By Michael Christensen, @folkloremike
Currently on display in the Celebration Gallery is Eye Hand Mind: Selections from the Africa Meets Africa Project. The Utah Cultural Celebration Center is presenting the exhibition in partnership with the University of Utah’s International & Area Studies Program, Center for Science and Math Education, and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. As a result of the project, the museum added thirteen new objects to their permanent collection. These beer pot covers, arm/leg bands, bandoliers, aprons, belts, and acrylic works are the primary focus of the exhibition, which is part of a larger effort to teach math and science through art from South Africa.
The exhibition primarily consists of Ndebele and Zulu beadwork, with two painted pieces and one woven basket. Also included are many artist photographs and biographies, and interpretive panels that help viewers understand Ndebele identity through design patterns, and how principles of mathematics are consistent themes in the art of the region. To further emphasize this, a series of videos was included in the exhibition, where viewers could see artists at work, and hear words spoken by master weavers, beadworkers, potters, and painters. The artwork and videos in the exhibition further explores southern African cultural heritage, and specifically addresses holistic learning by engaging with familiar forms of cultural expression found in the region (www.africameetsafrica.co/za).
Although the Africa meets Africa project focuses on reintroducing these indigenous arts skills in South African schools, the principles of facilitating innovative thinking and effective teaching methodologies are meant to be applied to Utah classrooms and students as well. In essence, the project is a model for all educators to better understand the needs of their learners by validating knowledge systems within existing traditions of cultural expression (www.africameetsafrica.co/za).
These principles were put into practice during the highly successful ARTrageous educational program, which was held September 13 ad 14. For two days 230 youth toured the exhibition and participated in a hands-on activity learning to weave beads into patterns and designs modeled after Ndebele and Zulu designs in the show.
A closing reception featuring remarks from visiting educator, researcher, and writer Helene Smuts is scheduled from 6 – 8 p.m. on October 6. As the founder of the independent non-profit educational project Africa meets Africa, Smuts was a key player in Utah acquiring the exhibition and associated teaching materials. Everyone is welcome to attend the closing reception.