We’re back with another CMH Program spotlight: Textile Arts/Kenyan culture!
As in all of our programs, the Kenya track focuses on cultural, social, and artistic lessons to bring students to a greater awareness of and empathy for all citizens of the world.
The lessons on Kenya and its culture begins each semester with showing the students where Kenya is on a map, as well as comparing the country’s size in relation to the state of Texas - this helps our youth feel more connected to what can seem like such a foreign place. Students are shown the ways in which Kenya is similar to California - both have beaches, mountains, big cities, and a mild climate! The daily life of Kenyans is discussed and compared to the daily life of Americans living in Los Angeles. Students are also taught lessons on censorship, the availability of news and information, child labor, and fair trade. They even learn some words and phrases in Swahili, one of the official languages of Kenya - “Jambo!” means “Hello!” - and were reminded of a very famous person with a Kenyan father: Our president, Barack Obama!
In addition to these lessons, a big focus of the Kenya/Textile Arts track is teaching students about the United Nations, especially its defined “rights of a child,” which is a great way to talk about empathy and how children all over the world deserve to be treated just the same. It prescribes that all children should be given the same opportunities no matter their race, nationality, or level of poverty. Our students learn that we all have a responsibility as Global Citizens to treat others around the world well and to help them in any way we can. The children are then able to use the knowledge they’ve gained about the limitations placed on Kenyans (and specifically Kenyan children) to develop an informed, genuine sense of empathy for them and to cultivate a desire to help that will last a lifetime.
One of the most fun parts of each class is when it’s time to get crafty! Students make paper beads and plasticene clay beads that will be part of a jewelry project as the semester unfolds - bracelets made in the style of the Masaai people of Kenya! They also learn about Kangas (cloth Kenyans use for many purposes: wrapping on their heads, wearing as clothing, using as baby slings, or carrying items). Students create printing blocks to use to make patterns on their own Kangas - and the results are always impressive! Our kids are then able to combine elements of all of these projects (beads, some of their Kanga fabric) to create African style dolls. Finally, they create cards (with words in Swahili and English!) and friendship bracelets to send to children in Kenya.
Empathy is the most important part of being a good Global Citizen. Seeing things from others’ point of view helps us understand better than just feeling sympathetic for them. The children who will participate in this semester’s Kenya/Textile Arts course will learn great lessons about how to be Global Citizens and have lots of fun while doing it. We can’t wait to show you pictures of their wonderful work at their Final Exhibit as the semester wraps up - but for now, we’ve got lots of work to do!
The CMH Team