Shehnaz SAuliman School of Art and Tshwane Muslim School

`Let the children play`


“Every child is an artist. The main problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” These are the remarks of one of the most famous artists of the 20th century Pablo Picasso. Picasso like many others of his time enjoyed the luxury and privilege of art mentorship and training under the guidance of his father who himself was an artist.

The year 2012 saw the Pretoria Art Museum embark on one of its many and fruitful endeavors of facilitating art workshops to a select group of children who do not have access to art. The Children Tile Art Project 20Twelve (CTAP 20Twelve) is an initiative that focuses primarily on engaging learners in visual and arts literacy. From its first inception in 2006, inspired by the International Peace Tile Project which has done visual art skills transfer in third world countries, this initiative was conceived out of the need to provide space where young children can gain access to art practice under the guidance of art facilitators here in Tshwane.

The art facilitators responsible for presenting series of workshops which make up the project are volunteers or Education Assistants/EAs at the Pretoria Art Museum and are mostly art practitioners themselves. They participate in the Education and Development Programme offered by the museum.  This programme enables the Educational Assistants to transfer their skills and knowledge of art to any audience, either visiting the museum through guided tours or participating in one of the workshops offered at the museum. It must be noted that working and being part of this prgramme requires extensive and meticulous planning in order to conduct successful guided tours and workshops.

This year Shehnaz Suliman School of Art and Tshwane Muslim School were selected to participate in the Children Tile Art Project. In presenting a coherent project the EA’s were tasked with presenting proposals that would make the contents of the Project. Upon the submissions of proposals, the EAs were grouped randomly together into pairs and tasked with conducting a series of workshops to be offered to the invited schools. These workshops were to be carried out over a period of five weeks, starting with an introductory Guided Tour of the Pretoria Art Museum, which was conducted by Tumisang Mokgadi and Mpho Nkgadimeng on 13 October. The actual workshops began with Thato Seboko and Seemole Seemole Eve Bodirwa, on 20 October, who did a Drawing Workshop. Their workshop mainly focused on utilizing two drawing mediums charcoal and pencil. Here the children were given an opportunity to explore still life compositions. Working on a 2-D surface, they trained them on how to create lines, tones, contrast, balance and various devices used in 2-D composition work such as shading techniques to mimic three dimensions.

The next workshop that followed was conducted by Simon Radebe and Noko Mello on 27 October. The two artists opted for a Collage Workshop. Their workshop centered on the creative use of imagery and textures on a 2-D surface, without deviating from the previous drawing workshop by Thato and Eve, The Collage Workshop somewhat picked up where the Drawing Workshop ended. This was of vital importance as fluidity was needed in for the children to get a good grasp of everything they were learning from each workshop as the project progressed.

The third workshop was conducted by Tshepang Maelangwe and Azael Langa on 03 November. I once heard someone remark that if you put a sculptor and a painter in one room then sparks are bound to fly. This was certainly not the case with these two artists; they conducted a Painting Workshop that emphasized Post-impressionism as a reference. The learners were encouraged to explore painting devices like impasto (thickly applied paint)…! Once again careful consideration and planning was displayed by these two gentlemen who did not only demonstrate what a Post-impressionist composition looks like but showed the children examples of works from old masters so that they could get a clear understanding of what was expected of them. The painting workshop also incorporated various mediums, mainly the ones that were used in the previous workshops. This was essential, because their workshop was a precursor to the next and final workshop, the mix-media workshop.

Tshegofatso Seoka, Sphiwe Makgoka and myself were responsible for this workshop. Our aim was to re-acquaint the children with the different mediums they have used in their journey with us, sort of deriving to a conclusion regarding the entire series of workshops. Another important aspect of our workshop was to highlight and bring to the fore the visual literacy skills that the children have but could not articulate nor convey yet. Thus, our workshop entailed making abstract compositions that were carried out through dialogue and communication amongst themselves and our fellow EAs. We threw in a spanner in the works by adding wax as an external medium, simply to add another dimension to their compositions. In this workshop we insisted on pairing the children into groups, and the reason behind this was to get them to interact and create dialogues amongst themselves when creating their artworks. This seemed to work like a charm as the outcomes far preceded the challenges.

What were the outcomes of CTAP 20Twelve one might ask? Well for starters this project created a beautiful exchange between the children and the facilitators. It was the first time some of us as facilitators had engaged in conducting workshops.  It was truly an enlightening experience. In a nutshell, five workshops later from our first meeting the children of the Shehnaz Suliman School of Art and Tshwane Muslim School have a better understanding of art mediums, composition and visual literacy. The Educational Assistants have the experience of having trained a very special audience, children. This in time will ensure art patronage in the visual arts if not only art appreciation. Through a group of a curatorial team consisting of Batlile Ngcobo, Siphesihle Nonkanyiso Biyela, Khulile Masiza and Sabelo Morodi  selected artworks from the workshops have been brought into an annual exhibition aimed at celebrating the International World Aids Day on 1st December 2012. The exhibition will close on 3 February 2013. My only hope from here onwards is for Picasso`s remark to prevail, and for these children to stay being artists.

26 November 2012

Thabang Monoa