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Sustainability, Culture and the Arts: How do they work together?

Green School Weekly Newsletter
Aug 31 2014

Green School Weekly News

“This is my culture and I want to learn more about where I am from… Ini budaya saya dan saya mau tahu lebih banyak tentang Bali”
– Made Kosala (Year 9)

One way that Green School is helping develop its kul kul connection with local communities is through our Visual Arts curriculum. The arts have a special place in relation to culture. Artistic expression and creativity are powerful ways in which we develop our cultural identities. People have always come together to sing, dance, and express themselves through the arts, and these shared rituals and creativity are at the heart of a strong community identity.

At Green School, the Visual Arts Curriculum is very much influenced by its geographical location, and the very rich cultural and artistic features that abound in Bali. With this in mind, this year the Visual Arts curriculum has introduced “Kesenian Indonesia” (Art of Indonesia) classes for students. “Kesenian Indonesia” classes provide educational opportunities for our students to work with local artists in ways that promotes environmental and cultural sustainability.

So what is exactly meant by 'Cultural sustainability'?

It is a relatively new term, and one not easily defined.

'Culture' means many things to many people. Here we use it in the broadest sense to mean 'our values and aspirations and traditions and shared memories. It also means the way of life that is produced by how we develop, receive and transmit these processes'.

'Sustainability' can be defined as 'meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations'. Put these ideas together and you have cultural sustainability - 'developing, renewing and maintaining human cultures that create positive, enduring relationships with other peoples and the natural world'. In the words of Nelson Mandela,"Like truth, culture and creativity are enduring."

Most people think of the environment when they hear the word 'sustainability' - and looking after our precious earth is certainly important. However, social, cultural, and economic sustainability are equally important. Together the four areas make up what is described as the 'the Four Pillars of Sustainability'.

In the first High School module, “Lurking in the darkness – Shadow Puppets”, students are working with Pak Wayang to learn the craft of traditional puppet making for the shadow theatre play, Wayang Kulit. Pak Wayang is a Dalang from Singapudu, Banjar Kebon.

A Dalang is a master puppeteer who trains for years to learn the art of shadow theatre. They are also spiritual leaders of their community. The duties of a Dalang are intricate and are considered vital to ensuring the protection and well-being of society. Pak Wayang begun learning his craft at the age of 7, studying alongside his grandfather. These days he travels the world, teaching his craft at festivals in Spain, China, Iran and Tibet.

“I’m new here in Indonesia and I’m excited to learn about Balinese culture”
-Mat Mills (Year 10)

So why is it important to have visiting artists integrated in to the arts program?

By giving the students the opportunity to engage with local artists, the visual arts curriculum aims to cultivate a greater awareness of who the rich cultural history of Bali and provide our students a learning opportunity to better understand of the beliefs and values we share collectively, and to better comprehend the differences and experiences that make us distinct from one another.

For the next six weeks, Pak Wayang will be working with our class to teach how to make puppets from buffalo skin and to perform a Wayang Kulit shadow theatre play for our younger students.

“It is great to learning more about the art of the country that I come from – that is part of me”
– Mallika Love (Year 9)

In developing the, Arts Curriculum, Green School Art Teacher, Jen Buchanan, has been conscious of developing a deeper understanding of what is most important to the students.

“When we have deeper understanding of the things that are important to us we make decisions about the future that are informed by who we were, who we are, and who we would like to be,” says Jen.

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