Hidden Histories Through Intergenerational Craft Workshops

After a 6 week training course led by Craft Workshop Tutor Jeanne Goutelle, the elders and Year 9 students from Open Age, Kilburn with Alperton School and the Vida Walsh Centre, Brixton with Park View School, Tottenham finished their craft pieces together. They enthusiastically shared their final thoughts on having the opportunity to meet, greet and interact with one another whilst working together on an old, favourite creative Jamaican pastime – fabric and basket weaving.

 

Traditionally, rafia was woven in Jamaica to make for example hats, belts, baskets and fans. Cord and rag strips were also woven to make bed throws, cushion covers, chair backs and arm rests for example. Workshop participants used these traditional methods to create baskets and wall hangings over the weekly sessions.

 

There is no doubt that the sessions readily opened up genuine lines of communication and mutual respect between the generations and across cultures.

 

Open Age & Alperton School

 

Elder, Lillet Mastin said,  “Our school teachers [in Jamaica] would bring in rafia for us to make belts and purses. We weaved motifs to add from dyed rafia and sold them for about 3 pennies. We enjoyed making them.”

 

Elder, Vida Foster said, “We beat and washed the straw from the bush in the river. This craftwork has brought back memories from my youth.” She felt that it was a good spare time activity and one that could get young people today to start looking for, and utilising natural resources around them.

 

Margaret Mitchell finished her woven wall plaque in 3 colours. She felt energised throughout the workshops, learning a skill that she did not in fact master as a child in Jamaica. She welcomed the opportunity of being able to now do something she grew up with and hoped that this would springboard the group at the centre to go on to explore the use of other nautural resources from around the world for craftwork. She enjoyed conversing with the young people, especially listening to their stories about their school.

 

Elder, Greta Carrington, showed off her new craze orange and pink loom band made for her by her great grandson. This highlighted that although a different material and technique is used by youngsters today, they still find the craft of weaving highly appealing!

 

Vida Walsh Centre & Park View School

 

The Year 9 students were very keen to rejoin with their elders and happy to assist them in taking photos of the finished pieces, including ‘selfies’. They also helped them to better manage their mobile phone texts and emails with a view to sending pictures of their work to family and friends at home and abroad.

 

Paul Binsang and Quincy Osei who partnered with elder, Mr. Clive said that it was great to be able to share what they each do in their spare time and to talk about their families and backgrounds.

 

Student Valeria Perez teamed up with fellow Columbian Nolmy Torbada (having arrived in Britain 12 years and 29 years ago respectively). They were overjoyed to be able to freely converse in Spanish during their joint handicraft activity.

 

After a Jamaican themed afternooon tea, Vida Walsh elders were delighted and graciously accepted the invitation from the Head of ICT & Business, Olive Bastien at Park View School to visit them in the new academic year to further develop their ICT skills and to be guests of honour at their Black History Month celebrations.

 

Jeanne Goutelle felt that the workshop experience was a great mixture of time spent making things by hand and sharing the history of Caribbean. “ I was really inspired by the stories I heard and I guess my knowledge of tapestry weaving and basketry brought back a lot a good memories for most of them. I enjoyed the fact that all these stories can still resonate in our current daily life and I hope it has inspired the young generation to consider crafts in their future.”

 

Gene Huie Manneh

JHH Education Coordinator