Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The times they are a-changin'!

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'!

Today was a great day! Great for so many reasons!

Firstly, we just got GREAT news that the department of Arts and Culture has contributed to our Empowered African Child Conference. If the government is backing this concept then the possibility of this inspired work unfolding with grace and speed is imminent!

Secondly, Team Joy is absolutely on FIRE!! The work we are doing, in this tiny little mountain school, is revolutionary in all ways. Culturally it is relevant and based in the Swazi Arts. The intention to empower all the children, regardless of HIV status or background, is a huge success. It is using a child- driven and child centric curriculum where child participation is 100%!!

And finally, I just finished buying, for the small school Mabheleni, supplies for each of the seven classrooms. This donation will be presented tomorrow at our community show. Costumes, face paint, sets, songs, dances and drama skits will be presented. The topic is playful, imaginative and age appropriate for young children. I feel blessed that I can contribute in this way. All of our fundraising back in Toronto is payed forward in the hope that we empower as many children possible!

This work is about creative play; play in its most authentic form. Play that unleashes the child spirit and creates a springboard for expression of many sorts.

Carl Jung, the famous philosopher said, “The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.”

Child spirit is what enables children to walk into any space and instantly see a detail that our adult eyes, often conditioned by habit or distracted by other thoughts, no longer see. Child spirit is what propels children to ask so many extraordinary questions about the world they live in and people around them – like “do our toys die when we die?” and “where does wind come from?” Child spirit is what enables a child to play and connect and feel joy, even though one or both of their parents has left their lives so early and isn’t there to nurture, guide, love and bear witness to their lives.

And child spirit doesn’t only reside in children. All of us have child spirit inside of us – we are all born with it. I see it everyday as we are doing this work. Every single teacher that we are working with delights in using the same materials as the children do. They sing the songs, dance the dances with a huge smiles on their faces. For many adults, they have put it away, or had it taken away, consciously or unconsciously. Maybe it’s tucked away in a little box or hidden behind some trees over there - but make no mistake, it’s there in everyone of us, in all of us!

Play is vital. It is an intrinsic and irreplaceable medium that helps children understand the world around them. All of us are born with the ability to play and create. It is one of our greatest gifts. You only have to observe these bright Swazi children while they play and create in this school to see the wonder and power of this gift in its most effervescent and spirited form. This is a gift. A blessing. A joy!

Children are the masters of finding happiness and it is through their play that this is realized. It's what they do. Birds fly, fish swim and children play. It's also the way they learn and acquire cognitive, social and motor skills.

Embracing play as a learning tool can lead to a special kind of intelligence. I think the most alluring affect that play provides for the participant is the development of the ability to take notice and act upon the nuances of a given situation. Just like an artist, the person engaged in the moment has their eyes, ears, minds, bodies and hearts wide open. This heightened awareness enables them to tune their focus and in doing so it guides their work. I learned this very early on in my teaching. It is this very thing that has inspired me to pass it down to children that are underprivileged and vulnerable.

And so we continue are work with love, dedication and joy. I look forward to tomorrow's tomorrow and the tomorrow of Swazi's future in art education for the young child!


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