My name is Yaya Mahamat Ahmat, I am 17 years old. I come from Central Africa. I attended the Koranic school from 6 years old until 12 years old in Bangui. After the war in Central Africa in 2013, during which my father died, I left the country. With my family – my mother and my brothers – we follow the road that goes to Cameroon, then to Chad with other migrants.
I stayed in Chad just over 4 years. I studied in a middle school as a refugee in which we had language courses in English, French and Arabic. I also did theatre with other students on Saturday mornings.
One day, we flew to Addis Ababa and then to France. It was the only country that accepted us, following our requests. We arrived at Charles-de-Gaulle airport, and we headed to Pessat-Villeneuve where a house was waiting for us.
We settled there for 5 months. I went to Roger-Claustres high school from September 2018 to June 2019. The French school felt safe and I had no great difficulty with any of my classes. My integration with the other students went well and I made friends – I met people from outside my classes through football, table football.
I had a good command of the French language. Nathalie Bernard, the head teacher, followed my progress throughout this year and it was her who suggested I should meet Jean-Claude Gal, the artistic director of Théâtre du Pélican, when he came in to talk about ID: Babylon.
I had done some theatre elsewhere, and I really wanted to do it again here. I immediately responded to the call out to be part of the project. I just thought of theatre as a fun activity from my past experiences. But ID: Babylon felt like a rich discovery. the theme felt very important: youth and migration. It corresponded to my past. It was also an opportunity to do something with other students.
I met others young people who weren’t at my school and also discovered many new words. Group situations were important. I learned to work according to schedules, often repeating the same sections of the text, which was sometimes frustrating for me. But as I went on I understood the importance of working at the right pace for everyone; Despite my initial impatience, it gave me rigor and respect towards the other 8 members of the group.
The ID: Babylon Festival was yet another discovery: a mixture of languages, texts and ways of doing theatre. Meeting up with the young people from 5 other countries and theatre groups, taking joint workshops and talking with them was incredible, especially after only a few months in France. I had contacts and discussions with many other young Europeans.
The workshops were moments of pleasant complicity. A time when everyone was involved and there was no difference between us. Depending on whether they were migrants or not, it was different. Some of the other young people spoke Arabic so we were able to communicate in that language. We talked about our background and our way of seeing the host countries. We all sang together. It was touching and created incredible moments.
I recently moved with my family and I now live in an apartment in a popular district of the City of Clermont-Ferrand. I managed to get a place at a high school in the area. I am very happy even though I know that it will be more difficult because I will follow a mainstream course.
I will continue this year at Théâtre du Pélican, and attend theatrical practice workshops. I will perform in a new show next year which will be another new experience. The team at Théâtre du Pélican are supportive there to listen to me. I regularly go to the office to work or ask for advice. It’s a new place for me. I am confident in the future and I will work to succeed.