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Shylene in South Africa!

April 2003

CI was going to SA to start a new section of their amazing communication for social change site. Since my husband was part of this team, I got to travel along for fun. Knowing that my husband was to be busy most of the trip with work I decided to do some online research and find some community arts project to participate in while I was there. After many emails and various contacts I came across Micha Birch, the Senior Cultural Officer of the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality, who is involved with Community Art Development projects. It just so happened that we were there during spring break and that Micha had a few art projects already scheduled to take place in Tembisa (a very large black township on the east rand, approximately 40 minutes from Johannesburg). After a few weeks of emailing back and forth, Micha and myself came up with an interesting workshop that I could teach, recycled paper mosaics.

What a great concept. It introduced the idea of "use what you have" to a group of students who really donít have much. We only used white glue, craft paper and recycled magazines to make these masterpieces. The children embraced this class so such enthusiasm. It was amazing to watch all the ideas and concepts that the students came up with. Now bare in mind that most of these children have little to no previous art experience. For some this was the first time they had an opportunity to have paper and pencil. We spent the afternoon with 150+ black students ranging in age from 4 to 17. The work they produced was simply inspiring. One day was not enough as many of students wanted to continue to work and I wasnít finished teaching. We allowed a few of the very eager students to take home extra magazines and glue so they could continue their work from home. It was among the most motivational experiences I have ever had. I only wish I had more time there, to teach and to learn. What a different world.


A few few weekends later I taught similar workshops to children here in Victoria,BC. Wow- what a different response. Here the kids couldn'tít move fast enough to the next project. Very little thought went into any of the projects and most children simply followed the demonstration pieces, rather than use their imaginations. It really made me appreciate what I had offered the children in Tembisa. Not to mention what they offered me. These children were so desperate for knowledge and the opportunity to learn something. They were very deliberate in their design and implementation of the process. They wanted to understand the purpose of mosaic and they took their time to make their piece, so special and thought out.
I can hardly wait to teach abroad again. It was the most amazing opportunity for my own work, my spirit and me. I found the people of South Africa, so kind, open and generous with their time, energy and creativity. Traveling is what makes me a better, stronger more rounded person.
I am so grateful for the Internet and what it offers the World. It is sucha marvelous tool.

 

A couple of proud artists, want to get photos of them, me and their work.

A big group of proud artists, and Dermot, the lead instructor back right.

 

 

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Victoria, British Columbia Canada