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Lesson Plans

Re: Pluralism & Storyteller Dolls

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Nancy Walkup (walkup)
Mon, 10 Feb 1997 09:42:36 CST6CDT

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> To: artsednet
> Subject: Pluralism & Storyteller Dolls
> From: cecilia3 (Cecilia A Marks)
> Date: Fri, 07 Feb 1997 18:16:39 EST

> Have been reading the comments regarding this subject and thought I'd
> jump in with a few thoughts. Actually after reading Carla Harwitts last
> comments I felt comfortable enough to do so!
> I have been teaching art in a small (300 plus) parochial school for many
> years and have always incorporated the arts from many cultures in my
> lessons. We have children from many cultures attending our school and
> they share their art and customs with us. We do weaving, Kachina Dolls,
> paper cutting from many countries, batik, clay work as Mission & Native
> American pottery , African masking, plus much, much more. When I
> introduce the lesson of the Kachina Dolls I always tell the students that
> they are symbols or representations of the gods of the tribes and they
> are not "dolls". They are very much like the plaster statues found in
> our Church that represent certain saints. Our students have also made
> crosses from everything from nails, to clothespins, to beads, to sea
> shells.....The students learn by doing and experiencing. How can they
> know where they are going if they do not know where others have been? If
> I was teaching Science or Math I would not expect the student to relearn
> what others had learned before him/her. They need to have something to
> build on.
> Finally, having grown up in New Mexico I do not the understand the
> argument regarding the Storyteller Dolls. If I'm not mistaken,
> Storyteller Dolls were first made in the 1960's and have been remade as
> Storyteller Turtles, etc. I do not believe they are Kachina Dolls.
> SchoolArts did an article on them a few years back.
> It is so wonderful to read so many of your practical ideas and lessons.
> Cecilia (V)
Dear Cecilia:

Sorry, I didn't intend to imply that kachinas are storytellers; I was
presenting them as another example of a project often used in
the art class. You are right; storytellers are a relatively recent invention.

My concern is that too many students end up copying an art form
or object. Whether or not the students learn the context in
which the orginal objects were made, I still believe that we
should, as much as possible, encourage our students to produce original
works based on the themes of the work studied. If students can
also translate the theme in contemporary terms of their own
lives, they will, hopefully, create objects more meaningful to

I, personally, am uncomfortable using kachinas as an art
project. They do offer meaningful possibilities for aesthetic and
ethical discussions, but I know too much about how the Hopis
regard them to be comfortable with creating works based on their
forms. I think we need to respect the beliefs and feelings of
cultures different than our own whenever possible.

So, all of you out there, please, don't throw any tomatoes at
me. My intention is not to be judgmental, but to open discussion
about critical issues facing art education today.

I'll climb down from my soapbox now,


Nancy Walkup, Project Coordinator
North Texas Institute for Educators on the Visual Arts
PO Box 5098, University of North Texas
Denton, TX 76203
817/565-3986 FAX 817/565-4867

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