Art workshops bring joy, and play, to local kids

2 Oct 2014 - 13:45

A group of students from the Michaelis School of Fine Art are using their knowledge and considerable skill to bring free Art Workshops to the children of a disadvantaged Cape community. The workshops are hosted at the Umtha Welanga Aftercare Centre in Khayelitsha and enable young children to engage in creative play. Dedicated Art classes are not available at most township schools.

The project was initiated by postgraduate student Daniella Joffe (Franca) in January 2014 when she organised a group of volunteers from her friends and peers in the Music, Fine Art, English and Drama programmes to interact with the children of Umtha Welanga in Khayelitsha. Now, the voluntarism drive has become a regular activity for fourth-year Fine Art students who provide exciting art workshops once a month on a Wednesday afternoon.  The project now involves 10 Fine Art student volunteers: fourth year students Gail Gunston; Rory Emmet; Thulile Gumedzi; Thandiwe Msebenzi; Lethamaga Mabula; Sophette Wait; Liesl Brenzel; Bonolo Kavula and second year students Asemahle Ntlonti and Elizabeth Nkoana. Gail Gunston was very moved following her interaction with the children at her first visit to the Centre. This is an extract from her written account of the experience:

Because of the sporadic arrival of the children our plan had to be adjusted quickly from "age-appropriate" groups to "anything goes". We created spaces on the floor where the children could use the cardboard, crayons, scissors and glue all donated by The Deckle Edge. Liesl had brought magazines, which the children were encouraged to tear up and enhance their drawings of themselves. Sohette introduced our group to Cubism - as we'd been expecting the older children- so some of the smaller ones were a bit alarmed that a face could reflect multiple planes simultaneously. We'd brought some reference books and that turned into some fun.
Bonolo Kavula says that it is very important to the students that the fun incorporates age-appropriate learning also. ‘We try to make sure that the children learn something new every time and have fun while doing so. We've had them make family portraits through drawing, still life drawings with fruit, which they indulged in afterwards, painted-noodle picture frames and they also made bunting for an "end-of-term" party we had last semester as we were going to break away for about 3 months. Our first visit for the second semester was in August and we made exciting engravings using crayons and black acrylic paint” says Kavula.

Eight members of the original group are set to graduate this year so the drive to recruit new volunteers for 2015 has already begun.  “ It would be great if more Cape students signed up for next year so that the Art Workshop outreach project lives on” says Kavula.