Written by Anna Tyburski, volunteer for Alianza Arkana in Intercultural Education: 23rd November 2015.
A couple of weeks ago a small group of us visited the beautiful community of Santa Clara to meet with the new, and only, teacher of the primary school, Rusber. He is young and motivated, a rare delight in Shipibo community schools as it is common for the teachers to be somewhat jaded and often absent. Inspired by his dedication, our Communications Coordinator Soraya came up with a project idea that would involve art, recycling, teaching about pollination and last but not least stories from Shipibo mythology. It was a team job involving Rusber, the children, Peruvian artist Miriam Requena and four of the Alianza Arkana team including myself.
On the first day, Miriam led the group in a workshop making butterflies out of old CD’s.
The kids loved it and made beautiful pieces of art. However, one important question remained. What is it actually that butterflies do? What is their role in the ecosystem?
Two or three days later we returned and had a class about pollination with the kids. This involved a demonstration and presentation both through discussion, play, and amateur dramatics involving bee hats, flower hats, and loud humming noises. As with the whole project, it was important to have the help and the support of the teacher. He translated into the Shipibo language, and added much of his own wide knowledge. Many of the children, especially the younger ones, do not speak much Spanish.
After this the kids took us for a walk and showed us all the beautiful plants and flowers in their community. It was amazing to see them get excited about spotting a bee or a butterfly in a flower, demonstrating to us what they had learned just a few minutes ago.
On the final day, Isarrina, a young woman from the community, came to tell the children a traditional story about butterflies, flowers and the beautiful nature around them. The pollination teaching went well and gave good grounding for the big recycling project we had planned for the children.
Which two things do almost all children love?
Playing with their friends, and music!
Soraya’s dream was to create a Recycling-Musical-playground. As with the pollination, we started with some thinking – what recycling means and how, why and what we recycle. It was inspiring to see how quickly the kids mastered “orgánico” and “inorgánico”, which they screamed out as we painted different objects on the board.
“Una cascara de plátano (banana peel), ¿es orgánico o inorgánico?”
“Y un zapato (shoe), ¿es orgánico o inorgánico?”
(after a bit of thought)- “¡INORGÁNICO!”
After this it was time to collect the raw material for our instruments, so we went to the pile of old cans and plastic bottles that had been collected from the community. Also little stones for the “plastic-bottle-maracas” had to be found.
Then, we could start with painting and constructing. It was quite hard to save the paint from instantly being spread out over table and grass, as many small hands fought for it. In the end everyone got their share of paint and creativity could flow.
One week later, we went back to Santa Clara to give the playground some last touches, and noticed there were still a lot of changes to be made. To be more specific, changes that could help make the playground wind and weatherproof, but most of all football-proof.
Something that we realized whilst working on the playground was that there are always more instruments to add, more bottles to paint or cans to be made into wind-bells. Also that the untamed energy of small children wanting to play and make music really tests the limits of the constructions.
The playground is still a work in progress; however, many a young percussionist has already put their skills to the test and scared away butterflies under the big mango tree.
Apart from the recycled musical instruments, two swings and two animals were also made. The yellow swing in the picture was painted by Rusber in a typical Shipibo design, representing the friendship between two worlds.