Wings to fly

A couple of week ago I spend a week in Hancock and L’Anse, Michigan USA working with two different groups. Both groups were working with sharing stories and visualizing them. One of the groups was  from the International School of Art and Design at Finlandia University and the other group was from the Keweenaw Bay Ojibwe Community College.

With Finlandia University students we worked three days with storytelling and building a textile installation using textiles, paper and acrylic colors. The workshop started with a storytelling probe where the youth self-documented and shared their life histories before the workshop:“Who is the storyteller of the family? Think about your memories of the moments when these family histories are shared. What kind of feelings and emotions are related to the family memories? Some of the stories may be happy and some sad, think about the ones who made you feel good and empowered. Write down a short family history and share with us a story about coping or overcoming difficulties or struggles in the family.” These stories sensitized the youth to the workshop theme.

The workshop started with coming up words with eight different themes:family, community, experience, incident, empowerment, challenge, feeling and opportunity. Participants used one minute per one theme to come up with the words about that particular theme. After this we picked up 8 words randomly and told a story about the words that we had chosen. It was important to and empowering to share these personal stories. After this we started painting feathers thinking about the words we had chosen. Feather were painted with colors, symbols and ornaments that described the empowering stories we shared. The feather were sewn together in a shape of a wing. This wing installation became a centerpiece of the exhibition at Reflection gallery at Finlandia University. The youth continued the project with a video workshop and produced a video in two groups around their storytelling workshop experience.

In the workshop working with storytelling and the doing of the textile installation gave the participants a sharing forum for their stories. Using words made it easier to share a story about ones life and processing feathers and sewing a wing gave a collaborative effort where everyone’s contribution counted. Sometimes art can give tools for processing and thinking about your life and sharing this with a community.

In Keweenaw Bay Ojibwe College we worked with sharing stories and drawing amulets around the stories. Here is a link to a video about Ojibwe amulets.

By Satu Miettinen

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