A SWEDISH MUSIC TEACHER WRITES TO BARROW ABOUT HIS BODY LANGUAGE

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Pirjo Andersson is a Swedish who teaches, plays, and composes music, and also works with
theatre and drama. She is in love with The Gambia, and has visited several times. Pirjo is
hopeful that if Barrow works on his body language, he can build much trust.

Your Excellency,

 

Bear with few minutes of your time to read what I think would be helpful to friends, citizens and
observers of Gambia and its politics. Some people might be wondering what on earth has a
toubab to do with Gambian politics, especially when the toubab’s forefathers were the very ones
who plundered Africa’s natural resources and enslaved its people. Nevertheless, I am a keen
observer of Gambian politics; and God knows, I was the happiest when Gambians finally voted
for change.

 

Your Excellency, there is a language no one can hear, but still it speaks loud and clear, and even
children understand this part: the body language. It is understood internationally even by very
small children who have not started communicating verbally.

 

The language of the body carries more than half of the message a person conveys to his listeners.
This makes it important for leaders to know its significance. As an actress and drama teacher, I
have been taught to observe the body language of people when they speak to me. So I have been
observing you.

 

I do know that many leaders, especially in the West, are trained on how to use their body
language. This is nothing to be shameful of; it is a political mission that leaders exploit in order
to make their message look relevant.

 

Your Excellency, you have a beautiful smile, so use it wisely when you appear in front of
cameras. Knowing when to smile, how to sit properly by avoiding leaning backward is a good
start. Most, if not all the time, your body language tells the observer if you are in full control of
the matters in Gambia, as well as yourself.

 

Your Excellence, you do not need to shove people in order to be seen, like Donald Trump the big
bully did when he visited Europe last month. I do not want to remind you, because you know
better than me that politics is not a soap opera. In soap operas we often see very exaggerated
gestures and facial expressions because the performers only have a short time to tell us their
story and we never ge to ask questions.

 

Your Excellency, the posture of the body tells us if you feel good speaking to us; if you are in full
control of your message; if we should trust you; if you wish to be in that seat or wish you were
somewhere else, drinking ataya and eating benachin.

 

Having said this, I must add that sometimes when I see the photos the world share about Your
Excellency, I wish that you could be presented more flattering than some of the photos,
especially the one about your visit to a mosque in Saudi Arabia. This photo left observers and
critics asking, ‘Who is pulling the strings in today’s Gambia?’ I wish someone trained in physical
communication can give a piece of advice as to the damage some photos of yours can cause.

Finally, before any photo session or before appearing in front of cameras, if I were by your side,
I would whisper: “Dear Mr. President, you know I like you and we are many who do that, but
you must show the world that you are a leader we can be proud of. Please, stand up straight, pull
your shoulders back, hold your head high and give us that great smile of yours.”

Your well-wisher,
Pirjo Andersson

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