memory mask collage

Attendance: 6

Learning goals: Exploring your personality – your inner and outer self – and converting it into a tangible visual object

Activities: Inside/outside mask

We asked the kids to choose colours, images, and words that represented them, and create a mask that pointed to these parts of their identity. We explained to them that each component needed to have some sort of meaning, and to create the collage thinking about why each element was important.

(The activity was supposed to be an inside-outside mask, with the inside being what they think of themselves (their looks, dreams, ideas, and moods), contrasted with their ‘outside’ face, which is how other people see them. For example, “Teachers think you’re very naughty, but you think you’re very adventurous.” This concept was difficult to explain, and we could tell from the reception that it eluded them, we didn’t press too hard as with tougher ideas, as these require more examples and sometimes they end up replicating examples.)

Interesting projects: One kid drew a picture of a church, flower, and a cross, and put in a candy stick for his nose, and all his favourite food for his mouth. He added his favourite animals for cheeks. He explained that he spends a lot of time in church, and loves these flowers.

Insights/surprises: Lini brought old Serendib magazines – we figured this would work better than anything else, as even though they didn’t use each magazine in its entirety, they enjoyed flipping through the images of Sri Lanka, familiar and unfamiliar. They thoroughly enjoyed this, perusing the magazines and choosing the elements. Still, the silmutaneous planning and executing that is part and parcel of collage work was very difficult for the kids.

The school system and the art they’re used to involves right/wrong as a measurement of the work. When they feel their work doesn’t fit with the conventional ‘right’, they assume it to be ugly, and one particular girl purposely gives up on her piece mid-way because she feels it isn’t nice, and the rest of the piece is rather half-hearted.

All the kids included things they liked, rather than things they disliked but still felt strongly about.

Earlier in the series, we gave them a “calendar” – a sheet of A3 paper with 30 boxes for each day of the month – so be filled one square, one day at a time. The idea is that it will fill up by the end of March, and kids can see how small actions have a big impact over time. We told them, “If you have free time, doodle something, and show us at the next workshop.” (Most of the kids do!) Also, the kids have (of their own accord) created a file that they store the artwork that they take home.

Workshop feedback: Some understood the idea, but others really struggled with this completely novel concept. We think that, given how carefully some of the kids thought about their masks, that simplifying the exercise to creating one mask, showing an array of visual imagery beforehand, and not using the word ‘collage’, given how it is perceived in school art classes, would make it even more of a success.

Continuing challenges: Attendance fluctuates a great deal, which makes continuity hard. Some of the kids’ parents don’t want to send them, while others see previous workshops and want to join midway through. Only around seven turned up today, and the principal didn’t respond when we called to figure out what happened. Also, the security guard sent some kids home before we arrived.

Also, these kids don’t do art in school. Lini suggested we do a huge mural at some point and get more students to take part in a one-time “taster” session, as a way to think about getting more involved next time. We’re also thinking more seriously about the potential of the school as a community space. There is a run-down shed that is their “chilling” spot, for example. The kids could potentially sketch their ideas out for the school itself, and can be proud of doing a design intervention for themselves. We could also potentially do a collaborative workshop together with the kids from Slave Island that Firi works with, as the last stage of the workshop.

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