Into the Magical Forest: Creative Schools

Dod yn ôl at fynghoed: this is the title of the latest Creative Schools project I am working on in Tonypandy. In Welsh, it translates as “to return to my trees”, or “to return to a balanced state of mind”. The aim is to bring the children back into contact with nature through outings, stories, and creativity: collecting and printing leaves, working with clay, and willow weaving. There is a small area in the school yard that is to be transformed into a nature portal, a magical area the children can retreat to.

On an outing to a local forestry area, the children collected natural items to form a gateway into the  woods where stories would be shared. Some had never been walking in a forest before. They jumped through the gateway in turn reciting the password: I mewn i’r goedwig hudol! (Into the magical forest!)

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The Gateway to the Magical Forest

Discovering a fairy stone, and puffball mushrooms.

 

 

Doing leaf rubbings using wax crayons.

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Working with clay.

 

 

Clay sculptures inspired by the woods and stories.

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Windows on the World

In their passports, participants of the Storytelling and Art from Around the World course inserted a picture of themselves as a character of their choosing complete with name, magical attributes, and planet of origin.

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Using coloured acetates, windows were made to look in upon various characters created in response to folk stories. This week: Il Gatto Mammone, or The Tale of the Cats in which a girl tugs up a cauliflower revealing a large tunnel into the earth that leads her to a house of cats and adventures therein.

 

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Voices on the Wind

For the past five months, I’ve been a creative practitioner in a primary school, working with a storyteller to produce a record of the stories about the local area surrounding the school. We have covered a vast time period, from the Bronze age, right up to the mid-19th century. I have been using printmaking with the children to produce flags and banners to decorate a structure in the grounds now known as the ‘Tŷ unnos’, or ‘One-Night house’. In old Welsh law, it was stated that anyone who could build a house on common ground in a night, with a fire in the hearth by morning could own the land as a freehold.

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Banners and flags are interspersed all around the Tŷ unnos, drawn and printed by the children and myself in response to the tales.  The map below is a record of traditional Welsh myths that Lowri shared with the children.

 

 

 

 

Natural Abstracts

Some stunning paintings made in response to two stories from Africa today on the Children’s Art and Storytelling course that I am running at Llanover Hall Arts Centre. ‘Why the Sun and Moon Live in the Sky’ – a Nigerian folktale, and ‘The Lion’s Whisker’ – an Ethiopian Folktale.

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Elements by Jim age 9

 

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African landscape by Paddy, age 9

 

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Camouflaged Lion by Iolo, age 6

 

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Sun by Paddy, age 9

 

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Witch Doctor by George, age 7

 

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Witch Doctor Dance by Jim, age 9

 

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Elements II by Jim age 9

 

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African Landscape By George, age 7

Preliminary Drawings:

Lion, by George; Winged Lion with Horn by Paddy, Mask by Paddy, Compound of Sun and Moon for the Water by George, Sun and Water by Iolo.

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.