“Donkeys are made to work very hard in Egypt because there are no cars there,” said a seven-year-old with concern in his voice. “How long did it take you to make this presentation?” asked another child. “I’d pay £2000 for one of your paintings!” a third declared.
These were just some of the comments and questions that a class of Year 3 pupils of Newton Poppleford Primary School directed at Egyptian artist Miriam Hathout during her visit to the school last week along with The Donkey Sanctuary’s National Schools Programme Coordinator Carl Wholey and the International Department’s Louise Carter and Girija Duggal.
The Cairo-based artist gave the students a colourful presentation on the life of a donkey in Egypt using her watercolours as subject matter and followed this by leading the children on a fun art session.
Miriam, who is known for her vibrant depictions of Egyptian donkeys, was in town at the invitation of The Donkey Sanctuary to exhibit some of her works and paint a life-size fibreglass donkey onsite during Donkey Week.
At Newton Poppleford Primary School, her session encouraged the children to think about the difference in the life of a working Egyptian donkey and one living at The Donkey Sanctuary and to take inspiration from her use of bold strokes and vivid colours and textures to create group and individual paintings of donkeys.
For the group project, Miriam painted an outline of a group of donkeys across six large canvases, each of which was then divided among six groups of children. When put back together at the end, a striking composition emerged. With enthusiasm running high, the students then painted their own individual donkeys on paper freehand, without using pencil or eraser.
“I was surprised by the amazing art work they all did. It was lovely how each group worked together to paint their canvas with so much harmony. At the end it was as if each canvas was made in the style of a different school of art! And when we put them back together it made a lovely painting by tomorrow’s upcoming artists,” said Miriam.
“The art workshop with Miriam enabled the students to develop a range of creative and imaginative work focused on the donkeys of Egypt. The students were extremely engaged and keen, being inspired by Miriam’s approach and style to painting the donkeys, they were encouraged to experiment with colours and textures to produce an outstanding finished painting,” said Carl.
In April the school had also hosted a Donkey Roadshow visit, where two donkeys visited the school and a curriculum based educational assembly was given.
The students got to meet and interact with the donkeys in their own playground. As Carl explains: “We are developing a long standing and meaningful relationship with Newton Poppleford Primary School. The Year 3 teacher Angela Stephen has been working with me on the latest Donkey Sanctuary educational resources; a comparative Geography resource for Keys Stage 1 and 2 focusing on the comparison of East Devon, the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia and Biella Province in northern Italy. The school is currently trialing the resources before they are released to a wider audience.”
The children’s six-piece canvas art will be on permanent display in a public area at Slade House Farm soon.
As for the pupils themselves, their verdict on the morning’s session was clear and emphatic: ‘It was better than awesome!’