In our schools

Performers share African culture with students, bust myths

By Sarah E. Reynolds | Feb 27, 2014
Photo by: Sarah E. Reynolds Dancer Oumar Sanneh, center, accompanied on traditional African drums by Baye Balla Diouf, left, and Bara Mboup, performs for students at Appleton Village School Monday, Feb. 24. Sanneh said he had been dancing since he was 6 years old.
Senegalese dancers at Appleton Village School
(Video by: Sarah Reynolds)
Kids learn African dance
Students at Appleton Village School dance with members of the Senegal African Dance and Drum Troupe. (Video by: Sarah E. Reynolds)

Appleton — Three performers from Senegal drummed and danced their way around School Union 69 Monday, Feb. 24.

Sponsored by Partners for Enrichment, the Senegal African Dance and Drum Troupe performed for students at K-8 schools in Appleton, Hope and Lincolnville. In traditional costumes and face paint, they demonstrated dances and drumming, taught a few phrases of Wolof, the lingua franca of Senegal, and even got students and teachers clapping and dancing along with them.

At Appleton Village School, children learned the phrase “Waaw, waaw,” or “Yes, yes,” which the performers called on them to shout out at different points. The three men explained that, although many people who know little about Africa think of it as filled with wild animals and people who wear little or no clothing, in fact, many Africans live in metropolises and may never have seen such animals as lions, tigers and elephants. And they dress as other city dwellers do. The continent contains 54 countries, where more than 2,000 languages are spoken, the performers said. The three of them speak 11 languages, they said, including Wolof, French and English, the last of which is less common in Senegal.

They played a djembe, a medium-sized hand-held drum covered with goat skin, and a set of three drums of different sizes covered with cowhide. They told how, before modern methods of communication, the drums were used to send messages.

The three men, Bara Mboup, Baye Balla Diouf and Oumar “Niancho” Sanneh, are touring North America for the fourth year in a row; each year they visit up to 2,000 schools in the United States, Canada and Mexico between September and June before returning home to Dakar, Senegal's capital.

Speaking to Linda Robbins' seventh- and eighth-grade literacy class after the performance, they said the school year in their home country is the same as here. Students in Senegal study French, Arabic, math and other subjects. They said the weather there is hot, but seldom humid.

The troupe tours to share their culture and to educate North American students and teachers about their homeland.

The Senegal African Dance and Drum Troupe, from left, Baye Balla Diouf (partly hidden), Oumar "Niancho" Sanneh and Bara Mboup, perform traditional drumming and dancing and talk about their culture at Appleton Village School Monday, Feb. 24. The group visited schools in Hope and Lincolnville the same day. (Photo by: Sarah E. Reynolds)
Oumar 'Niancho' Sanneh, right, performs an athletic dance of his native Senegal for Appleton Village School students Monday, Feb. 24. He is accompanied by Baye Balla Diouf, left, and Bara Mboup, not pictured. (Photo by: Sarah E. Reynolds)
Oumar Sanneh, of the Senegal African Dance and Drum Troupe, finishes a dance at Appleton Village School Monday, Feb. 24. On drums is Bara Mboup. (Photo by: Sarah E. Reynolds)
Appleton Village School fourth-grade teacher Buffy Ludwick tries out an African dance move Monday, Feb. 24. Performers got both students and teachers on their feet during the school assembly. (Photo by: Sarah E. Reynolds)
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