desert islands and community maps

Attendance: 20

Learning goals: Introducing participants to the concept of cartography, and how maps can be re-imagined; getting to know workshop community, appreciating/acknowledging/gaining a visual understanding of your peers

Activities: icebreaker: desert Island; main activities: mirror sketch, mapping route to school

Today’s map of the routes kids take to get to school was Firi’s idea, and draws from a lot of his own art, inspired by cartographical methods, where he produced a map of Slave Island from his point of view, part fiction, part reality.

He drew a picture of the school in the centre of a large sheet of paper, and the kids were given one colour of oil pastel each, and were invited to draw the route from home to school. Some come to school from really far away. Some have overlapping routes, so there was joy in finding similarities.

There is more focus on the anecdotes of the route and what one sees along the way, as opposed to precision in measurements and distances. The term “mapping” was also used loosely and imaginatively: “You can draw the kadala man, or a cow you saw on the way.” In recreating familiar, mundane paths, the kids were invited to look at their environment differently, and to observe more the next time they took that path.

Interesting projects: The collaborative map project generated a great deal of dialogue around shared spaces and habits. While the mirror sketch was a tool to understand one’s partner, the map built on this logic to generate a broader understanding of one’s community and behaviours on a macro level.

Insights/surprises: The kids from the Tamil medium kids came to today’s workshop. The mapping exercise, born out of a moment’s inspiration, could be a really interesting piece for the exhibition.The kids enjoyed it thoroughly and despite us worrying that trying to get all of them together would be messy, they thoroughly enjoyed it.

Also, the kids tend to be pretty rowdy, but when Firi talked about his work and artistic process, there was pin-drop silence. He talked about how images can convey subtle meanings, showing his work on raising awareness about endangered animals. There was a sketch of a leopard had a subtle pattern of tyre tracks running across him (a nod to the problem of poaching) and a majestic tusker whose legs were chained, but you could only see it if you look closely.The kids were absolutely mesmerized…and then asked tons of questions afterwards.

Workshop feedback:They were really captivated by the mapping project, as well as Firi’s presentation, and we feel that including some kind of visual presentation right at the start of each workshop can serve as a form of inspiration that will guide their own creative endeavours.

(At the end of the whole series, we asked the kids which project they liked best, and they responded that tThe mapping session, as well as Firi’s talk, was their absolute favourite, which shaped the final project.)

Ongoing challenges: Facilitating interaction between the boys and girls was difficult. The girls were shy, and grouped together, as did the boys. Another challenge was explaining an idea, and it was a learning experience to calibrate how we presented a project idea in a manner that could be easily grasped, while also keeping the direction ambiguous enough that kids didn’t automatically follow a single example or prompt.

20 January 2017: desert islands and community maps

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