Arts festivals are platforms for showcasing various artistic performances and arts products. Most works brought to festivals are top of the shelf products from local and international artistes. Through art we come to see reflections of our aspirations and fears and we interface with ourselves from various angles as perceived and interpreted by artists. Art is about our humanity in all its complexity, helping us to make sense of the world around us. We see the role of art in learning as a central one, and one which also relates to the holistic growth and development of the child. Art is a crucial part of social, emotional, and cognitive development. Children continuously reorganize and integrate their experience through art, to form their sense of self and worldview.
As humans, children tend to find ways to help themselves through their inherent struggles. They often do this through aesthetic productions such as art and drawing, music, storytelling, poetry, and dance/movement. Through these creative expressive arts, they find a way to release their emotions, divert themselves from their problems, relax their minds and bodies, and get in touch with themselves and others. A few examples of creative/expressive arts therapies follow. The creative art process responds to the created products as reflections of an individual’s development, abilities, personality, interests, concerns, and conflicts. While painting or drawing, one can express him/herself nonverbally, become more self-conscious, and reconcile emotional conflicts.
All mankind shares the ability to be imaginatively creative but children find themselves cut off from their creative selves and denied spaces where they can showcase their creativity. Adults, both at school and home tend to take over children’s creative spaces. It is in this light that I realise how crucial it is for young people to be exposed to festival performances and exhibitions.
Exposing school pupils to artwork may not just enrich their cognitive, social, and emotional abilities but is also therapeutic. It is upon this finding that I believe festivals must have spaces within their programming specifically for children and young people. It is good that young people be afforded an opportunity to be part of festivals and develop a sense of belonging and ownership. Children and young people are tomorrow’s adult audiences which we are missing at many a performance today. These should not be lost but should be nurtured.
All children should be offered equal opportunities to progress and develop, and should have equal access to that provision. Not only are these young people to be seen at festivals as consumers but they should be encouraged to be exhibitors, performers and technical assistants and volunteers. This will help boost confidence in them while giving them the necessary skills and experience for the future. School authorities are hence urged to support pupils and make sure that they respond positively to invitations that are sent out by festival organizers for events.
For instance, they are specific plays that are in school syllabi and these can be showcased in theatre performances to help students consume a relevant product, and stimulate discussions around particular themes and topics. This year Intwasa Arts Festival will be running some of the plays which are part of the ZIMSEC English syllabi. It will be interesting to see how pupils respond to these performances.
Schools that are within the area particular festivals take place and have facilities should be partners with these festivals. This will make sure that performances are at the doorsteps of their pupils who are keen to be part of these festivals. Intwasa Arts Festival 2011 promises to be a feast for the young ones. A number of competitions and workshops in writing, drama and dance have been lined up. I personally can’t wait to see young people fret and strut on stage during this year’s edition. Okhekhe abaze ngobunengi.
Thabani H. Moyo is a graduate of Theatre Arts from the
and works creatively with children and young people. University of Zimbabwe