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.

 

The Mark of Medusa

Week Two of the Children’s Illustration and Writing course at Llanover Hall, produced some varied and interesting interpretations of Medusa, including one rock star version! After listening to the story, the seven children (aged between 6 and 11), got to work with pens and pencils to produce these wonderful works.

I asked them to think about writing their own version of the tale, perhaps from the perspective of Medusa, or imagining a different outcome. One little girl imagined that Medusa fell in love with a statue – one of the ill-fated heroes she had turned to stone. The three witches with their one detachable eye was also a source of fascination.

 

This week, we tried some mono printing. Here is one plate and the resulting print, equally beautiful. It depicts Perseus’ mother, sad because her son has gone away and she has to marry the evil king, with Medusa creeping up behind her.

 

Some more mono prints of Medusa, and Perseus’ shield that saves him from being turned to stone:

We also talked about the story of Theseus and the Minotaur and other Greek myths. One boy wrote his story combining elements of the two tales, and Flo did a monoprint of the cyclops.

New Creative Course for Children

22814176_2138041869756309_782321284008138379_nFor this five week course, we are sharing stories, poems and art from ancient cultures around the world. This week, we looked at Māori culture and the story of Maui the demi-god who pulls up Te Ika a Maui (known today as the North Island of New Zealand), with his magic fishing hook. The slashes and cuts made by his brothers fighting over the land were said to have created the many mountains and valleys of the North Island today.

After listening to the story and looking at some images of Maori sculpture and art (rich in symbolic pattterns), the children drew some pictures in their books and wrote down some ideas for their own stories, such as imagining what else may have been hooked on the magic fishing hook, and how Maui felt when his brothers refused to take him fishing.

After the break, the children chose one of their drawings to develop into a print. We used styrofoam to etch into, ran the ink over it and printed it – one to take home, and one for their books. They then worked on their own stories. There was no pressure to read them out, but the children enjoyed sharing their ideas and knowledge about myths in general. Most didn’t know much about Maori culture, but lots about the Greek myths, which we agreed to investigate next week. One boy decided to write part two of his story when he got home.

 

Creative Practitioner Project

I’m very excited to have been chosen to work as a creative practitioner in a local primary school as part of the Lead Creative Schools Scheme, an extensive five-year plan to embed the arts and creativity into the Welsh curriculum.

I and a fellow practitioner, Lowri will be working with a group of about twelve Year 2 learners to create a storytelling and outdoor art project, taking inspiration from the rich local history of the area surrounding the school.  The artwork created in response to the stories will be installed in a small wooded area in the extensive school grounds. 

Lowri, who grew up in the local area, and whose first language is Welsh, told us about the Tŷ unnos (one night house), an old Welsh tradition that claims if a person could build a house on common land in one night with a fire burning in the hearth by the following morning, the land then belonged to them as a freehold. The squatter could then extend the land around by the distance they could throw an axe from the four corners of the house. Old axe and spear heads were discovered in the back gardens of local houses, and as they can now be viewed in the National Museum in Cardiff, we considered taking the children on a field trip to inspire them for their stories and artwork.

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One aspect of the artwork will involve making prints from the children’s stories – both monoprint and cyanotype – onto material which will be hung as an installation in the wooded area. Clay and willow may also be used to create structures and sculptures…who knows how things will develop and grow as the children become immersed in the tales…I’II be posting regular updates as the project unfolds.