Savannah African Art Museum hosts workshop to prepare kids for school

Workshop facilitator Kat Robertson
Workshop facilitator Kat Robertson
The Savannah African Art Museum will be using African traditions of storytelling in an interactive workshop with children and their parents on Saturday August 14th. The program, “What’s On Your Mind?” is the second in a two-part series that uses visual arts, poetry and movement to capture what the child participants have been feeling throughout the pandemic as they return to school.

“In African culture, [storytelling] is a way of communicating to the younger generation about the ancestors, about the tradition, but also to set the grounds for codes of behavior as to how you go out into the community,” said SAAM Education Director Lisa Jackson. “This is tied to our exhibits because we have several pieces in the museum that display this, that display the history and how we honor the ancestors and how we speak of all these pieces and how this information is shared from one generation to the next.”

Storytelling is an African tradition storytelling is a way of sharing African traditions.

“In African story telling tradition, the storyteller does not merely share a story with their audience, they share an experience with them, making creative use of their vocal range, facial expressions, gestures, instrumentation,” says the website for the Savannah Art Museum about their story telling programs.

In the initial program, facilitator Kat Robertson led a discussion with the children about what the changed circumstances of the pandemic have been like on them. She then asked them to express those feelings into a movement and a sound. She then worked with the kids to express those emotions into visual art.

A presentation of the words and visual artistic works was then posted online as part of the internet outreach that SAAM has stepped up since the beginning of the pandemic with an increased presence on YouTube, Facebook, and their own website.

The second event on the 14th is one involving the children with their parents. Parents will be encouraged to sit with the child and help them choose colors and materials in creating their painting. The event is focused on dealing with the return to school that students, parents, and teachers alike all are affected by.

“Storytelling allows everyone to participate because everyone accounts for events differently. However, when we tell our stories, all parties can look through the lens of people and see different perspectives as it relates to historical accounts,” said Valentina Quarterman in a press release. Quarterman is a social studies secondary teacher specialist at Savannah Arts Academy who has lent her support to the event (?).

The emphasis, according to Jackson, is to get to the heart of the children’s emotions.

“A lot of times people ask their kids how was school and they just say ‘fine’ and later on you might find something. ” said Lisa Jackson. “Somehow with the arts, you get more and that’s why we do this.”

The kids who are invited to the workshop are ages 6 and up and the events are open to anyone who signs up. The museum’s mission is to promote African art and culture to everyone regardless of race. Education Director Lisa Jackson says that the program participants are often repeat attendees from their mailing lists.

The Savannah African Art Museum focuses on West and Central Africa with their 1,000+ collection but they are dedicated to the specific rather than giving their programs a blanket label of African. The museum has a curatorial team that provides specific context into the many different national and cultural customs behind the activity.

For instance, for their upcoming Mancala game playing workshop, chief curator (and founding director) Billie Stultz knows the specific ethnic groups offhand in Cote d’Iviore, Mali, Senegal where the game is most popular and how the game originated from Arab traders.

Stultz says that for this program, they borrow on the saying of the Massai cultural group in Kenya, “if the children are well, the community is well?”

The Savannah African Art Museum typically hosts workshops twice a month. The Savannah African Art Museum is located at 201 E. 37th Street and can be found at savannahafricanartmuseum.org online.

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