I've been giving this a lot of thought. Your situation reminded me of
how the indigenous crafts and art of native Americans were influenced by
outsiders. For example, traders showed Navajo weavers Turkish and
Persian carpets as examples of patterns and colors that were sought
after by buyers. The weavers adapted patterns and began using more
commercial yarns and chemical dyes as a result. Another example: In the
early 20th century, a woman named Dorothy Dunn started an art school for
Indians in Santa Fe, New Mexico; she championed a particular
"traditional" style that her students copied, no matter what tribe they
were from. That style had only a marginal relationship to true
traditional work, and was influenced more by her and her (white)
patrons' tastes than anything else. Rebels were not allowed.
So, I guess your real challenge is deciding how to maintain cultural
authenticity in their murals--assuming that's what you want--while
teaching them how to mix colors and apply the paint after preparing the
mural surface. How do you do you this using modern materials and
techniques without unduly influencing them? Do you only show them
images of the old-style murals? Or do you include art from other
cultures and time periods as well, for inspiration?
I faced a somewhat similar situation when I taught on a reservation. So
many people asked me if I was teaching "Indian art." After much thought
and self-questioning, I decided it wasn't my place to teach them their
culture (which did not include pottery, weaving, painting, or drawing);
and what is "Indian art," anyway? But I COULD teach them how to use
tools and materials in a way that would allow them to express whatever
culture they identified with (not always their tribal culture, either).
This is going to be an interesting journey, one that I hope you'll document.
>As in most tribes in South Africa, mural art used to play
>a very important role in decorating homesteads and community spaces.
>Unfortunately, this has dies out completely and is not practiced anymore
>as the artists who painted the murals did not get to pass their skills
>I have been approached by an organization working in community
>development to facilitate with the training of a group of women in mural
>painting, developing their painting skills as well as their designing
>capabilities to re kindle this art form. <snip>