Community Day Rocks the Museum
Event lets kids
study African culture in context
by Gail R. Taylor
bronze Japanese dragon, the limestone French bishop, and even the
glazed brick floor vibrated to the beat of African drums earlier
this semester as toe-tapping children, parents, and other visitors
crowded the Sculpture Court in the Allen Memorial Art Museum for
a Community Day concert by the student ensemble Ilu Aiye.
spring's Community Day culminated a KIDZHIBIT program that immersed
area children in projects inspired by the exhibition A Matter
of Taste: The African Collection at the Allen Memorial Art Museum.
The exhibit, which displayed almost all of the museum's African
pieces, also cast a lens on how Western cultures have collected
African art over the years.
children participating in the KIDZHIBIT program first toured A
Matter of Taste and then brought African themes, patterns, and
colors to life in the present. With help from student docents, during
two Saturday workshops they crafted tribal diviners' bags and constructed
imaginative masks embellished with bells, beads, and strands of
raffia. The results were on display for their parents at Community
Josh Wells said his mask was "a dragon fire-breather"
with a special red-painted section for scaring off enemies. Eight-year-old
Saige McNeal said hers was a creature with only one enemy: "Scissors.
Because it might get cut and it won't be nice anymore." Nine-year-old
Karen Reynolds said her multicolored owl mask had one special power:
"To keep my sister from bugging me."
love to work with paints and tie things to the masks they're making,
but they don't necessarily see the larger context of what they're
doing," said Sara Hallberg, the museum's curator of education,
who organizes KIDZHIBIT and Community Day programs once each semester
and during the summer. "We started with a tour of the exhibition,
then they used their hands and their minds. On the last day, the
kids saw the culture they'd been studying in the correct context."
they did. Wearing their creations, the kids listened to
Aiye - a student-run drum, dance, and singing troupe whose name
in Yoruba means "Drums of the World" - play music from
throughout the African diaspora. After the rousing concert, several
accepted the drummers' invitation to dance and to ask questions.
your hand hurt?" a child asked a drummer after the thundering
crescendo that ended the concert.
lost all feeling," was the reply.
some children became collectors. They asked the drummers to autograph