Piet Patsa Community Arts Centre has been a hive of activity
The last full month has seen us work and play flat out with very little time time to breathe. It has been an exciting month with wonderful people coming in various capacities to be with us and contribute to our processes both artistically and administratively.
On the 29th of June a member of the dramatic need Board of Trustees, Vanessa Garwood in the company of the Assistant Director Ruby McGuigan visited the Centre on a tour of duty. The two wonderful ladies lit our Centre with their personalities and a desire to see us improve and move forward. They hit the ground running and visited almost all our stakeholders, friends of Dramatic Need and well wishers. Most of all they gave us the thumbs up we needed and left us when we had gotten used to their warmth and wished they had become a permanent part of the day to day running of this Centre
Born in Israel 1982, Vanessa studied painting and sculpture for three years at Charles Cecil Studios in Florence. Now she lives and works in London focusing mainly on commissions and working towards exhibitions. She makes work from life on many subjects in different mediums: figurative portraits and conversation pieces, nudes, landscapes in oil, bronze and plaster sculptures, works on paper in charcoal, pen, ink.
The training in the ‘sight-size’ technique learnt in Italy has served as a foundation to build her own approach which has given way to a much more flexible style and application. She spent time painting and sculpting abroad in Europe, Africa and South America, also a three month long sculpture apprenticeship with the South African sculptor Dylan Lewis in Stellenbosch.
Today she is working in her studio, London SW10, where she takes commissions and works on an upcoming exhibitions.
She has exhibited at;
-The 2006 BP Award at the National Portrait Gallery, winning the Visitors Choice Award.
-Bright Young Things, joint show at Cosa London 2007.
Ruby is a Masters scholar in Film studies at the Trinity College, Dublin.
Ruby and Vanessa’s stay saw us purchase a marimba set that will go a long way in making our Centre more attractive to the children. This marimba set will be used by our children to create music as well as announce to the local and international community that somewhere in the remote area of Rietpan farm there is a nice place called Dramatic Need where children play and learn. The marimba set has since been delivered and now awaits a volunteer from Johannesburg to come and teach our children how to play and help us form a Dramatic Need Marimba Band.
Between the 7th and the 11th of July, being the Mandela month we took our children through a journey of self discovery using Mandela’s life story. Dubbed ‘The Mandela in Me project' the children watched the movie, Long Walk to Freedom, a movie that tells the Mandela story from the time he joined the liberation struggle through his making and becoming the icon that he became. Invictus came in as a sequel that takes the story from where Long Walk to Freedom left and tells the story of Mandela’s sterling job as the president of South Africa. In our process the children watched and reflected on their participation. The most important thing that came out of the reflections was the observation by our learners that Mandela was an ordinary person who did extraordinary things. They felt that he was not born a hero but became a hero when his environment challenged him and required of him to put away his career path ambitions and literally give his life for the liberation of his people.
On Mandela day, which is on the 18th of July our ‘The Mandela in Me’ journey ended in style with the children and staff of Dramatic Need going to the Viljoenskroon Hospice to read stories to the children housed there. Taking part in the 67 Minutes of doing good on Mandela day pleased our souls.
A renowned Rustenburg Dancer and youth motivational speaker Thapelo Pedi came to Dramatic Need on the 21st of July and had a short motivational and dance session with our children. She liked the place and is in the process of drawing up a full dance process for the month of September.
We spent the past two weeks watching movies about
Mandela as part of our ‘The Mandela in Me’ project where our children sought to see the good values that Mandela exuded in themselves. We watched Long Walk to Freedom which portrays Mandela as first an ordinary man who strove to become something in his society ending up taking up a serious life calling. That became a huge moment of learning for our children as they realised that Mandela was not born a hero but became one in response to the challenges of his contemporary society. so after all anyone can become what Mandela became and anyone can do the works that Mandela did.
The next movie, Invictus portrays him as an innovative leader who turned a simple rugby game into a community building process and got the people of South Africa hugging each other as they found something they could identify with collective. The achievements of this sport process got the children asking what went wrong and who threw away the relay button stick as it seems now that there is so much still to do in their lovely country
Dramatic Need Children Go 67 Minutes
Today the children of dramatic Need and their teachers joined the world in commemorating the birth, life and service of the late South African iconic leader Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela who died a citizen of the world, by going to the Viljoenskroon Hospice to read stories and play with the children housed there.
Nelson Mandela’s birthday is on 18 July, and the call is out for people everywhere to celebrate his birthday by acting on the idea that each person has the power to change the world.
The idea of Mandela Day was inspired by Nelson Mandela at his 90th birthday celebrations in London’s Hyde Park in 2008 when he said: “It is time for new hands to lift the burdens. It is in your hands now.”
The United Nations officially declared 18 July as Nelson Mandela International Day in November 2009, recognising Mandela’s “values and his dedication to the service of humanity” and acknowledging his contribution “to the struggle for democracy internationally and the promotion of a culture of peace throughout the world”. more: http://www.southafrica.info/mandela/67minutes.htm#.U8kccYCSyjI#ixzz37pE2avfP
Dramatic Need strives to inculcate a culture of self knowledge and healthy community interactions amongst each children and today’s outreach programme is an example of putting into practice what we teach and cultivate. Our children took up the challenge with zeal and enjoyed playing with these disadvantaged children who needed their company.
Navigating and Negotiating Spaces
The last two weeks have seen us go through a very interesting process with our children where we started by making them write personal stories that appeal to them of at least half a page. I then gave them second sheets of paper where they put the first sentence of their story before passing it on to the person on their left while receiving from the person on their right and writing their second sentence. This exercise of writing one sentence from their story on different sheets but as if they were continuing their story resulted in different pieces of different stories appearing on one page. In some instances there was coherence but in most, the sentences were disjointed and not making sense. If there was some sense it was just comic and funny.
Reflections coming from our children revealed frustration and anger because of the interference. They felt that their personal stories had been distorted and lost meaning. Looking at situations in real life, the children felt that their lives were too crowded with other people and that it was not their choice but something imposed on them by their parents and home environments.
One child particularly bemoaned the way his parents would offer his bedroom to relatives when they visited. Being the only personal space he felt he had, he felt robbed and cheated. It would seem that no parent sees that as a problem. The children expressed a deep desire for personal spaces and others did not even seem to understand what this was all about. They only understood themselves to be social beings with no relationship with themselves.
Having established that desire for personal spaces in all our children, we decided to extended our process and do some more embodied work. We asked the children to imagine their personal space and construct it using any material around including grass and tree leaves and wood outside. So they spent about thirty minutes working as individuals, crafting their personal spaces both as an emotional and physical space. Most children found it extremely difficult to work alone. Here and there I had to ask them to go back to their space as they would go to the other children and interfere with their work.
After working as individuals, the visual arts teacher drew an unfinished portrait and asked them to work together to complete it and make it look good as a team. Most of the children found solace in coming back to the team to work together although a lot of other issues came out of the process. Such tendencies as non-participation, refusal to take collective responsibility, dominating, failure to negotiate space and criticism of outcome as a result of non-participation came out.
Reflection time gave the children the opportunity to interrogate their actions and understand their behavioural traits.
It is important to realise that we are not only social beings. The sad reality is that most of our children come from that reality of having to face life and live mainly as social beings with no chance whatsoever to have a connection with themselves and know themselves and nurture what they love. This is a gift Dramatic Needs slowly gives to the children who come here.
Sadly there is no conscious effort to create processes for the children in some set-ups to enable them to pick up certain qualities and prepare them to interact with life’s various variables. Children pass through the maze of life’s challenges with little preparation for making informed choices.
There is a glaring absence of ownership at any level in most households especially for the children with parents failing, consciously or unconsciously to allow children room to own even their toys earlier in life just to inculcate that culture of ownership and taking responsibility. Such children grow up with little power over even their own lives and so get exploited and manipulated as they do not know how to own anything. Later in life because all the children know is the public space, they jostle for space and display qualities that can only cause sickness and disease as they try in vain to derive self-actualization only from social spaces.
There is very little spending of time by most children as most children have too much time on their hands and because of lack of discipline in spending time alone doing something constructive most of them ‘kill’ time on social networks chatting with friends to while away time. They have no clue what to do with this vast time they wake up to find themselves in. So instead of viewing time as ‘money’ and something they can use to ‘purchase’ beautiful things from life, they view it as a bother and something that can only be whiled away because it is too much.
The last task of completing an unfinished portrait while showing their penchant for working in groups also showed a lack of participation. There are children who lack both the social and personal space orientation. These are afraid of taking part in group works or even sceptical to do so for fear of conflicting with their colleagues or being part of a product they might not be proud to be associated with. We used this moment to reflect on issues such as collective responsibility and participation and this was well tackled by the children, some of whom challenged others not to be judges or armchair revolutionaries but to participate.
This has been a deep exercise for us and we continue to play gainfully to move ourselves forward in the area of self-awareness and emotional literacy. At the end of the day we will feel good if we feel secure in this vast space called world and we will be healthier if we learnt to negotiate with all the variables of our environment while leading rich personal lives.
Exploring Personal and Collective Spaces
This week we started a process to help our children explore the concept of personal and collective spaces. One of Dramatic Need’s desires is to groom children who understand their emotional make up and become conscious community members who build healthy communities.
In this process children are given pieces of paper and asked to begin writing a story of their choice. They are instructed to find a personal corner and begin to write this story. After writing that one line they pass their paper to their neighbour and receive one from another child. They add a line to the story they receive and pass it on again and they are instructed not to read the lines they see but to just continue writing the story they started writing when they began.
The process goes on like that with the children adding a line and sometimes two or three to different papers but still writing their own story. The game ends when a child’s original paper eventually comes back to them with all the other children’s added lines. They read their story now which is made up of all sorts of lines. There is no coherence whatsoever. Children could be heard giggling as they noted some coherence and sometimes total difference.
One child complained that his story was a tragedy and now it has come back to him comic and he felt bad. He felt that the other children had disturbed the flow of his story the way he had envisaged it. He was upset and even shed tears.
Another child said he observed a thread of emotional connectedness in the lines
What came out of the process as we began to reflect was the realization of the frustration that comes from working as communities and the desire to sometimes do our own thing the way we want to do it. The realization that community tasks and interactions are negotiated and there is giving and taking also came out. During our reflections the children were able to see the need to have and understand both personal and collective spaces and know how to behave and what to expect from these. There was also the need to build and feather one’s personal space so that one does not only expect self actualization from collective spaces.