I am so excited to welcome Marie-Claude of Marie’s Pastiche for another Friday guest post. I’ve mentioned Marie-Claude on the blog before, and she is just amazing. Her creative learning activities that explore world cultures are just top-notch. I kind of wish she was my mom. Please show her some love and check out her blog after you read her guest post. 🙂
It has always been a goal of mine to expose my daughters to the diverse cultures our world has to offer. Our budget doesn’t allow for traveling, but I won’t let that stop us. Throughout their childhoods, we’ve read multicultural books, cooked and tasted ethnic foods, and celebrated various festivals.
Another favorite way of immersing ourselves is through art. We learn about various traditional and modern works of art and create something inspired by them.
Art communicates important ideas about a culture, whether about its politics, religion and philosophy, or contemporary life. Recently, we delved a little deeper into Senegalese culture by exploring contemporary Senegalese reverse glass painting. Beginning in the early to mid 20th century, and still popular today, traditional subject matters represented Muslim religious themes, whereas contemporary subjects have been portraits, scenes of every day life and social commentary.
By browsing through the works of art, we are exposed to Muslim religious themes we are unfamiliar with and aspects of life in Senegal that differs greatly from ours. These images raise questions and peaks our interest in learning more. Exploring this artwork has given us a view into the lives of those in Senegal.
Art can also reflect a culture’s concerns and values. When learning about China and the Chinese culture, we explored brush painting. Subject matter for brush painting is most often found in nature, which to the Chinese is rich in symbolism and can be reflective of Taoist and Confucian philosophy. We didn’t delve deeply into these philosophies by any means, but we did learn a bit about the symbolism, the esteemed virtues (represented in the forms of certain plants), the importance of the life energy Chi, and the small role humans play in the grandeur of nature – all elements of Chinese philosophy. By observing, discussing and trying to replicate brush painting we delved into the Chinese philosophical psyche.
We had fun, were challenged, and recognized that seemingly simple artwork isn’t so simple, which gave us a better understanding that appreciating brush painting in China is not simply because of its beauty.
Lastly, a culture’s art is a source of pride and preservation. Art represents the best of a people’s endeavors and is a glimpse into a country or culture’s history. When learning about Greece and its history, getting our hands in clay and “recreating” ancient pottery (amphoras) was our way of learning a little about ancient Greek civilization. The images etched into Greek pottery marked important aspects of that civilization, and in studying and attempting to recreate them, we were curious about what these images represented it. And curiosity is the best starting point towards learning.
I hope this has inspired you to let art guide you into learning about new cultures. You and your kids will end up with a deeper appreciation for the art itself, the culture it represents, and if you try your hand at it, the hard working and creative artists!
Marie-Claude is the parent of two teen girls. Over the years, they have immersed themselves virtually in various cultures. Recently, they have been exploring the cultures of West Africa, which is being chronicled on her blog at www.mariespastiche.blogspot.com. You can also find more resources for learning about various cultures by following her on Pinterest and Twitter.
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