Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Reflections so far...

I've been reviewing the postings so far, seeing the progress of the process, the development of the aesthetic and the expanding involvement beyond the students... - I notice that each step is a communal effort, and with everyone's enthusiasm, participation and support it is evolving into the wonderfully vital educational project that we had envisioned. This blog is meant to lend some perspective, but it is difficult if not impossible to document all the hours and energy committed by the school, its teachers and students, Karen Brown, resident artist, and the resources of the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian. I invite more people to share their comments about their experiences, inside the classroom and out - we want this mural to uplift the entire school, community, and those that are yet to be a part of the ongoing process. More later....DS

Monday, January 25, 2010

More color, great results.

It took us two full days to finish over the holiday but it was worth the great results!

Painting for Ndeble Houses

These are background colors for the Ndebele houses we are creating.

Beaded Ndebele Dolls (uphophi)

Mama Freemman
brought in two of her special Ndebele dolls called uphophi -
These dolls are created with a cloth base and then very fine imported seed beads in multiple colors are strung to fashion the dolls in beaded clothing from head to toe. These examples are from the mid-20th century and display the popular beaded aprons that are worn by Ndebele woren. We don't know the artists' names who created them, but they are very fine indeed. The students used them as 3-D models to create their own drawings using various lines and color to create a 2-D rendering of one of the dolls. Notice the geometric designs that mirror the ones on our wall paintings that we are studying. Object-based learning and storytelling are part of the process...more on that later.

Preparing to Paint!

The wall is ready for painting...we gathered all the materials that we needed for painting - not just paint, but drop cloths,rollers, brushes, painter's tape, buckets, paper towels, rags, pencils, levels, and a general master design of where the background colors go! Am I forgetting anything? Oh yes, the camera to document our progress. We were so lucky to have Guiermo Zelaya, parent at Ideal, volunteer to help us over the holiday weekend - we couldn't have done it without you and your son's shared efforts and talents!

Student Exhibit at Ideal Academy

The exhibit at Ideal Academy PCS created by Mama Freeman on the wall outside the Art Room. She wrote about the partnership with NMAfA and posted pictures of the children intensely working on their designs in the museum workshop...Information about the Ndebele wall paintings is also part of the exhibit content and an inspiration for our mural project.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

More Visioning and Creating!

Workshops in November and December 2009. Lots of designing going on! We all got involved in creating and sharing our ideas and final works of art:

Our workshops were fun!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Art Workshops at NMAfA

The first Art Workshops began (one for each/ grades 1-5). A map of Africa to color and find South Africa! We had a lively discussion of the Ndebele peoples of South Africa - one of our docents, Dr. Nokwenza Plaatjies, was a very special guest who wore the beautiful traditional dress, beadwork, and hat of her family group. We all were rivited by her beautiful style and she taught us many of the 'click' sounds in the Xhosa language.

Friday, January 8, 2010


With the completion of the renovation of a former recycling facility, Ideal Academy was ready for its students. However, the 70-ft. white wall (see photo) on the main floor of Ideal Academy was such a large empty expanse that it cried out for an artist's touch...

Principal, George Rutherford, asked if the National Museum of African Art would partner with their school to create a mural on the great wall. After much discussion, I decided to introduce the students to the tradition of wall painting in South Africa among the Ndebele for inspiration. For generations, Ndebele artists have combined bright colors and complex geometric shapes to create innovative designs on the front walls of their houses. Mural decoration is done by Ndebele women who express great individuality and style. Contemporary paintings use a wide variation of color: blues, greens, reds, and yellows...

Photo: Ndebele Artist Nation, 1995., violet, rust, brown, and other paints depending on what was available on market day. And always outlined in black.

Deborah Stokes
National Museum of African Art

Our mural project began with the students being introduced to the art and techniques of wall painting in Africa. Students, teachers, and administration explored the idea behind creating a mural in their own school, and agreed on the theme of Community and Accomplishment. The goal is to create a welcoming space on the large expanse of interior wall at Ideal Academy Public Charter School. (see photo)

Thursday, January 7, 2010


A mural is more than paint on a wall. It is a compelling tool - bringing the student community together, working toward a common goal, and an excellent opportunity for all to participate in a collaborative project.

National Museum of African Art &
Ideal Academy Public Charter School Partnership

IDEAL Academy Public Charter School, was chartered by the DC Board of Education in 1999. The school has a population of 480 students ranging in age from pre-kindergarten through 8th grade. For their new home, Shinberg.Levinas architects converted a 37,000 square foot warehouse/office space into a lively, open school. A large central space provides a focal point and multi-use gathering space for students outside of the classroom setting. Within this interior space is a 70 foot wall where the NMAfA’s Education Department has agreed to facilitate a mural project over the next year. We are working with the students and teachers, as well as creating curriculum connections for this initiative to ensure high-quality aesthetic, social and academic benefits.

Deborah Stokes
Curator for Education Youth & Public School Programs
National Museum of African Art
Smithsonian Institution