Bronx Educators and U.S. Embassy Kickoff African Festival in Senegal

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SenegalBronx university and public school arts educators unveiled the first of many exhibits and performances at the 2010 World Festival of Black Arts and Cultures in Dakar Senegal. The highly anticipated ‘World Festival’ officially began on December 10th and runs through December 31st It is the largest Diaspora celebration on the African continent since the 1977 FESTAC in Nigeria. Almost two weeks before the official opening, the United States Embassy of Dakar and the Senegalese American Bilingual School (SABS) brought “The Color of Comics Exhibit” (COC) a 40 piece presentation curated by Gene Adams, the director of Collaborative Education Programs at Bronx Community College, and Alex Simmons, founder of the Kids Comic Con to Dakar. “The COC exhibit is a colorful and vibrant collection of comic book illustration art that celebrates Blacks and other people of color in the comic book genre”, said Adams. Artists whose works appears in the exhibit include Akinseye Brown, Eric Battle, Cisse Samba Ndar and Ann Sibley O’Brien.

Since 2006, Adams and Simmons have gained national recognition for their efforts using comic books as a viable tool for building art and literacy through hands-on workshops, teacher professional development training, and the COC exhibit. “Over the last few years over 5,000 children and teenagers have taken our writing and art workshops and thousands more have viewed our exhibit. The U.S Embassy invitation to Dakar has given us the opportunity to reach kids on a global level,” said Simmons. Since December 1st Adams, Simmons, and Bronx middle school art teacher Ray Felix have worked behind the scenes in preparation for the World Festival by installing the COC Exhibit at the American Cultural Center in downtown Dakar and providing comic book art and writing workshops for over 800 Senegalese elementary, middle, and high school students. Felix has written and illustrated his own successful independent comic book series ‘Run Away Slave’. “This was a great experience for me as an artist and educator. Children in Senegal have the same need for creative expression as children in the Bronx,” commented Felix.

“The U.S. Embassy and my school collaborated in getting Gene and Alex to Dakar as a way of bringing art to children and offering Senegalese teachers new techniques for instruction,” said Stephanie Kane the director of SABS. In partnership with the Ministry of Education, the team provided professional development workshops for 60 eager teachers in the application of comic books in the classroom. The University of Dakar hosted a standing-room- only panel discussion that included two of Senegal’s renowned arts educators, illustrator Cisse Samba Ndar and chemical engineer turned cartoon and animation advocate, Dr. Albat Mendy. The panel discussed challenges to developing a comic book industry in Africa and the practical use of comics in educating villagers about health and social issues.

As the Bronx team was wrapping up their pre-World Festival workshops, other established artists and performers from the African Diaspora were arriving for the three-week event. Dancers, musicians, theatre companies and visual artists from throughout Africa, the Caribbean, South America and the United States are sharing their talents with visitors from over 80 countries. A sample of the artists that will be appearing include Wyclef Jean, the National Theatre of Burkino Faso, Manu Dibango, the Urban Bush Women and singer Angelique Kodjo. The official opening for the COC Exhibit as a World Festival event is December 17th.

For more information on the Color of Comic Exhibit Dakar contact Gene Adams (718) 289-5952 or eugene.adams@bcc.cuny.edu<mailto:eugene.adams@bcc.cuny.edu>