Monday, June 03, 2013

Creative education

Englafrique - Shrapnel's first album - release date
September 2013
Two years of writing, editing, revising the music and lyrics, at least 12 months devising four videos, then editing, hearing the same tunes, words and phrases over and over again.
Listening to Mrisi describe his work on Englafrique reminded me of friends describing the attention they give to a collection of poems, paintings, a design project.
The difference is that Mrisi is just 20 and he has already assimilated an enormous understanding of what a creative project demands.
He's picked up knowledge from friends, from trial and error, from knowing what he wants and he's found ways of achieving it, while sharpening the musical skills he needs too.
His grandmother, me, his dad, sister Giya and friends have heard the lyrics and music at many stages of development. Giya took the photo of Mrisi playing piano and his friend Tom Hines turned it into artwork for the album cover. His first Youtube video was filmed when he was playing with his dad's band, Bush Technologists, in South Africa. As Sly and the Family Stone sang, 'it's a family affair....'
But it's not just Englafrique that's focused my mind on creative education. This is a time of marking assignments and every year I ask how this kind of qualitative judgment can be most useful to a student.
It's also time to send my own six-year project into the much smaller world of poetry: Woman's Head as Jug comes out at the same time as Mrisi's album.
My collection is as collaborative as it is possible to get. Yes, solitude accounts for much of my time, but I couldn't do without workshop groups and the ideas lab of meetings with Jane Fordham - days with no preconceived notion of where either of us will end up, visually or with words.
Artistic collaboration is often misrepresented as ekphrasis - one artist interpreting another. But in reality it is closer to the best creative education, a kind of nursery school with sandpits, dressing up and playhouses.
I'd been thinking about all this last night when Giya was talking about her decision to do a year's photography course. She is one of those versatile people and could have set her mind on academia, acting or music. Her versatility confused her and me temporarily. She began taking pictures of Christmas houses when she was seven, steadily improving her cameras as she got older and admitted last night that when she was at secondary school she wanted to be a photographer but she didn't want to be poor so she chose academic options.
The moment of change happened when she realised she could combine everything she loved to do in photography. That insight goes to the heart of creative education. She got there on her own, she found her solution, as did Mrisi. We get by, we are sustained by absolute belief in risk and experiment that lives in the lion costume and the earliest crayon marks.