In english

The Mustagim project

« The Mustagim project »

About fundamentals

Traduction : Stéphanie Orace 


Do not make a mistake about it.

The Mustagim project is about us only. It was in January 2018 when the young man entered our lives. He was accompanied by four other teenagers. And in many local schools, five new students have integrated the lists of different classes. We  are not allowed to know where they were in September, October, November and December 2017. And with good reason, Mustagim and we do not have a common language. Seeing these young people coming up in small bench of five, like that all at once, was a little weird for us.

Elsewhere, in other times, allophone students joined Orientation classes, henceforth called Teaching Unit for incoming Allophone Students, in which they learnt French with a specialist staff of this subject. About fifteen hours of French as a Foreign Language and a gradual entry into ordinary subjects.

We are told that these classes are saturated, that it is no longer about teaching them the local language. It is about feeding them at the canteen, not having them dragingaround Republic, and taking care of them better than in Nice. All this, again, is about us only.

Since when do we let the PACA region and its electoral majority decide what ‘makea society’ means? Since when have we forgotten that the one who is hungryfinds food? Being afraid for our own food is an understandable anxiety. I understand us. That we are afraid for our own walks is a very legitimate fear. We know well our city centres, the history of our republics and we only like to get rid of our old clothes.

We are informed that an envelope of Hours Extra Effective comes up with the Mustagim’s arrival so as to provide a few hours of French Language Schooling courses. Hence two contractual teachers have also entered our lives. One for Monday, one for Wednesday. We know our employer, don’t we? We know that this envelope is temporary, don’t we, that it will disappear with the years, like the “Orientation Classes”?

Mustagim joined our regular French classes in January. Like the overwhelmingmajority in the world number wise, he is already multilingual. Like the overwhelming majority of human history number wise, he is nomadic or, as we say today, migrant. Like the overwhelming majority in the world number wise, he does not seem, at first glance, to have any private income.

With such an experience of what being a Man means, Mustagim will deal with it. He will learn French. He will eat. He will find a path that will belong to him only. But we? Guide him pronto towards the vocational carrerwill it be enough to be satisfied?


When I tell stories, he does not understand them. He does not know that this is the first time this happens to me. We are trying to know if Marguerite Bécaille [1] is a “michetonneuse » (moll), if it “serves Mr. Chabre [2] right”, we are trying to know what being Nantas [3] means. We take great pleasure in debatingabout the so-called old-fashioned Zola’s short stories.

We do this because this is where we are, because it’s the language we speak. We question the story of our relationship with money, of our taste for official and unofficial versions of our lives, in the nineteenth century as well as today. We do this because we are in quatrième (eighthgrade), in January. We could as well have been in March, in troisième(ninth grade) and read Nina Bouraoui or Patrick Chamoiseau and consider whattalking about oneselfmeans. We do this because we are often sedentary, commonly monolingual, sometimes heirs, and because literature is a good way to fill one’sgap.

Here am I telling stories that someone does not understand and I discover that it  puts me in a bad mood. I like when people criticise Zola. If they criticise him, it means they know him. If they knew him, it’s because he could compose in French. Here are my good mood and my job.

The Academic Center for the Schooling of Newly Arrived Allophone Students and children from traveling families and travelers, who spend two hours in schools, recommend,to my understanding, that it is appropriate to explain what we are talking about with a film, a drawing,certain something.

However, isn’t it unfortunate that we can not talk with Mustagim, wewho, I am told, have no idea where Azerbaijan is? Don’t we lose a precious chance to discover that at La Bécaille, we also wake up from deep comas in other parts of the world [4]? Don’t we lose a precious chance to discover that the caves which get separated at rising tide at Mr. Chabre’s expense or with his support exist in other places too?

And doing so to blame the racialists of all horizons, those who claim that by seeing us so different, we will either abandon ourselves or abandon the Other?

Would there not be, in this meeting between Mustagim and us a contemporary and unpublishedpossibility? Not to continue this nauseating story of an official claim to universal, but on the contrary to make an exception? Could not we define ourselves differently in the world?

And, in the meantime, faithful to the habit of the wear on our jobs, concretely, pragmatically, I draw so badly that I question ourselves. If Mustagim does not understand my stories, who will draw them?

[1] La mort d’Olivier Bécaille, Emile Zola, 1884

[2] Les Coquillages de M. Chabre, Emile Zola, 1884

[3] Nantas, 1889