My writing project with the aspiring writers of Farendé is nearing an end, and our classes over the past two weeks have been busier than ever as we prepare to publish the writers’ finished works on their own class website. The group is now comprised of seven writers (up from the three regulars, Théo, Essotam, and Jules, who have been coming since day one) and is called Le Collectif Littéraire des Jeunes de Farendé (CLJF,) a name we chose from seven options in a dramatic blind vote. Mackenzie also introduced the beatnik snap as a form of applause after a writer reads their work aloud in class, which I think, along with the prospect of posting their writing online, has boosted group cohesiveness, spirit, and attendance to an all time high. Besides having individual portraits taken for the web site, writing author bios, and typing up their final, corrected poems, tales, and essays, the students were treated to a performance of Kabiyé poetry by Jesper Karma, who sang three poems to the rhythm of two bottle caps which he tapped together. We’re also hosting a closing ceremony, a literary salon at the cybère, at 6 pm on Saturday. Family, friends, and the community at large are invited to hear the authors read their favorite pieces aloud, enjoy refreshments, and see the website unveiled.
With regards to the cybère’s library, I’m wrapping up the book catalogue and writing a list of contacts and action items that a future Duke student might use to get the library up and running. I have interviewed the director of the schools, David, about which books the library lacks and how the schools could incorporate the library into their curriculum. I also spoke with David and the pastor at my host family’s church about collecting donations at the churches in Farendé and in Kuwdé, in order to raise money to buy new books. Unfortunately, I won’t be here to oversee the completion of these tasks, but I’m glad to leave a base upon which a future student can build. A well-stocked library with active community programs would, I believe, greatly enrich Farendé.
I couldn’t be more pleased with the enthusiasm, dedication, and hard work that my students have put into the writers’ society. I came here uncertain that my project would even get off the ground, due to what I feared would be a lack of interest in reading and writing for pleasure. However, it proved to be the opposite. They have not only written a lot and well from the inspiration they find in their daily lives in Farendé, they have also participated in our discussions of a wide variety of well known English and French literature – the poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks, Guillaume Apollinaire, and Albert Lozeau; the stories of Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck; and excerpts from Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu and Céline’s last novel, Rigodon (1961.) Although there won’t be anyone to keep CLJF going after I leave (at least until next summer!) I want to encourage the students to keep writing and email me their pieces, which I would love to read and discuss with them. I’ll also show them how to find reading material online, which will enable them to satisfy their thirst for literature until the library is complete.
Thank you to everyone who made my project possible—in no particular order, Jesper and Elie Christophe Karma, Cyril Moutak, Charles Piot, Mackenzie Cramblit, and DukeEngage. You’ve all helped me learn that giving of one’s time, energy, and passion, combined with a mutual willingness to learn about new cultures, is a reliable recipe for any successful project. Peace, Togo! It’s been quite an adventure.