Ask a room of students to tell you a story and without hesitation, hands fly into the air, students are eager to talk about their lives. Ask experienced storytellers like Jamie Olivero and his artistic partner, Shawn Kettner to engage in students storytelling, and the stories change from simple details to bigger ideas including how to live peacefully, how to create a peaceful world and how to be good to one another. The stories take on new depth.
Jamie Olivero and Shawn Kettner (Many Voices One World artist collective) have created the Human Mosaic Project. Beginning in September 2014, students from across Winnipeg came together for Storytelling Day at Central Park sponsored by The Forks North Portage and MTS Future First, as part of Culture Days Manitoba. There the students heard stories from storytellers from varied backgrounds including Kate Ferris, Duncan Mercredi and Joe McLellan. Despite the differences in their stories, their theme was shared: that of how to live peacefully. This guiding theme is shared by Jamie who believes that"...stories provide encouragement, guidance, and instructions for living a peaceful life."
That was just the beginning of the project. Throughout the year, Jamie visited the classrooms of the students who had participated in Storytelling Day. Telling stories from around the world and from home, as well as sharing ideas, each classroom created words, images, songs or interpretations of what peace meant to them. From those initial encounters, the students created artistic banners depicting this main theme.
The project grew over the months and has taken on an impressive breadth according to Jamie Olivero:
"This year is the tenth anniversary of the Winnipeg International Storytelling festival, who's theme has always been 'stories as a path to peace'. So, we decided to make a path by bringing together 18 groups (over 400 students) from ten schools for a year long project with over forty banners."
By working with each class individually, Jamie and the students had the opportunity to share their own ideas, "this project engages students by calling for their creative contributions and active involvement in the building process."
On Friday, May 8th, each school will come together at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, located at the historic meeting point in Winnipeg, the Forks. Students will present their banners and perform for parents and students alike. Having the event take place in this museum is significant for Jamie and Shawn, who think " ...having the final event at the Human Rights Museum gives the whole project credibility and a sense of importance. Everyone has the right to live peacefully."
Jamie believes that the "anticipated success this project will hopefully lead to another long term project next year." The project has already been incredibly engaging. Students are brimming, eager to share their banners and the stories that accompany them. This spirit of storytelling will also be the central theme of the National Congress on Culture which takes place on May 7th and 8th in Edmonton, Alberta. To learn more about the 3rd Annual initiative, visit http://culturedays.ca/en/about-culture-days/congress.
The Human Mosaic Project honours the memory of Kevin Walters, former Project Manager for Culture Days Manitoba, who knew that good things happen when people come together to share their stories.
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