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Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave

For the last week of this five week cycle of storytelling and art from around the world, we travelled to Russia to hear about the enigmatic Baba Yaga.  She is a many-faceted figure, variously seen as a Moon, Death, Winter, Earth Goddess, totemic matriarchal ancestress, female initiator, or archetypal image.[4]

After discussing some of Baba Yaga’s traits: iron teeth, lives in a house that walks around on chicken legs, sails through the sky in a mortar yielding a pestle,  the children listened to one of the many tales involving Baba Yaga: Vasilisa the Brave. It exhibits Baba Yaga’s ambiguous nature – scary, yet wise, and the choices of a girl who triumphs through courage and perseverance.

Below is a selection of the wonderful illustrations of Baba Yaga by children on the course. I’m always amazed at the detail, personality and energy of these drawings that the children do without hesitating as they listen to the stories.

 

Vasilisa’s magic doll by Lily.

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Folktales from India

Children’s Storytelling and Art Course, Week four. The children were interested in the concept of having two heads after hearing the Indian folktale about a bird with two heads that can’t agree. They drew pictures of themselves with the head of something or someone they would or would not like to be attached to and we discussed story ideas around what it would be like to sleep/go to school/get dressed etc.

 

 

Some responses to the story of the birth of Ganesha, and how he got his elephant head.

 

 

Some other Gods, Goddesses, and a demon created using an inverted stencil as a starting point.

Stories from the Dreamtime

For Week 3 of the Children’s Art and Writing course, the children listened to three stories from the Dreamtime creation myths of Aboriginal culture: How the kangeroo got her pouch, Barramundi, (how the fish came to be in the waters), and a Kunwinjku Dreamtime Story of the long-necked turtle and the echidna, telling why they live in separate places. The children learnt about animals from Australia they had never heard of such as the wombat and the spiny anteater (echidna). They painted and drew their own images from the stories after looking at examples of aboriginal art for inspiration.

The children learned how every hill, water hole and tree, living creature and natural phenomenon was believed to have come into existence in the Dreamtime. They learned how everything about aboriginal society is inextricably woven with, and connected to, land.

 

In Esme’s story, the great god Byamee, who had been in disguise as a wombat, goes into a bar to celebrate his discovery of the creature with the kindest heart. The sky spirits speak to each other in secret symbols.

 

Rain, Plastic Spiders and the End of the World

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October. The bike and I take shelter under the awning of the Summerhouse cafe in the park to wait out the heavy downpour. I order coffee and join the other stranded folk watching the water bounce off the picnic tables and slide down the sides of a plastic ice-cream the size of a child. It seems to have been raining for weeks.

I think about a film I saw recently – Blade Runner 2049. It presents a terrifying dystopia in which organic life has been all but extinguished, and everything is commodified. I wonder for a moment how prescient sci-fi writers like Philip K. Dick were, and what’s going to happen to us when the ice caps melt. Shouldn’t we be taking to the streets to protest against fossil fuels or something?

A collie dog shivers at the feet of an old man in a cap. We sip our coffee synchronously,  the man and I. Snatches of Stevie Wonder’s Superstition strain through speakers that are screwed to a post next to a CCTV eye. One of the cardboard skeletons strung along the front of the awning has its arm hooked up in green cotton wool that is sprinkled with plastic spiders. You find it festooned copiously all over the shops at this time of year, a prelude to the tinsel.

I crumple up my cardboard coffee cup and deposit it in the bin. The rain hasn’t lessened a bit; it is falling sheets of pins dissolving on impact with the tarmac. The old man and I exchange a glance.

    It’s in for the day, he says. No point in waiting. 

He pulls up the collar of his jacket, gives the peak of his cap a small tug downwards and steps out, the dog slinking at his heels.