Teaching Art in the South African Townships

We all have certain rules by which we live our lives. For me, these include the following:
  • Always look both ways before crossing the road.
  • Always carry an omni-tool or Swiss army knife in your purse.
  • Always be prepared to whip up at least two different toys should you find yourself in close proximity to bored children.
The rules have saved me on more than one occasion, though perhaps the most memorable time came while volunteering in the townships on the outskirts of Cape Town.

Ah, the townships…truly an interesting place, I must say. Once, a rather large mama barreled out of her house for no real reason, smothered me in the largest hug of my life, then spit into my eye “I’m HIV Positive!” with an epic amount of hopeful resolve. For a tiny, shy person such as myself, it was not something I would easily forget.
I spent my time there running a drawing workshop for a local NGO catering to children affected by HIV. It was great fun, but things had a tendency of disappearing on occassion. Once this resulted in me finding myself inside a container full of pre-teens with no paper or pencils or much of anything to be had. Fortunately, there was a stack of old newspapers lying around and with that, thanks to rule three, we folded a near flop of a drawing workshop into one of the best sessions of the semester by making paper balloons.
The method for folding a newspaper balloon is pretty easy to remember with a bit of practice. The inflating part also gives an added wow-factor, I feel. Any sheet of paper can be made square by folding across a diagonal until the bottom and side edges meet. The top part can then be cut or ripped away. After that the only limit to what you can do, with the paper and I guess with life as well, is at the edge of your hopeful resolve.