In our second week of Spark 2018, we’ve been exploring the traditions of festivals around the world. As our exploration took us around the globe, we found many commonalities between festivals: the continuation of tradition from one generation to the next; the chance to come together as a community to celebrate prosperity and good health; the marking of seasons; the appreciation of customary food, music, and dance; and the chance to appreciate our connection with nature and the people closest to us.
Taking inspiration from the Carnivale festival of Venice, Italy, we painted our own carnivale masks, adding feathers, beads, glitter, and other decorations. We learned about Diwali, the Festival of Light in India, which celebrates the triumph of light over darkness. We discovered the myth behind the holiday- Prince Rama and Princess Sita’s defeat of the demon king, Ravana. Rangoli, an intricate decorative art made from colored sand, flour, or flower petals, traditionally marks important dates like Diwali. We made our own rangoli design by carefully arranging colored sand into a mandala. At the end of the day, with the lights turned down, each of us had the chance to add a tea lights on top of our design.
While learning about India, we learned one of the Indian ragas, which are roughly similar to the concept of a scale or mode in the Western musical tradition. Much like the French solfège, the raga attributes a syllable to each note in a sequence (sa re ga ma ba da ni sa), which we learned and practiced.
Tibetan monks labor intensely over mandalas in a meditative, intricate practice that often takes days or weeks. At the culmination of this process, the monks pause to reflect on what they’ve made before sweeping it away. We wondered why someone might destroy something they’d made so carefully, and thought about the transient nature of material things and life on earth. We took a moment to think of those things that pass before us: buildings, flowers, trees, animals, and even people. We found it wasn’t too hard to find examples of constant change in a place like
Brooklyn. As we swept the fragments of our rangoli sands into jars to take home and to scatter in the park as a gift back to nature, we were able to embrace and join that natural process of change, letting go of something as we moved onward in the world!
In our journey of festivals around the world, we paused to learn about the gorgeous masks, dance and costumes of the FESTIMA festival in Burkina Faso, Africa, which was started to continue the enduring tradition of West African mask making, and which has participants from both Burkina Faso and its neighboring countries. We also learned about the Harbin Ice Festival in northeastern China, which showcases a massive city of lighted ice sculptures. One morning, we tried our hand at ice sculpting with colored blocks of ice. We also worked with resin to create ice-like pendants filled with beads, glitter or natural elements. On our hottest day, we learned about the Songkran Water Festival in Thailand, in which thousands of celebrants take to the street to splash water onto each other to ring in the new year. We splashed more than a little water on each other during the course of our day, too!
We even came up with 68 of our own festivals! (See our list!)
At the end of our week, we picked names of our made-up festivals from a hat and dressed up in costumes to play a wildly fun game of charades using our costume wardrobe to make each other to guess which festivals we were thinking of!
Exploring Installation Art
We were delighted to have our guest teaching artist, Kyle Anthony, join us this week to explore installation art!
Taking inspiration from prominent installation artists like Yayoi Kusama, Ann Hamilton, and James Turrell, we made bright garlands after Kusama’s work, large murals, and looked at the world through dyed water in jars. On Friday, Kyle surprised the group by gathering our many projects into a beautiful, cozy installation that helped us ring in the end of our week.