One world, one dream

2008-04-01 00:00

SOUTH African schoolchildren between 10 and 14 are joining with their peers all over the world to take part in the Visa Olympics of the Imagination (VOI) — an international art programme that aims to teach children about the Olympic movement as well as encourage art. The winner from each country, with their guardian, will go to the Beijing Olympics later this year.

Trinity Sessions, a Johannesburg-based contemporary art studio and artists’ collective that concentrates on projects involving art and business, and art and social responsibility, has been running the VOI campaign in South Africa over the past month, visiting around 30 schools — some private, some state. I caught up with them at KwaMinzini Primary, near Marianhill where Colwyn Thomas was running the workshop, along with Marcus Neustetter from Trinity Sessions. Both are very aware of the potential problems — some schools have well-equipped art studios and dedicated art teachers; others, like KwaMinzini, are under-resourced and struggle to accommodate all the children who want to attend.

Not that these problems made the children any less enthusiastic. The first thing was to get them to loosen up and get rid of their preconceptions of what was required. “It’s about the process, not necessarily about skill,” said Neustetter. And so at Kwa-Minzini, working on the theme of One World, One Dream, and trying to avoid all the usual clichés, the budding artists started off by “printing” maps, using balloons and plenty of paint.

Put a whole lot of children in a room with balloons and paint, and you can expect a fair number of bangs and a lot of mess. But it all went remarkably smoothly, and the concentration on the faces as they listened to Thomas and his helpers was fierce. “It’s not about how well they draw — we’re using balloons, so obviously accuracy isn’t going to be the thing. Inevitably very few children are going to come away with a prize, but they are being introduced to new ideas,” said Thomas. “And sometimes after these workshops, I feel that I am coming away with so much more than the children.”

There is an awareness among the facilitators that judging work from wealthy and poor schools in the same system is going to be a difficult process. But all the workshops are coming up with different methods, and different ideas on how to interpret the theme. And, as all those involved pointed out — it’s about more than the finished result.

The judges will chose 50 finalists whose artwork will be shown at a gala event. The 10 best artists, the top student in the digital art category (which is much smaller) and the teacher with the highest number of pupils in the top 50 win pre-loaded Absa Visa gift cards. The ultimate winner’s school will receive R10 000. And in the meantime, plenty of fun is being had.

For more information on VOI, visit or phone 011 996 2000. Entries close on

April 6.

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