Janet Lindley Watts, Development and Operations Manager for South Africa and Rwanda, blogs from Rammulotsi, Free State, South Africa.
Kekana ‘Tatu’ Somfula, Dramatic Need’s operations manager and senior arts facilitator in Rammulotsi, Lawrence Chabalala, (DN arts facilitator) and myself hosted 46 of our students, all from the township of Rammulotsi, for the first part of our Dramatic Need holiday workshop held at the Piet Patsa Art Centre on Riet Pan Farm near Rammulotsi, Viljoenskroon in the Free State province of South Africa from 18 to 20 March. We facilitated the students through a process of creating their own original piece of public art.
The students arrived at the farm early on Monday 18 March. Some were transported by taxi and some were fetched by myself or Tatu as it is very expensive to hire the taxi for everyone. We are desperately trying to raise funds for a taxi of our own so that we need not have to spend any more money on the hiring of expensive public transport. Because of these transport constraints we have had to hold our afternoon workshops at the Dramatic Need centre in Rammulotsi this year so for some of the students it was their first time on the farm and they were so excited to be there. For the others it was a wonderful opportunity to return to a place they have come to know and love.
During the first session of the day we took them through a series of games and activities that encouraged them to see certain objects from different perspectives and then we moved on to exploring how objects can become representatives of things, events and emotions. They were then asked to make sculptures that represented different emotions using only 3 found objects. They found this quite hard to do, but with some help and encouragement they persisted and succeeded in making some beautiful sculptures. During the final exercise for the day we asked them to write down two things that they love about their community and two things that they wished were better or different. We wrote up all these things, both positive and negative, on a large sheet of paper that was pasted on the wall for all to see. The students guided us as to how they wanted to group their ideas. We ended the day with some fun games and a healthy snack before making sure everyone got home safely.
The students found the first day quite hard work because they were grappling with new concepts and perspectives and had to really engage both physically and emotionally with the activities at hand to complete their given tasks. Despite, or hopefully because of, the challenge they all came into the second session excited and engaged and day two went really well.
We began the day by playing Wah Skiddah (an energy game where they have to pass energy from one to another in different ways) and learnt a new song. We then all sat down as a group in front of the large piece of paper on which all their ideas were written. We grouped the words into three different themes and came up with one word for each category of ideas. Their three themes were Responsibility, Accountability and Local Power. When that was done we divided them into three groups and asked each group to make a sculpture out of found objects in the room that would represent one of the words. They didn't hesitate and eagerly sprang to work.
Once the three sculptures were created we brought them together to make one large one and agreed on a final arrangement of our communal artwork. The groups then had to source materials from their surroundings that could be used to make their little indoor model into a large outdoor model. They hunted high and low for materials and made final decisions as a group and found some things and gave us a list of things they did need but couldn't find, like paint and nails. Tatu and Lawrence went and sourced the necessary once the session was over.
On the third day all the students came back to the farm to create their final outdoor artwork. They all worked together wonderfully well and had an enormous amount of fun deciding how to put it all together. There was much marvellous mess and some heated but friendly discussions, but decisions were made and consensus reached and the final artwork slowly came into being.
When they had to make their first small sculpture representing an emotion on the first day they had come to me and said they couldn't do it and wanted another easier word to work with. On the second day when given the same task, only larger in scope, they immediately started to discuss possibilities and instead of asking for something different to represent had rather come and asked my advice about the colour and shape of their ideas. It was amazing to experience this growth of confidence in their own abilities and their perceptions of how we relate to the colours and things that make up our world.
We are all looking forward to the second part of our holiday workshop which commences on Thursday 28 March. Gladys Agulhas, a dance facilitator from Johannesburg, will be visiting the farm for two days to take the students through a creative process of choreographing a dance to represent the story of their sculpture.