Koinobori, carp-shaped wind socks, are a big part of Japan’s Children’s Day celebration on May 5th, a day which celebrates and honours boys, while March 3rd is reserved for girls. Carps are chosen as a symbol of strength, courage and determination – attributes desired in boys, and are flown from rooftops throughout the country.
I’ve always loved how children like to collect the most random things, and store them in small containers for safe keeping. So instead of making wind socks, we’ll be making small drawings of carps, and decorating a tin to store them in.
Legend says that anyone who folds a thousand paper cranes will be granted one wish. It’s a beautiful idea which a young Japanese girl named Sasaki Sadako hoped to achieve. Sasaki was an infant at the time of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945, and developed leukemia as a result of her exposure to radiation. At the age of eleven, she began making a senbazuru ( a thousand paper cranes), wishing for her recovery from leukemia. As time went on, however, she began to wish for world peace instead. While she died at the age of twelve, her message was not forgotten. The Children’s Peace Memorial in Hiroshima commemorates the child victims of this bombing, and every year, thousands of origami cranes are sent to Hiroshima by children from all over the world.
Ganesh is the elephant-headed Hindu god of wisdom, success, and good fortune. He is one of the most popular Hindu deities whose birthday is celebrated during the Ganesha Chaturthi Festival falling between August 20th and September 15th. This god is hugely popular, and is prayed to before starting important things such a new job or even before writing school exams!
Ganesh has a long trunk, big ears, and a large pot-bellied body of a human being. His four hands each hold a symbolic object. In his upper right hand he holds an elephant goad (rod) which helps remove obstacles and be steered in the right direction. The noose in Ganesh’s upper left hand helps to capture all difficulties. His lower right hand is used to bless his devotees. Finally, a modak (sweet rice ball) or a lotus flower is held in his lower left hand, as a symbol of human evolution and joy.
Several months before the Ganesh Chaturthi celebration, beautifully decorated clay and plaster models of Ganesh are made by artisans. They are used to decorate homes and local communities throughout the festivities. We will be making a clay model of Ganesh. Now that you’ve learned a bit about this god, why not see if there’s a celebration in your community, so you can experience the festivities first hand.
Indigenous Australians use art as a way of expressing their beliefs and their oneness with nature. Various forms of expression include rock carving, bark painting, sculpture, wood carving and sand painting. Sand painting was made on the ground using sand, stones, seeds, flowers and feathers. The symbols created were used to teach young members of a clan about their history. Today, these designs are also created on boards and canvasses and referred to as dot paintings. The dots are used to make patterns and symbols.
by Matsuo Basho
leaking through the roof
dripping from the wasps’ nest
All cultures have some form of good luck charm, like the rabbit’s foot or four-leaf clover. In Ancient Egypt, charms were known as amulets and were usually in the form of plants, animals, or sacred objects. They were thought to provide protection against evil or danger, as well as bringing good luck. These ornaments or jewelry were even placed with the deceased to ensure they had a safe afterlife. Some amulets are currently on view at the Art Gallery of Ontario. I had children make these clay necklaces, inspired by the exhibition King Tut: The Golden King and The Great Pharaohs.