Adventuring into artbooks
When they began working on the books in 2008, Watterson says, ‘At the outset, it was envisaged that the book would be a compilation of Imbali’s teacher training materials, adhering closely to the curriculum. At that point the curriculum had just changed from the purely outcomes-based “Curriculum 2005” to the “Revised National Curriculum Statement” (RNCS). Then, as our work on the book continued, there was another curriculum change to “The National Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement” (CAPS). So, we decided, instead of aligning closely to the curriculum, we would work on a resource that covered a range of themes and topics relevant to arts education and also to young people. We focused on many different art techniques, materials and approaches to making art, as well as learning about a wide range of important South African and international artists. This, in retrospect, was a good decision because even when the curriculum changes again, these books will remain relevant.’
About their approach to the content and teaching methods applied in the books, Ruth Sack says, ‘The eighth book of the set provides a guide to teachers of art, setting out our approach. We believe that the art room must feel like a safe environment, where every learner is free to express his or her own individuality – whether it is through exploring materials, responding freely to images, or testing ideas and feelings. We look at what creativity is, and how to achieve it, at what creative teaching really is. We talk about active learning and engagement, and what that means in practice, and what it means to encourage independence of thought. We espouse an environment that is non-competitive, respectful of everyone, thoughtful and reflective, encouraging, and supportive, and that offers “freedom within structure.” Of course, these concepts need practical, real-life solutions to enable them to be put into practice, and we have guidelines and suggestions – from how to organise your classroom, to how to ask questions.
‘The approach we have taken is not to rigidly follow the curriculum, as a textbook would, but to enrich the curriculum, a resource for extending and deepening the curriculum goals.
‘We were very aware that many art teachers in South African schools have little if any formal art training; many found themselves teaching art despite having been trained to teach other school subjects. For this reason, we have adopted an approach that is very supportive, and takes teachers on a step-by-step journey at each stage. We provide a simple, clear guide to looking at artworks, and we model a way of asking the learners questions about artworks that will elicit authentic and personal responses. We try to de-mystify the idea that understanding art is “hard”.
‘Similarly, the practical artmaking activities are set out with very clear motivations, many images, and easy-to-follow practical steps.
‘But just as important is our art teaching philosophy, one that is difficult at first for teachers who are used to conventional teaching: that is, how to teach creatively, to ask open-ended questions, and set up learner-centred and exploratory artmaking experiences; how to allow for some self-directed discovery, but encourage research and rigour at the same time. We have written many of these books as if WE are in the classroom addressing the learners: it is written as if the books are the teacher’s “voice”. In this way the books provide a sense of being a teachers’ companion present in the classroom. But though it is intended to build confidence, it is not a “script” – rather a starting point for finding one’s own voice.
‘However – we have found that very experienced and great art teachers in well-resourced schools are finding the books invaluable too. This has been hugely gratifying!
‘Ultimately, we want our learners to become creators (not necessarily “artists”), who can communicate from a deeper emotional place, who understand what it is to be human; who will recognise and appreciate what it means to make something, and to appreciate what others have made; who will be sensitive to what being alive means; to use their capacity for creative thought, to take agency, to make a difference in their own lives; who will have more compassion, more understanding, more optimism.’
Navigate the article:
Back to the beginning
MTN SA & Imbali: 20 years of partnership
Adventuring into artbooks
Imbali Artbooks: carefully chosen themes and artworks
Book launch and roll-out
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