Jaipur – Round 2

In late February and early March I got to spend a week in Jaipur.  It truly is a jewel of a city.  Located in Rajasthan, it boasts one of the most visited cities on the “Golden Triangle” circuit.  I can see why.  It has a rich history of forts, palaces, majestic views and a number of locations for shoppers to buy all kinds of beautiful block print materials, tailors and seamstresses who can make anything you desire, and of course beautiful gems.  There is a lot to do in and around the city.  This time I made it to many places that were a little bit off the beaten track, but totally worth it.

The main reason for being in Jaipur was the Fulbright Conference.  Each year it is hosted in a different city in India.  All the Fulbright scholars that are in the country as well as neighboring countries in the Central Asia are invited to attend to share their research, listen, meet and make connections.  I was on a panel of educators to present what I had been working on with NalandaWay.  It was a great opportunity to listen to my colleagues, as well as listen to other researchers present on their subjects.

I felt fortunate to be a part of the whole experience.  Not only were we well taken care of at the hotel, I had a chance to extend my stay and take a printmaking workshop by a master printer.

This is going to be a series of posts, because it was a week long adventure in Jaipur.  It was an extremely interesting place to visit a second time. There were a lot of things I didn’t notice or experience the first time because I was mostly in heavy tourist areas.  This time I ventured out into other parts of the city, had a chance to visit some real neighborhoods and interact more with local people.  I also was able to compare my experiences in India. Having been in South India for two full months before traveling back to Jaipur, I realized that it was a much different place than Chennai.  Jaipur seemed to be a bit more conservative, and there was a clear dividing line between tourists and citizens.  I really  hadn’t experienced that in Chennai, even though it was obvious that I was an outsider.

I was glad I got to observe these kinds of experiences, it made me think about how India is such a diverse place, full of possibilities, challenges, experiences, and cultures.  There is no wrong, there is just different.  It’s hard for me to lump India into just one package now.  There isn’t just one India.  It would be like saying the United States is all the same.  Each region has it’s own special traditions, culture, and attitudes. The more I visited, observed and took part in the daily life, the more I learned about that particular place and myself.

IMG_3754
Amazing view from my window, over to the right is where you would go to see Old Jaipur.
IMG_3759
Roof top party!
IMG_1059
Well appointed room, but later in the week I could hear everything that was happening below it….weddings, parties, turban ceremonies.
IMG_1061
Carved wall in the hotel.
IMG_1108
Strange prints in the elevator.
IMG_4660
Turban wrapping ceremony.  I was engaged in this activity for at least an hour.

IMG_4682IMG_4692

IMG_4701
This woman was looking for her “date”.  I saw her come in, look around, and she couldn’t find him in the sea of turbans.

IMG_4712IMG_4694

IMG_1194
Hanuman!
IMG_1298
In the lobby area, every evening they had traditional Rajasthani dancers and musicians perform for the patrons. 

IMG_1363
Something is going on down there.
IMG_1365
Last meal in the restaurant.  The staff worked long shifts, we would be down there at any time of day and see the same staff.  This restaurant was called the 24/7 restaurant, and I think it meant that anyone who worked there, also worked that shift.  We were well taken care of.  The staff worked hard.
IMG_1358
It actually stormed!

An arts camp, with the future in mind.

I took thousands of pictures while I was in India on the Fulbright. I carried my camera around with me wherever I went. The one time where I ran out of memory and battery power was the time I spent at the arts camp in Kuppam at the Agastya Foundation. I wanted to record everything I witnessed all the days I was there. The Kanavu Pattarai arts camp was something I wasn’t sure I was going to experience. Fortunately, I did. The experience was something that I will never forget.

This particular Kanavu Pattarai camp is supported by collaboration between the NalandaWay Foundation and the Agastya Foundation. NalandaWay provides the teachers, the curriculum, the resources, and Agastya Foundation provides the space. The camp pulls from near by towns. Both boys and girls, ages 13-16, attended this camp. It was not a residential experience but a day camp for 3 full days.

The first day students were introduced to each other and jumped right in on camp activities. The teachers organized the whole camp, and when there was some spots that needed an activity I filled in with yoga and a quick lesson in making origami cranes. I also participated in a trust exercise, which was really fun for all of us.

All the students were extremely excited to participate. They made a large amount of art in just three days, and presented on topics that were important to them and their school community. It just goes to show you, that when students are given a chance to perform, act, interact, create, make, design, and do—THEY WILL! Most of the students were really into the arts projects and produced a lot of amazing work together.

Collaboration is a big piece of the puzzle for this kind of camp, especially since the goal is to build a community of peers. One of the best parts of the camp for me was when the students were tasked with creating a group song. It was a huge challenge. Many students were very happy doing visual arts, or even making posters, and speaking. BUT singing? That was a big leap for some of them. Many of the students didn’t know what to do, or how they should attempt that particular task. However, there were a few girls who would not give up. While the group took a break from song writing, a couple of girls stayed back to finish the melody and lyrics. They were the only ones in the building, and I don’t think they were even aware that I was paying attention. What I saw was true collaboration, respect for one another, and the desire to come together to accomplish the task. These girls continued working on the song until everyone came back in the room. They shared their lyrics and taught the whole group of students the melody of the song. The other students were amazed, excited and couldn’t wait to be a part of the musical task once again.

As a group they practiced (led by the girls and a few other boys). The way the girls problem solved and helped their fellow peers was amazing. They reached out as a team to put something together that would bring a lot of joy to everyone in the whole entire room.

On a whole, this group exhibited a wide variety of talents and problem solving skills. I thought that this was a strength because they all had a particular way to exhibit that strength. It made the group of 30 kids extremely strong.   Students exhibited a lot of empathy and compassion for each other. Most times when one member of their group was having difficulty another would job in and say,” Maybe we try this?” The students always seemed like they were looking for ways to solve problems, think creatively, use the set limitations to their advantage, think outside the box to use limited art materials in a new way, and most importantly not give up on the project or each other. Only a few students really needed some extra help, but I think it was only because they had never had this much going on at once. Not much exposure to arts, not much exposure to group work and collaboration.

The Kanavu Pattarai camp is much more than a few days for kids to get away from school and have fun. This program is creating ways for kids to build their self-esteem, gain leaderships skills, practice problem solving, and be more self- aware. Without the arts, students are unable to see some the values that already exist within themselves. By providing arts camps, NalandaWay is essentially strengthening the school communities. The students who participate in these camps take everything back with them and share it at their school. They are able to talk about their experiences and show what they accomplished by participating in the camp.

 

IMG_3493
The camp space.
IMG_3519
Student receiving a welcome pin!

IMG_3513IMG_3529IMG_3560IMG_3559

IMG_3543
Camp rules.
IMG_3574
Students creating their small group poster.
IMG_3619
Student beginning work on her self portrait with a tiny mirror.
IMG_3631
Decorative self portraits.  Using color and pattern as symbols.
IMG_3643
Students had a lot of discussions with each other for collaborative projects.

IMG_3640

IMG_3652
Working on their community poster, discussing issues that are important to them and their community.

IMG_3654IMG_3670

IMG_3682
Presenting their community posters to all the other groups.

IMG_0599

IMG_0629
Me!  Teaching origami cranes, step by step.

IMG_0647IMG_0703IMG_0683IMG_0706IMG_0735

IMG_3735
Uma and I on a tour around Agastya.
IMG_3744
All the camp goers and the teachers.
IMG_3746
The lovely girls who put the song together.
IMG_0814
Traveling to the camp spot.

IMG_0824IMG_0849IMG_0856IMG_0860IMG_0917IMG_0926

IMG_0929
Shadow puppets to tell a story.
IMG_0954
Clay figures.

IMG_0957

IMG_0960
Trust game– “Crazy taxi”.

IMG_0972

I was delighted to collaborate with NalandaWay on this program. I was able to expand the camp to five days, and add additional components like yoga and mindfulness. The more time we spend providing meaningful programs for youth to connect to each other and their own communities, the stronger we build the future for all of us.

Save

A peak at what’s around

I had the chance to visit the Kanavu Pattarai camp in Andhra Pradesh.  I was mostly in the very southern tip of that state where Tamil Nadu and Kerala come together.  First we traveled by train, and toured around in a car until we got to Kuppam.  That is where the camp was held.  The landscape was very similar to the southwest.  Dry, arid, blue skies, and puffy clouds.  It felt like a very familiar place.  I loved the Southwest when I lived there, and I really got used to being in this type of environment again.  If felt so familiar.

It was the perfect setting for the camp.  Very quiet, serene, beautiful.  Rambling vistas everywhere to just stare at, and take a very deep breath.  I think students would have no problem feeling inspired to create in this space.  In the morning and evenings it was quite cool.  However, just as you may have guessed, the day time was hot.  You really had to keep up your fluids up here, or else, heat exhaustion.  I loved visiting the Agastya Foundation and staying on their campus for those few days.  It was a great break from the traffic, humidity and people-packed city.  It would have been great to see more of the State itself, but I was happy I got to see  this small corner.

 

IMG_0511
The conductor of the train, wearing  nice jacket, but what you don’t see is the clipboard.  It had a very colorful cartoon character, and a unicorn on it!
IMG_0510
AC.
IMG_0522
Trains fill up fast, sometimes it was standing room only.  Not to mention 3 people to one long bench.
IMG_0529
Everyone has there hustle.  There are people selling everything: toys, jewelry, games, food, snacks, tea.  You name it, you can probably get it.
IMG_3321
Part of one of the schools we visited on our way to Agastya.
IMG_3368
Streets are far less busy here than Chennai.
IMG_3372
Trucks, palms, and mountains.
IMG_3431
Watching the sunset, was lovely.
IMG_3432
Small town we passed through to get to Agastya.  We had some tea and chips.

IMG_3433

IMG_3454
We drove far away from the towns and villages to a huge plot of land that is the campus of Agastya Foundation.  We crossed over this big water body and we realized there was a full moon. 
IMG_3457
Outside of our dorm they are building a shrine to Agastya.
IMG_3479
After breakfast we walked the road to the art camp building.
IMG_3485
View from art camp.

IMG_3486IMG_3489IMG_3487

IMG_3492
Another view from Art Camp.

IMG_3496IMG_3587IMG_3586

IMG_0537
Typical South Indian Cuisine! That big spot is for the rice!
IMG_0559
You can tell it’s hot.

IMG_0560IMG_0561IMG_0562

IMG_0577
View from camp.

Road trip to Camp

The major highlight of being involved with NalandaWay Foundation was being able to attend, observe and help facilitate an arts camp called Kanavu Pattarai (dream workshop).  The purpose of the camp is to immerse youth in community building strategies. By using arts based and mindfulness practices, Kanavu Pattarai camps educate and train diverse communities to create responsible children who are expressive and positive in their choices.

Before we arrived at the camp for this session, our group stopped along to visit some other groups at some different schools who had already experienced Kanavu Pattarai in previous sessions.  The kids had recalled what they learned, shared with us the art and skits they created during camp.  I even got to facilitate some group yoga practices.  What a treat!

The best part for me was being able to interact with the kids, and noticing how receptive they were to my presence and trusting me to guide them through some poses.  What a warm reception and some stand out, unforgettable moments.

Here is a glimpse of some of the students I met, the schools I visited, and what they shared with us:

IMG_3315.JPG
Students were game for a few yoga poses.  Tree pose is always a good one to try.
IMG_3322.JPG
In Andhra Pradesh, the land is a lot drier and rockier.
IMG_3324.JPG
Mural painting is big everywhere you go, although this one is fades, it’s still beautiful.
IMG_3342.JPG
I had a chance to visit a girls school, the whole school was bright, cheerful, and boasted lots of arts integration.
IMG_3353.JPG
Meeting with a group of girls who participated in a previous camp.
IMG_3389.JPG
We also visited a residential school.  These kids were energetic, lively, and so friendly.
IMG_3397.JPG
Listening carefully to a few members who were speaking about the importance of the arts, but also how the arts can be a catalyst for social improvement among peers.

IMG_3399.JPGIMG_3390.JPGIMG_3367.jpgIMG_3359.jpgIMG_3347.JPGIMG_3311.JPGIMG_3309.JPGIMG_3302.JPG

IMG_3295.JPG
Part of the camp process is to create a banner to bring back to the school.  This group worked hard to create a message about equality and acceptance.

IMG_3285.JPGIMG_3282.JPG

More to come from this trip. Stay tuned.

Reflection

Get ready for  series of reflections since I am back from India.  It was a big struggle to try and update while I was in India and now that I’ve been looking through thousands of pictures and organizing them into the weeks and months.  I realize that there is so much that I want to share.  Even though it will come from a different point of view, it still reflects the different things I learned, what was important to me then, and how I think about it now.

One of the best experiences I had in India was creating a workshop for the organization I was working with.  Each of the project managers presented me with what work they did and a few weeks later I prepared a full day of experiential learning activities and lectures to figure out ways we could collaborate on arts education programming for kids in India.

There was a lot of interest in what kinds of work I was doing in my own classroom in the United States and the goal for me was to expose them to art education theories, the use of mindfulness and yoga modules in the classroom, lesson planning, and a bit of about the importance of being a trauma informed educator.

One of my main goals for the day was just to get my coworkers to make art and become aware of the experience of making. I know all of the people in the organization are connected to the arts in some way, but I was curious about how often they immerse themselves in creating art.  I also felt that it was extremely important to let them be students and experience what it might feel like to be a student of art.

I decided to share a lesson that was open, expressive, and allowed for collaboration and exploration.  To facilitate those ideas, I decided to use music to direct the art making, and this is the result.

IMG_9417.jpg
I provided a wide variety of tools and media so the artists could choose the supplies they thought were appropriate for them.
IMG_9441.JPG
The result was a variety of symbols and objects that emerged from the interaction of the music, that conveyed a variety of moods and emotions from the artists.
IMG_9442.JPG
Many artists expressed a certain story and explained symbols contained in their work.
IMG_9443.JPG
The layers of tone and color mimic the layering of instruments in the music piece.
IMG_9444.JPG
A variety of textures in this piece.
IMG_9445.JPG
The pattern and color are bold over a background of light colors.
IMG_9449.JPG
This piece shows use of other paper, creating a truly mixed media piece with collage.
IMG_9450.jpg
A musical art composition.
IMG_9451.JPG
Sometimes a landscape emerges.
IMG_9447.JPG
Or a boat at sea.
IMG_9439.jpg
The group checking out the completed pieces.
IMG_9424.jpg
Artist at work.
IMG_9418.jpg
Creating texture with glue.
IMG_9413.jpg
The artists set up, ready to add more to their piece.
IMG_9407.JPG
The workshop space.
IMG_9400.jpg
Ready to go.
IMG_9399.JPG
Awesome ladies of NalandaWay.
IMG_9455.JPG
The workshop participants and co-workers.
IMG_9454.JPG
Ready to present, with electricity or not.

IMG_9453.JPG

Art Class Collaborative Project: Insights

Insights Collaboration project
54 pieces, each 4 in x 6 in, mixed media

First project of the year, students created individual pieces for a collaborative piece for the detention center. Focusing on personal stories, symbolism, hope, dreams, challenges. We’ll present it to the detention center this Tuesday and it will be hung in the school hallway (I think). I’m really proud of my students for being open enough to share their personal experiences with everyone at the center. These kinds of projects are important.

Below is a closer look at the stories within the artists.

IMG_0396 IMG_0395 IMG_0393

Collaboration

blank page

For the first art project back at school the students and I were asked to create a permanent piece of art work for the detention center.  Because the work is a collaboration between the school and detention center community there is no one theme that is covered in this artwork.  What I wanted the students to do was to explore their individual stories  through a variety of art media so that each one could represent themselves in some way.

It is more often than not that society forgets that my students have personal lives with hopes and dreams, and categorizes them into groups instead of seeing each one of them for who they are.  Each one of my students has a story to tell or something to share about themselves.  They can reveal a goal, a desire, or share an obstacle or triumph.    The students that come to this school are not identical copies of anything and come from a variety of backgrounds and situations.  They are sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles, friends, and parents themselves.  They are not a statistic, but actual young people who are quick at adapting, fast at learning, and adept at many things.  It is my hope that through this collaborative art piece viewers will see my students as the bright, smart, sensitive, and creative individuals they are. Maybe observers will be able to relate by finding something familiar within the stories and expressions the artists reveal through their art?

Each student has been working really hard to represent themselves for this special artwork by exploring art techniques and materials, but also finding a way to represent their story.   In these preliminary works you’ll see investigations in identification, explorations in symbolism, and inspections of personal history.  Art is not just a form of personal expression but a way to communicate, define experiences, and allow different kinds of storytelling.  This collaboration art piece is to show that everyone of our students is an individual, however, you may see commonalities that bind us all together creating unspoken connections between artist and viewer.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.