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Contributing Writer

Colloquial and conversational French echoed throughout NUNU’s in Arnaudville Wednesday afternoon as state and parish wide guests welcomed a brief visit by Louise Mushikiwabo, the Secretary General of the International Francophone organization.

The meet-and-greet atmosphere for Mushikiwabo inside the arts collective building on La. 93 also included international dignitaries and St. Landry and St. Martin Parish residents who conversed bilingually and cordially with each other and the Secretary General in French and English.

George Marks who began NUNU’s as a venue where local artists and designers can display and sell their creations, explained the importance of the French cultural corridor that has developed in southern areas of St. Landry Parish after taking Mushikiwabo and her delegation for a tour of St. Luc’s French Immersion and Cultural Campus in Arnaudville.

Mushikiwabo didn’t speak formally to the nearly 50 people, but she drank the locally-brewed coffee and listened intently as Marks explained the significance of the cultural corridor initiative.

Matt Mick, the CODOFIL information officer who traveled with Mushikiwabo’s entourage, said Mushikiwabo would not be providing media interviews during her visit, which followed previous audiences with Gov. John Bel Edwards and Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser.

A press release issued in advance of Mushikiwabo’s visit to Louisiana, said she was invited by Edwards to tour the state.

The itinerary for Mushikiwabo, who is based in Paris, included stops in New Orleans on Monday with another in Baton Rouge on Tuesday, the press release said. The Arnaudville visit preceded one later in Lafayette on Wedneday, Mick said.

Mick said there are 88 members in the International Francophone organization. Those members include governments, provinces and states where French is spoken or where a significant number of the population speaks French.

Visiting Arnaudville and the Acadiana area provided Mushikiwabo, a Rwandan native, with the opportunity to obtain a wider perspective of French-speaking areas in Louisiana, which in 2018 became one of the 88 international Francophone members, said Mick.

Recently Mushikiwabo visited Vietnam, a former French colony where French is still spoken, Mick added.

“The Secretary General came to Arnaudville in order to absorb a different perspective where an active French culture exists. In New Orleans she was able to see the metropolitan French atmosphere, whereas in this area (Arnaudville), she could take in a very different French experience where the language is still spoken and has remained culturally relevant,” Mick said.

Marks told Mushikiwabo during this presentation that the arts and cultural community embedded in the Arnaudville area has caused a rebirth for the small town located on bayous Teche and Fuselier.

In May Marks said St. Luke’s will begin daytime programming.