre soit une aubaine pour chacun
Alors que tout le monde y mette du sien car chaque geste compte chaque pas, chaque soufflé
est un espoir pour une planète meurtrie, un Eden à sauver malgré le désespoir
Écoutans les murmures du vent, les cris des océans, les appels des cieux pour tisser un avenir en harmonie ou là nature reprend son souffle radieux
Despair fades and gives way to this feeling that drives me
Who pushes me to believe it and make others believe it
Hope animates me and takes me as a friend
May the clouds themselves witness to human disasters
The beauty of the earth is calculated in less
On the torn earth, the storm roars, the wind whistles, the sea wanders
The sun cries, its heat languishes, the planet bleeds and humanity responds
I dream of traveling, of seeing these beautiful mountains that make us want to stay there and admire the shining moon
If the earth is our common planet, may each land be a boon for everyone
While everyone is doing their part because every gesture counts, every step, every breath is hope for a battered planet, an Eden to be saved despite despair.
Let us listen to the whispers of the wind, the cries of the oceans, the calls of the heavens to weave a future in harmony where nature takes back its radiant breath
The first results and the participants’ statements confirmed the achievement of the objectives of the protocol summarized in:
In fact, by enhancing the creative and expressive abilities of the participants, the protocol revolves around the idea of restoring the essence of learning and social inclusion through collective play. It emphasizes the idea that no text is intrinsically “impossible” or boring if approached with a shared method that exploits the creative and expressive abilities that everyone possesses. This approach emphasizes collaboration within an inclusive community, where individuals engage in playful learning together, rather than isolation or competition.
The best result is summarized in the message of one of the shyest girls in the group who on the first day hadn’t even managed to pronounce her name and who days after the end of the festival she wrote: “Oh, but I’m so happy. You made me proud of myself”
The questionnaires filled at the beginning and at the end of the protocol will give more information on the Pre-Texts experience in Tambacounda. As for now, the fist outcomes are encouraging and the participants’ manifestations of interest and appreciation of the workshop can be considered as the springboard to implement the Pre-Texts protocol in the town due the interests of the Mame Cheikh Mbaye High School professors, the CLAP members, and local associations to involve other students to improve their self-perception and continue the process of empowerment.