Last week MME facilitated workshops which helped students develop their own artistic styles by experimenting with lots of different materials in timed drawings. We are using these to encourage freer and more expressive work as there is a tendency to be very restrained and meticulous with their marks. This could be related to the amount of discipline received at school, the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment To Children summarises that in Tanzania,
Government guidelines in 2000 reduced the number of strokes from six to four and stated that only the heads of schools are allowed to administer the punishment, with penalties for teachers who flout these regulations.
However, it seems that there is no accountablity for these flouting teachers, and caning is still common in schools. I met someone yesterday who remembers being caned eighteen times a day because he struggled with mathematics, unsurprisingly he failed the subject.
During the workshop the children experimented with charcoal, inks, oil pastels, pens, crayons and chalks. Each material has its own quality and the children were asked to investigate these and test out as many marks as possible. We then went on to discuss how we can put feelings into our pictures, for example what would a happy person look like? Or a sad person? And how about someone who is angry or scared? We can use many different marks, colours, shapes and sizes to explore these ideas, in the image above a boy at Singachini draws someone who is very sad all in black and another with a big frown on his face.
During the group presentation at the end some very intelligent remarks came out, many of the happy drawings were to do with passing standard seven examinations, you cannot go on to secondary school without these and often families can’t afford to repeat the year. Although primary education is technically ‘free’ many families struggle to find the 70,000 TSH for uniforms, materials and porridge etc. The children identified the colours, facial expressions and body language in their drawings as indicators to particular feelings. There was often a crossover between emotions and one child commented that the girl in the picture was angry because she was sad, others were sad and angry because they had been scolded by the teachers
We will be putting these skills to use in this week’s workshops where each child will be producing their very own self portrait in individual styles and identifying their unique characters, strengths and aspirations.
Yesterday MME kicked off with our first Kijitanbua (our personal identity) workshop in Mgungani primary school in semi rural Moshi. The session started with some very quiet introductions and a drama game to break the ice, Zip Zap Boing.
I could tell the children were a little reserved as they whispered their names whilst clenching their hands in the circle. Despite this, it didn’t take long for smiles to shine and the zips, zaps around the circle encouraged the teachers to join in too!
We continued this format for the rest of the workshop by playing a ‘drawing game’ which enticed the children from level 4,5 and 6 (9ys-13yrs) to draw as quickly and expressively as possible. If in thirty seconds you hadn’t completed a charcoal drawing of your partner sitting opposite, you were out! After each round the drawings got a little bigger and bolder and by the end of the workshop each child produced a fantastic 5 min picture of their rafiki. And no for all you Disney fans, I do not mean the baboon from The Lion King, in Swahili rafiki means friend!
One of our goals and main challenges we will be facing throughout MME is the reticence of the children. This, coupled with the lack of creative learning strategies in Tanzanian classrooms means we have our work cut out for our ‘60 children to demonstrate increased confidence, self esteem and ability to express themselves through art’. In order for the project to be sustainable we are also working on involving the teachers in the classes, at the beginning of the session questions were answered on behalf of the children and we want them to think for themselves!
Today, Making Art, Making Me will begin in Kibo school, we will be applying our lessons learnt from yesterday and can’t wait to see how the children from urban Moshi respond to their first workshop!
Children sit opposite each other and draw thier partners
After successfully translating Making Art, Making Me into Swahili – Tengeneza Sanaa, Kujijgenga (meaning to grow and develop as persons through creativity) we met with the head teachers and some of the pupils from Mgungani, Singachini and Kibo primary schools. They all loved our proposal and we are delighted to announce that we will be working with 60 of their students over the next two months!
The semi rural Mgungani primary school currently dont have a teacher to deliver their Arts and Crafts lessons so we will be involving their teachers in our Tuesday afternoon workshops, they wanted us to start right away!
More good news is that Kibo school in urban Moshi have kindly offered to host our exhibition in March, they have already started talking about inviting government officials and local education officers. From what we gather from Mrs Sunguya, MME is in line with the government ambition for teachers to help children creatively find their own voices, moving away from a taught or ’forced’ opinion and to develop and express their own.
In section 4.1 of the Tanzanian Development Vision 2025 creativity is recognised as strategic change agent.
Education should be treated as a strategic agent for mindset transformation and for the creation of a well educated nation, sufficiently equipped with the knowledge needed to competently and competitively solve the development challenges which face the nation. In this light, the education system should be restructured and transformed qualitatively with a focus on promoting creativity and problem solving.
It looks like we are on the right track!