Arts Week at the Junior School
I recently had the honour of being involved with the Arts week at a local Junior School. The theme of the week was ‘Ghanaian Art’ – the school has a link with a school in Ghana, and they are getting ready for a visit from one of the Ghanaian teachers. One of our Juniors’ teachers will return the visit later on.
The teacher in charge of the forthcoming Arts Week asked me to help with making some Ghanaian masks. This left me with
quite a few conundrums. I didn’t know what a Ghanaian mask was, for one. I didn’t know how to make one. I didn’t know if I had enough time. I was a little daunted. Nevertheless, I said yes, I’m in, as I had a sneaky suspicion that this was going to be a good project for the children and a challenge for myself.
Making the masks out of papier mache had been discussed, and I blithely said, yes good idea, that would be fine. And there and then I offered to MAKE THEM ALL. Back at home, staring at a box full of PVA and newspaper, it became clear that this was going to require some thought or I would be still making them in the year 2020!
Most things can be overcome with some inspiration though, and before long, I had worked out how to tackle the practical issues of constructing the 3D masks (lots of carrier bags scrunched up, taped over with masking tape until they looked like Egyptian Mummies, papier-mached with tissue paper and glue, and painted with glue and then white primer, if you’re interested!). Keeping my two cats away from the resulting sticky chaos was actually the hardest task. They spend all day in my studio, and were most put out to find themselves banished to the boring old kitchen.
Decorating the masks with the Upper School was quite amazing. The children really got stuck in, and worked hard, which was good, as we had a lot to do in a short space of time. We worked from examples of actual masks, sometimes copying the designs and sometimes going a little bit our own way. My role largely consisted of somehow directing the work/controlled mayhem so that the children were pleased with the outcome, and we achieved a good result. I also secretly removed a fair few neon pink pompoms which inevitably kept creeping onto the design. I’m all for being wild and free, but pink pompoms just didn’t fulfil the brief in any way!
I tweeted about it like this in the week:
I was so impressed by the children’s determination, their motivation and their creativity.
Working in groups of 4, each class completed one mask. Although each group only worked on one part of the mask, the resulting whole was very coherent and attractive. I put this down to the incredible teamwork the children displayed. I asked each group, as they were working, what they thought the next group should focus on. I was most impressed to find that each group wanted to reserve enough ‘fun stuff’ for the next children. They were very vocal with each other about how they needed to NOT do everything on their turn. Many of them got quite excited at the thought that the next group would get a ‘good bit’ like an eye or a nose to work on.
Some very stoic boys were proud that they did the first layer of their mask – the ‘important foundation’, one of them announced! Of this are countries made, people. There were only a very few children who had to be restrained from doing all the dots or the patterns (and frankly, who could blame them anyway! I would have been one of them). Most of the children were so conscious of their peers, patiently waiting for their turn in the background.
Such teamwork! Such graciousness! I was astonished. And such talent. Well done, children! Thank you for introducing me to the art of Ghana. Here are some more examples of the other amazing art activities that went on that week.