We kicked off 2019 with our first ever children’s creative arts workshop. Titled HUMBESA HWEDU, a Shona phrase that very loosely translates to “our seedhood” the workshop was intended to expose participants to the magic of creative arts and hopefully spark their potential and creative capacity. We collaborated with the World Leading Schools Association to execute a free program that would be worthwhile and enriching for children in Harare. Hosted in Glenview Area 8, the workshop encompassed three disciplines: art, drama and dance. We found ourselves working with some children who had not had the opportunity to explore these disciplines before. They approached each session with curiosity and excitement, and nothing is more rewarding for a facilitator. Here are five key lessons that we learnt ourselves over the course of the six days.
- Children are socially aware.
This was especially exciting for us to discover. As a facilitator, it’s easy to assume that the knowledge you want to impart is new and absolute. However, we found ourselves learning from the children, just as they were learning from us too. The social issues that some of them chose to explore spoke plenty about the life that they know. From issues of parenthood, gender roles, church politics and economics, the workshop participants demonstrated a wide understanding of the world around them. They incorporated different dramatic conventions in the drama modules such as the use of a narrator. Our biggest takeaway: “shanda nemaoka ako, kwete kuromba.”
2. Within the process of art-making is a space for personal transformation.
Although we already knew this, the workshop was a powerful reminder. Different art forms present us with a special opportunity to learn, grow and heal. We saw this in small, simple ways with some of the children. For many of them, they have grown up in difficult environments where they are exposed to vulgar language and (in our opinion, of course), inappropriate rhetoric. We found them creating a “safe place” for each other where only words of love and affirmation were encouraged. One of the participants, Anotida, commented that “tinofanira kufara tose”, which can translate to we should be happy together. Patricia, another participant told us, “ndakadzidza kubatsira vamwe”, another important lesson – helping those around you. This lesson can only be completed by some words of self-love that Natasha inspired us with: “usazvidzikisire pasi uchiti handigoni. Ita uchidzidzira.” Do not devalue yourself with the thought that you cannot do something. Learn as you go.
3. The curriculum must be deliberate and thorough.
This is fundamental. As teachers, we must ask ourselves what exactly it is we want to leave our students with. How do we ensure that our work is as impactful as we intend it to be? In addition, how do we measure this impact? We have to create strong, unconventional curricula that challenge perceptions and stimulate original thinking and creativity. We tried our best to do this. After all, how else would we stir within the children a deeper awareness of the psychosocial (and other) influences that govern their daily lives? For the 25 May Movement, it was especially important that the curriculum for the workshop encompassed all three of our values: pan-Africanism, creative process and meaningful work. It was also helpful for us to have confidence in our lesson plan in order to deliver it with conviction.
4. Children are excited to learn.
New as a concept may be, children will tackle it with an open mind and willing heart. Curiosity drives them. There is a yearning within children for knowledge, something they know deep down is power. More and more questions were asked each day as they enthusiastically set up the tables and chairs for their workshop. There wasn’t a day that facilitators arrived at the workshop venue before a group of children had already gathered. This made us excited to teach.
5. Parental consent and understanding are important.
Parents are stakeholders too. In fact, they determined whether or not their children would attend the full workshop. As this was not anything that they had been asked for before, the case for the participation of their children in this workshop needed to be defended – and defend it we did. Although some of the children were not free all the time because of varying reasons including family dynamics and household duties, they came as often as they could. Understanding this, we adopted a flexible schedule and established mutual agreement across parties. Some parents even came to the workshop venue to join their children or simply observe the activities they were doing. It was encouraging for us to see such support from families and were assured that there are people rallying behind our cause.
And that’s that! We look forward to hosting a similar workshop in the future. We would love to collaborate with different groups and look forward to receiving your feedback. Forward on.