A little slice of humanity to take home
“It’s my last night in this bed. I’ll never get to sleep. I’m already dizzy.”
Nour, dans Traversée (translated)
On stage, one actress uses her voice and another uses sign language to tell the story of Nour’s shattering quest. Guided by the promise of a better home, the young girl sets off with a tiny box as her only luggage, leaving behind the woman who loves her like a mother.
In this show, director Milena Buziak reminds us that the perilous journey that takes Nour far from the place where she was born echoes a very current reality: half of the world’s migrants are children like Nour.
By the way...
Theatre is for reading, too! If you can, make a side trip through the script of the show, written by Estelle Savasta.
Written by Estelle Savasta / Directed by Milena Buziak / Translation in Quebec Sign Language (LSQ): Marie-Hélène Hamel / With Florence Blain Mbaye and Hodan Youssouf / Production: Voyageurs Immobiles
« For this trip, you’ll have to be a boy. »
These are the words they say to Nour just before they cut her hair. Because a girl alone on the road leaves herself open to terrible things. So Nour begins her journey with a “bird’s head,” as she puts it.
As a starting point, we invite you to discover the work of Khadija Baker, a multidisciplinary artist of Kurdish Syrian origin. For Traversée, she created video animations using hair, a fibre that carries memory and defines our identity.
Khadija’s personal approach is to create installations using video, digital art and physical media. She addresses political and social themes such as persecution, migration, identity and memory. “My works are not meant to be described, but lived. I try to trigger something through experience, by marking memories.”
- To learn more about Khadija—what inspires her, what shaped her journey—visit the La maison de la Syrie website (content in French only), then follow the artist’s instructions for making your own short animated film.
- Workshop for beginners: Create your own animated film (for ages 9+, in French)
Workshop for aspiring pro: Creative process with Khadija Baker (for ages 12+, in French)
Worldwide, some 50 million migrant and refugee children (1 child in 200) have had to flee their homes to escape violent conflicts and natural disasters or in hopes of finding a better life.
A brief lexicon of passages and crossings
Migrant: A person who is moving or has moved across an international border or within a home country, regardless of whether the move is voluntary or involuntary and regardless of the length of stay.
Refugee: A person who lives outside his or her country of nationality and is unable to return because of persecution or fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
Asylum seeker: A person who has left the country where he or she was persecuted and seeks refuge in another country.
Internally displaced persons: People who have fled their homes (but not their countries) because of armed conflict, violence, natural disaster or a violation of human rights.
Uprooted: A general, non-legal term used by UNICEF to describe people who have left their place of origin for any reason. They may be migrants, refugees or internally displaced.
Undocumented: A person who does not possess identity papers or administrative documents attesting to the legality of his or her presence in a given country.
Smuggler: A person who helps illegal migrants cross a border.
Refugee camp: A temporary camp built by a government or NGO (such as the Red Cross) to house refugees. It is an artificial, urban-style humanitarian space established for a limited time following a natural disaster or political crisis. Some camps can accommodate up to several thousand people.
In Traversée, the character Nour tears herself away from her home carrying an enigmatic little box in her pocket. What could it be hiding? As we know, some objects are full of memories. They have the amazing power to transport us back to where we came from, to who we are, to the people we care about.
What about you? If you had to leave home forever and you could take only one thing with you, what would it be?
That startling question—an imaginary exercise for some people, a reality for others—will serve as a starting point for a rich exchange of stories.
1. Ask each student to bring a precious object to school in response to the above question.
2. Ask all the students (or those who volunteer) to present what they brought.
3. You can also use the objects as a springboard for writing a short story. And why not put all the objects together for a photo or an exhibition? It’s up to you!
“Youmna’s ears don’t work. She was born that way. Youmna is teaching me her language. And that language is ours alone.”
– Nour, in Traversée (translated)
At a glance…
Imane Moussa: She’s the one at the centre of the video, the one who instantly captures your attention. You won’t be surprised to learn that besides her career as a specialized educator, Imane is an actor. She performs in stage plays. She tells us it’s high time we gave deaf people a more prominent place in music, on our stages, on our screens. “We have extraordinary values to add to society. Deaf people can do ANYTHING. We don’t have a disability, we have our language. And that’s a plus!”
Régine Petit: She’s the one who never appears onscreen, but whose role is essential and fascinating. Régine is Imane’s interpreter—her voice, in a way. You may be wondering what this job of sign language interpreter consists of. Imane often talks about its importance in the video. Régine explains it with this image: “The interpreter has a role similar to that of the simultaneous translator in a dubbed film. He or she conveys the signer’s* words, intonation and rhythm, effectively giving the signer a voice.”
*The speaker who is using sign language.
Music and deafness
Imane replied to every last one of the questions the young people asked her, but the video was too short to include all her answers. Several asked her if deaf people listen to music and if they play it. You may have wondered that yourself. Here’s what Imane had to say:
“Deaf people love music. We have rhythm, we like the low notes, we like the high notes, we like everything, especially vibrations. We feel it all; it makes us feel alive.”
Want to know more?
Discover some of the ways people who are deaf or hard of hearing practise or experience music…
More than 140 sign languages exist around the world. In Canada, Quebec Sign Language (QSL), American Sign Language (ASL) and Indigenous Sign Language (ISL) are used. Despite the efforts of Deaf communities across the country, these three languages are not universally recognized as official; only the province of Ontario legally recognizes QSL and ASL.
Using the sign language alphabet, you can learn to sign your name. To take it a step further, think of a word that you would like to carry in a demonstration, or that defines you, or that could bring comfort to someone close to you or someone you meet on the street: you can sign your word using the alphabet while you wait to learn the gesture(s) associated with it.
P.S. Film yourself with a small device, like a smartphone. And imagine making a video mosaic of you and your classmates signing your names or the words you’ve each learned! Send us your videos by email—we’d love to seem them!
If you’d like to learn more, there’s a QSL app for iPhone and iPad: App LSQ
In Traversée, Nour and her nurse, Youmna, communicate in sign language. Youmna is deaf and Nour has learned her language. This is an opportunity to experiment in the classroom with non-verbal language and signing.
1. The students divide into pairs and sit or stand facing each other. One student in each pair tries to communicate something to the other by using his/her whole body and facial expressions, but no words. Start with something simple: an object, a feeling, an everyday action.
2. The student who is the receiver tries to guess the word. He/she is the only one allowed to speak.
3. Gradually increase the complexity of the messages transmitted, and decrease the use of body language until you’re using only your hands. The roles can then be reversed.
Here are some suggestions to continue your exploration:
- En orbite dans la Philosphère: Philosophy workshop (in French) with Stéphanie Boyer on issues related to child political and climate refugees;
- An interview with Milena Buziak about Traversée (in French)
- War: What if it were here?, Jane Teller, Simon & Schuster, 2016 (ages 12+)
- Bagages, mon histoire. Poèmes de jeunes immigrants, collective work (in French only), Éditions de La Bagnole, 2018 (ages 9+)
- The Boy at the Back of the Class, Onjali Q. Raúf, Hachette Children’s, 2018 (ages 9+)