Migration – A Creative Session

Neha G  Utmani is a Visual art facilitator who believes in teaching children to create an everlasting impact. She has a rich experience of several years in working with children.

The session plan below is structured and facilitated by Neha G Utmani – Visual Art and Art Appreciation facilitator for EY, PYP, and MS at Trio World School Bangalore

Neha G Utmani

Migration unit –2020

I believe that the Arts are a powerful mode of communication that challenge and enrich personal identity and build awareness of the aesthetic in a real-world context. My sessions attempt to enable the safe space for students to express and respond to their experiences. Providing them with a wide range of opportunities and means, by designing my Visual Art curriculum that facilitates meaningful enquiry; I generally start my sessions with exploring self and slowly developing the connection with the world around.

Having been a teacher trainer for some time, I have realized that in most of the schools, art sessions are only for skill development and most of the them miss filling up the gaps and fail to understand that art is not only about creating/ learning to paint & sculpt beautifully, it is also about responding to the creation and encouraging individualism.

Witnessing this approach brought out a big why in me….

Is it the institutional approach or Traditional Artists becoming facilitators and wanting students to paint like artists and not think like one!?

I was in the process of switching jobs for good, and was exploring some popular brands in my city. Interestingly, these popular brands did approach me and offered me jobs. But I was surprised by the approach towards Art these leading so called “popular institutions” have in this contemporary era.

We are now in an age where we have so many prominent art and design careers and we still have an approach that art is a free session where institutions can borrow classes from art teachers for events and it is default if I am an artist, I do props and boards for the all the events and support other subject. This was interesting and surprising for me …and to an extend addressed my Why….

So who then will change this approach?

In my teacher training sessions I discussed this with many art teachers who faced a similar situation. This approach however made most of the art facilitators feel unimportant. My understanding moved to institutions advocacy and empowering facilitators which needs a constant dialogue. I call it my ongoing project 🙂

Networking, emphasize and sharing, methodologies of creative facilitation have started to empower the facilitators.

They have started to validate this magical tool called responding.

Which is an empowering tool, every time a child creates, he/she is only making connections to what he/she is seeing and making sense of. As contemporary art facilitators have started to carefully design sessions that analyses the “WHY”. Instead of applauding/ making recommendations for the likeness, This approach only allows the students to feel it is safe for them to express.

Just to give you an example of how this magical tool works..

I have many students from different parts of the world. Keeping in mind the group dynamics the very first unit I facilitate is, a session on migration, like a little warmup, where students are given an opportunity to explore where they are in place and time and what could be their current emotion for the same. Many children need some time to get along, to feel that it is safe space for them to express and build a harmonious relationship. I can understand the emotional dimension of moving from one comfortable space to the unknown is challenging, and the subtle emotions attached when moving, have an inescapable accompaniment. Having these session helps the group relax and validate their emotions.

This session was an inquiry into alignment; personal histories; homes and journeys; the relationships between and the inter connectedness of individuals, from local and global perspectives.

Families/ individuals migrate to a new place because of various reasons, on either voluntary or involuntary basis and that their experiences after migration can be positive, negative or a mixture of both. Nevertheless, with my sessions I learned that most of the families truly miss their home country. I  have  witnessed  at times migrant emotional condition as a complex and multifaceted one, facilitating these sessions gave my students an opportunity to retell their story, work around validating their current feelings and letting it go.

I have observed some poignant conversations emerge while we sit-down as a group and talk about how we felt.

Giving importance to emotional life “on the move” over time and space; the interface between emotion in proximity and from a distance; the influence of mobility on emotional cultures and on their changing social and ethnic boundaries; the mixed ways in which emotions are dis-embodied and re- embodied – out of place and re-emplaced – in response to migrant life trajectories.

As students move, they bring their traditions, knowledge, and beliefs with them. Often, as much as they absorb the culture of their new home, they influence it with their own traditions. Like Yu Kanie a migrant from Japan created 300 origami birds/ crane of happiness” as a symbolic way of representing migration.

Which was assembled and installed on a tree in a school I currently teach; for a day, by evening some students got attracted to the paper cranes and picked it up and carried it along with them, by the end of the day we had about 20-30 cranes that where remaining on the tree., to which I asked, where did the other cranes go …she said “Ms. Neha I think they have migrated to some other place now!” This project interestingly gave Yu Kanie a chance to feel belonged, validating her emotions of she not living with her friends and extended family in japan.

Students ‘ works on a tree

For a week, I asked the question to students “Who are we?” Through a multimodal approach., a collaboration  of rhythm, movement, pictorial and old- fashioned conversation, creating a platform for questioning of identity, modern migration, and belonging. With guided visualization asking students to tap their power of imagination and be the bird they would like to be …as sought to make a space for those voices too often suppressed. Voices of our minds, this was facilitated through a body movement of  being and feeling the bird we would like to be, big and majestic/colorful/small/delicate/alone and  flying within our art studio, flapping our wings making noise,  for making a mark of visibility or for communication. After which students created a collaborative installation of birds and their trails of migration with writing a message of where they belong and where they are now. Students also shared  their  personal stories, some of them carried souvenirs and extended their expression. And felt welcomed 🙂

Art Space

Another site specific work that my primary students created is a direct representation of migration. Displayed in our art studio, where students have put together multiple overlapping runways and origami paper planes stuck on them which have information of where is home and where they are now…

Students using the ceiling to represent migration.

These could be a few approaches of including a responding strand in creative facilitation.

Last edited on 18th march 2020

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