Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Awesome Aboriginal Arts Award project at Iffley Academy

Throughout the Autumn term of 2016 we worked with a Key Stage 4 class at Iffley Academy in Oxford on a print-making project inspired by Aboriginal Art in the Pitt Rivers Museum.  Iffley Academy is a community Special Academy for children and young people up to the age of 18 with special educational needs. Each of the participating students created an Arts Award Explore portfolio as part of the project. Arts Award Explore is a nationally recognised Entry Level 1 Qualification. 

We began the term by meeting each other on skype. The class prepared a series of questions for me (I am the secondary education officer at the Museum) about the Pitt Rivers Museum and what I do here. It was a great chance to ‘e-meet’ each other and talk about what we were going to do in the project before I visited the school for the first time.

After that I visited the school, when I took along a selection of Aboriginal objects from our handling collection.  These included two boomerangs with painted designs, woven baskets and large reproductions of some of the beautiful Aboriginal paintings in the collection. We learnt about how to handle delicate objects carefully, and thought about what these things were made out of and what they were used for. For example how skilled Aboriginal basket weavers are and how they make baskets out of natural materials. We then discovered a bit about Aboriginal culture and painting. We discovered how ancient Aboriginal culture is, and how many artworks depict scenes and figures from the Dreaming. The Dreaming is the word outsiders use to describe the way Aborigines look at the world. It is based upon timeless stories featuring mythological creatures and ancestors, whose actions resulted in the creation of the landscape, animals and the Aboriginal people.

Next each student did a drawing and took a photograph of their favourite object.

Woven bag made from pandanus leaves painted with ochre colour
Dilly bag made of pandanus fibre, 
painted with red ochre 
© Pitt Rivers Museum 
Woven basket made from pandanus leaves
Woven basket made of pandanus fibre
© Pitt Rivers Museum 
Curved boomerang with painted decoration of a kangaroo
Curved boomerang with painted decoration of a 
kangaroo © Pitt Rivers Museum  
Replica wooden boomerang with painted decoration of a geko
Replica boomerang with painted decoration of a geko
© Pitt Rivers Museum 
Then came the students’ trip to the museum. It was fantastic to welcome the group here. They came with so many questions and put their drawing skills to full use. We took a close look at the Aboriginal paintings and also visited the Conversation studio and the Education team office.

Photograph of group of students standing in education staff office at Pitt Rivers Museum
Students visiting the colourful Pitt Rivers Education Office © Pitt Rivers Museum
Photograph of a group of students looking at a painting by Aboriginal artist Yirawla. The painting is on bark and is of the Rainbow Snake, done in the 'X-ray style' of painting
Looking at painting by the artist Yirawala,
from the Gunwingg community in Northem
Arnhem Land. The painting is on bark and
is of the Rainbow Snake, done in the
'X-ray style' of painting © Pitt Rivers Museum

Brightly-coloured painting on canvas by the Aboriginal artist Judy Napangardi
Painting on canvas by the artist 
Judy Napangardi Watson, 1994.43.1 
© Pitt Rivers Museum
Photograph of two students drawing in the Pitt Rivers Museum
Drawing in the Museum © Pitt Rivers Museum
Photograph of student making drawings of Museum objects in his sketchbook
Drawing in the Museum © Pitt Rivers Museum
After the visit each student created their own poster about the Museum, presenting all their research so far. Then they chose one of their drawings to turn into a printed design. After that the textile artist Ellen Love came into school for an amazing collagraph printing workshop. The students transferred their designs onto a printing board, then used a special safe cutting knife to mark their design into the board.  

They then built up textures by cutting aware more cardboard, or adding small pieces of masking tape. Ellen showed us how to add ink to the board (using gloves!) and then make sure excess ink was removed using a special piece of muslin cloth called ‘scrim’. Finally it was time to use Ellen’s printing press! Each student made three prints from their board.
Photograph of artist adding ochre-coloured ink to printing board in preparation for making a print
Inking the board © Pitt Rivers Museum

Student scrubbing inked board with cloth to remove excess ink before printing
Scrubbing with the 'scrim' to remove excess ink
© Pitt Rivers Museum 

Student holding up their print board showing their design of a snake covered with ink
Board ready for printing © Pitt Rivers Museum

Photograph of student placing their inked board on the printing press
Placing the board on the collagraph printing press
© Pitt Rivers Museum

Photograph of printing board in place on printing press ready for printing
Placing the board on the collagraph printing press
© Pitt Rivers Museum

Photograph of student peeling their print of a lizard away from the print board after printing
Revealing the print © Pitt Rivers Museum

Paper with print being lifted from the print board showing picture of a human
Revealing the print © Pitt Rivers Museum

After our workshop with Ellen, students carried on working on two of their prints to add more colour and texture.

Once all the artwork was complete it was time to make a presentation about what we’d learnt and what we’d made. The students used the excellent ‘Explain Everything’ app to create a presentation about their learning and artwork. Some of the students chose also to present to Ellen and me in person.

Photograph of student presenting their Arts Award portfolio to their teaching, showing them the artwork they have made
Student presenting their project work to their teacher as part of
achieving their Arts Award Explore qualification
© Pitt Rivers Museum
A huge well done to all eleven students for completing their Arts Award portfolios, creating some truly beautiful work, and for learning about lots of different aspects of Aboriginal art and culture.  
Katherine Rose
Education Officer (Secondary and FE)
Pitt Rivers Museum

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