The Joys of Visual Experimentation
Jul 15, 2021

Josef Albers said that teaching art is about leading students to a greater awareness of what they see, and that good teaching consists of asking the right questions.

To give students in rural Senegal better access to visual learning and art education, Le Korsa has launched a series of art classes at Les Foyers des Jeunes Filles in Tambacounda. 

Held for three hours every other Saturday, the classes allow the 130 young women of the Foyer to look at and appreciate art, learn about artists, and experiment with different artistic techniques. The courses also feature color and design exercises based on the teachings of Josef Albers, including some from Albers For Kids, an early-learning program that was created by the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation.

This broad approach, says local artist Bi Faye, who teaches the workshops, helps “to wake students up to the joys of using their imagination.” 

Bi is an experienced teacher who brings a dynamic vision to the courses. During the week he teaches at Gouye College, a middle school in Tambacounda, as well as at the Tambacounda Cultural Center. He works in multiple mediums, including music, and is devoted to helping the girls discover a diverse range of artists from their region and beyond, including Saliou Diop (Tambacounda), Silvia Rosi (Togo/Italy), Amadou Sanogo (Mali), Nabeeha Mohamed (South Africa), Kudzanai-Violet Hwami (Zimbabwe) and Annie-Marie Akussah (Ghana). 

Because the percentage of female artists in Tambacounda is low, Bi wants to expose the girls to as many women artists as possible, knowing that positive role models for young learners can be hugely influential. Some artists will be invited to speak to the girls as part of “Femmes Modèles,” a new series at the Foyer in which women from different professions share their career paths with the students.

For now, though, the students are focused on hands-on learning and art-making. After beginning to teach the courses in March, one of the early exercises that Bi introduced to the girls was “One Color Becomes Two,” adapted from an assignment in Josef Albers’s Interaction of Color. Albers’s assignments were new to Bi, but with the support of staff members he saw how he could include them in the workshops in Tambacounda. The results have been thrilling.

 “It’s astonishing to see how different a color appears, just because the background color changes!” said one of the students after comparing two yellow squares, cut from the same sheet of paper, when placed atop two differently colored backgrounds. Such visual discovery—and joy—is exactly what these courses are meant to foster. 

As the girls have been attending the classes, Maimouna Ka Sow, the director of the Foyer, has been encouraged by another change too: the girls are more confident and better able to think creatively in all domains. 

That is the ultimate hope: that these courses, combined with all the other offerings of the Foyer, will help the young women grow, and become more confident with creative problem-solving and self-expression. 

But our deepest goal is simply to provide the opportunity for the young women to be aware of the beauty of art and to gain more skills to create the life they want in the future. Our wish is for the young women to discover and be inspired by art. 

As our founder Nicholas Fox Weber put it, “Through experimenting with the materials and techniques of art, the young women at the Foyer learn the power of cause and effect and experience the wonder of vision in every sense of the word.”

Matthias Persson