Every year, World Art Day is celebrated on the 15th of April, the birthday of the widely celebrated artist Leonardo da Vinci. This day was first formally celebrated in 2012, and serves as a reminder of the diversity art creates in our daily lives, as well as, encouraging bonds between all members of society and the art world.
This year, the theme for World Art Day was, ‘Art is good for health’, and a great ambassador for this theme is the Grade 3 music recorder teacher from Nokuphila School in Thembisa, Julia Chiroodza.
Leading by example – Chiroodza has vast experience in working with Early Childhood Development (ECD) and primary school aged children, with over twenty years of teaching behind her. She joined The Love Trust’s Nokuphila School in 2018, and is currently enjoying her fifth year of teaching there.
Chiroodza’s passion for art was borne at college, with her observing a teacher who used to train choral music. Eager to learn about reading and performing music, this propelled her to major in Music when completing her diploma, which included performing arts and instruments. Chiroodza is an inspirational role model to the children at Nokuphila, with her passion for learning evident from her various qualifications. Enraptured with inclusive education, she chose this as her major when completing her honours degree.
Having a special interest in inclusive education puts her in the perfect position to teach Life Skills and all it entails. The Love Trust’s focus remains ensuring vulnerable children gain access to high quality Christian-based education and Life Skills is a critical element of that holistic approach.
In inclusive education, the focus lies in what a student can do, as opposed to what they cannot do, this is of paramount importance when dealing with children from vulnerable communities. Chiroodza takes the view that, “Disability is not inability”, and being able to develop a child’s natural creative talents is critical when moulding their art skills.
Art is a Life Skill – At Nokuphila, Life Skills encompasses Personal and Social Wellbeing, Physical Education and Creative Arts (grouped into Visual and Performing Arts).
Art therefore falls under the Life Skills curriculum as the subject name itself hints that these skills are considered necessary for successfully navigating life. Nokuphila views art skills as a valuable tool that the learners can lean on, be it as a hobby, or a solid source of income later in life.
The students do two hours of Creative Arts per week, (one hour of Visual Arts, one hour of Performing Arts), from Grade R upwards. They are also encouraged to join either the Drama Club or Recorder Club to expand on their classroom learnings.
The school has also invested in skilled external teachers to assist in guiding the various clubs, and give expert lessons in Piano, Conga Drums, and Contemporary Music.
Learning through fun and celebrations – Dance seems to be the favoured art form amongst the children, even from a young age, with teachers commenting that music seems to be something that lives in them. The learners get a chance to perform in their annual Heritage Day concert, as well as their school concert, which is held every second year.
Although the Heritage Day Concert has a primary focus on the different cultures in South Africa, Nokuphila has recognised that the youth feel strongly aligned with contemporary culture. As a result, the Heritage Day Concert has become a combination of celebrating not only where you come from, but also the world that they are living in now.
The Intersen Life Skills teacher makes special efforts to include the children who show promising visual arts skills when making posters or decorating the school hall, ahead of special events. A great opportunity for them to work alongside their teacher and showcase their skills.
Art applied in life – Although it can be difficult to judge from a young age where a child’s strength may lie, it’s important to encourage them to explore a variety of creative skills from early on. This helps them develop critical thinking pathways, explore spatial awareness and even manage their emotions.
The integration of other subjects into art is so important for school learners. For example, drawing, painting or reconstruction can be used to reinforce concepts from another subject, like drawing a scene from a story taught in the English classroom. Using art in other subjects and vice-versa not only reinforces certain concepts, but it’s a great way to get the students more invested in their learning journey.
Chiroodza has found that bringing the outside world into the classroom greatly enhances the learners’ understanding. A great example was when she showed the children a video clip of “Gogo” Esther Mahlangu painting a car using geometrical Ndebele patterns when teaching them Geometry shapes. Although it was a mathematics lesson, it showcased the possibilities that art can create in life, bearing in mind that Esther Mahlangu is over 80 years-old, and still working in an artisan trade.
The concept of art being good for your health is a statement that resonates deeply with Chiroodza. She believes it’s imperative to teach a child through creativity and art exploration, from as young as their toddler years. As art is a truly inclusive subject, it helps children to cope with their changing feelings and relationships as they grow.
As a teacher, Chiroodza says that art is a great tool to teach children how to deal with their emotions. She wisely says, “when we study art, we are being given a glimpse of the artist’s view of the world, as their art is a reflection of how they see their world.”
The Love Trust was founded in 2009, we are a South African charitable not for profit organisation (NPO) with a vision to nurture future generations of servant leaders. Providing vulnerable children with quality Christian education and social care that includes academic excellence, spiritual strength, and moral integrity. Creating a resilient organisation together with our partners to benefit the communities we serve. Visit the Love Trust website at www.lovetrust.co.za.