A School Community Created through Traditional Ekete Basketry
By Che Sabalja, Art and Art Education, EdD Program, Teachers College, Columbia University/ Art Teacher, Montessori 31, Yonkers Public Schools
The complexity of social concerns which are not addressed in the school environment can be welcomed by the artistic process that incorporates self-reflection and discourse in visual arts education. Students may heighten social awareness to foster change within their community through personal narrative as a vital aspect of defining and taking ownership of their identity and sense of place.
The project used verbal and visual context focused on Effective Empathetic Learning
strategies to develop community. Guest artist, Ugo-Charles Onyewuchi, incorporated indigenous arts as a socio-cultural document in contemporary society to promote exchange and commonalities inspired by Ekete basket weaving. The community project led by an artist of color introducing non-western art forms facilitated a tangible learning opportunity for students from predominantly immigrant families.
The project provided value and respect for art forms and cultural expression other than European derived and one in which the students identified with and were invested. The artistic exchange of multimodal narratives including musical playlists, choice of fabrics, reflective writing on stems, and collage, encompassed the students’ shared stories, histories, and journeys interweaving the school culture with the Yonkers community and beyond borders to Africa. By working as a holistic entity facilitated by narrative embedded within the baskets, students shared sense of community and discovered connections with each other in a contemporary setting.