February 11, 2011

Africa/Namibia: Day Three

Day Three was about African culture. Not its now culture so much as its more ancient culture that still exists in various forms today.

We started by reading a book called Talking Drums of Africa by Christine Price. The book was so boring I was secretly hoping Miriam would complain and give me an excuse to stop reading it. She didn't. None of them did. So we read the whole boring thing. I don't recommend it, except that it did have some really interesting information about African drums. For example, in the pic below is a "talking drum." The drummer pulls on the strings to tighten and loosen the drumhead to raise and lower the pitch of the drum so it sounds like African languages that are based on pitch. Cool! So, it might be a good idea to scan this book as drums go with Africa like baseball goes with the USA.

Besides, after reading the book, you get to watch youtube videos of African drummers and dancers--and that is awesome!

As a sidenote, this past summer our library put on a series of free activities. One of those activities was an African dancer and drummer. Neither of the people were actually from Africa but both had lived and studied there and both were awesome!!! The dancer, Deja Mitchall, had everyone get up and try it and I did and I loved it. Loved it. Loved it enough that I made learning African dance one of my life goals. I kept her card to remind myself of this life goal. She teaches African dancing at the Eccles Art Center in Ogden, Utah. When my children are a wee bit older, I plan on taking a few of her classes.

If you are studying Africa and live along the Wasatch Front and want to know where you can see some actual African dancing and hear live African drumming, she'd be a good go-to person. Remember, I'm in the lazy end-of-pregnancy mode, or I'd have contacted her and set up a field trip myself.

Here's her info according to her business card. Deja Mitchell: Dancer/Choreographer/Teacher African and Modern Dance. Weekly classes, workshops, Performances. 801-458-6335, tribalovedancer@hotmail.com.

If you look her up on google you'll find her website, which has some great pics of her trips to Africa and the dancing she did there. Also, she puts on a few workshops every summer at the Egyptian Theater for kids wanting to learn African dance. I fully intend to put Miriam in one when she's nine or ten--hopefully Deja will still be around then.
After watching youtube for a long time, we returned to the couch and flipped through the DK Eyewitness Book: Africa by Yvonne Ayo. Great pics. We focused on the various art work more than anything else. My son, of course, wanted to focus on the weapons so we spent some time with those as well.

I made sure I pointed out pictures of carved gourds like the one in the pic below. They are cool.

After we looked through the book, I pulled out some clay and some skewers and had the kids practice carving. Granted, clay carving with skewers is not as cool as cleaning out a gourd, drying it somehow, then carving it and dying it--but my kids still seemed to like it!

I carved for awhile, then worked on supper. My kids spent the rest of the afternoon carving and creating with the clay. The DK book proved inspirational for my kids in ways I hadn't anticipated (they copied statues and weapons and houses, etc.). In the end, I wished I had given them play-dough for the activity as the clay stuck on my rolling pin and cookie cutters much worse than play-dough. Grr.

Good times, though.

As a side-note: in my previous post I mentioned that reading plants ideas in children's brains that they later use to make connections. I have an example. (Yes, I am sort of bragging about how smart my son is, but mostly I'm reiterating the fact that READING IS CRITICAL to expose your children to lots of ideas that they can use to connect other information. I'm an English teacher--I can't help myself.)

While we were looking at the DK book, we turned to a page that had a Zulu shield like the one pictured below.
Without saying anything, my son (5 yrs old) leaped off the couch and went racing downstairs. Miriam and I looked at each other with our eyebrows raised then went back to looking at the pictures.

A few minutes later Cowen came back upstairs with an old Childcraft book with a collection of stories in it about battles. One of the battles, you guessed it, involved the Zulu people and the British. Cowen has never read the story because he doesn't read that well yet, but he has studied that book over and over because it is all about fighting and has lots of pics of weapons. He recognized the shield and knew that the battle must be about an African tribe--so he ran off to find it to have me read it to him.

Amazing connection. Amazing memory.

Thanks again, Mom, for giving me the Childcraft books when all your children wanted them. To all my readers: if you ever see any Childcraft books (you know the ones--they look like encyclopedia's almost, each hardbound book about a different subject) buy them. Just do it. They are awesome and keep my children fascinated for hours at a time.

1 comment:

  1. we have the childcraft books-- found them at the d.i. I will have to get them out and have my kids actually look at them-- thanks for the idea!!