A Meeting of Cultures at MoMA

April 4, 2014 | By Charles Fawell

A group of French Heritage students from Bronx International High School set out for the Museum of Modern Art last Thursday, where they found more than the works of legendary modern artists.  Also visiting the MoMA that day was a large class of seniors from the Lycée Français de Bamako, in Mali.

            In the hustle and bustle of New York’s temple to modern art, crossing paths with the Malian students took longer than expected.  French Heritage students took full advantage of this lag time to appreciate the iconic artwork that surrounded them.  A quick survey of the group’s favorite works revealed their tastes in art to be as diverse as their origins.  Many flocked to Gauguin’s Tahitian paintings (part of a special exhibit) and Monet’s lilies, while others preferred Mondrian’s geometric classic, and still others Warhol’s eye-catching ode to Marilyn Monroe.  Frida Kahlo’s unabashed self-portrait won at least one vote for best painting of the day, as did Picasso’s Jeune fille devant un miroir (Girl Before a Mirror).

            After an hour of browsing, the quiet and contemplative atmosphere of the museum galleries was setting in on the group.  When the French Heritage students finally intersected the Malian visitors, conversations were slow to start, as the two groups sized one another up. Soon enough, however, the ice broke, and by closing time at the museum, the students were chatting excitedly in French, exchanging emails and facebook information to stay in touch.  French Heritage students hailing from Guinea, Burkina Faso, Togo and Senegal, were eager to strut their credentials as bona fide New Yorkers while they mingled with the Malian visitors.  When the two groups finally separated, it seemed clear that through the experiences of these Francophone African students, a new connection had been forged between Bamako and New York.

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More about the French Heritage Language Program at http://www.facecouncil.org/fhlp

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