THE PANCHATANTRA 

 

This project is a team effort between myself and 5E, 6A and 7B at Sri Jayendra school, in Tamil Nadu, India.

 

It involved one hundred and twenty students - three classes with forty students in each. I decided to work with the younger age groups of the school, the seven, eight and nine years olds. I hoped that there would be fewer inhibitions when I asked them to run around like a hungry blue jackal.

 

It began with myself, in-front of the class, reading and miming some of the stories from the Panchatantra. More often than not a student would shout out the ending, Indians are very familiar with these tales.

 

The Panchatantra are the oldest, first known, animal fables. They have been worked over and over again, expanded, abstracted, turned into verse, retold in prose, translated into medieval and modern vernaculars, and retranslated into Sanskrit. Now it was our turn…..

 

“The Blue Jackal,” a tale of a hungry jackal named Chandaraka, seemed to be their favourite. So next, to help illustrate the story, each pupil set about drawing and cutting out all the animals of the jungle. At this point I introduced Vincent van Gogh to the students. Although they had never heard of this artist, they picked up the idea of expressionist marking making with great speed and delight. 

 

They put this knew knowledge into immediate effect when drawing their individual animals. And, also, later on when they ‘attacked’ the black board, with chalk in hand, to reveal the blue jackals movements and emotions.

 

Sometimes an artists job is to try to organise chaos into a coherent form. I hope I have achieved this with the final film, I can certainly promise there was plenty of chaos in the classroom. Although not every child in the class appears in the final film they were ALL present during the filming. Four or five in-front of the camera, thirty-five behind me as I directed and filmed. I was the only teacher present. In-between takes, I would ask the whole class, with chalk in hand, to “attack” the black board to reveal the blue jackals movements and emotions.. Their energy and spirit  is very apparent in these drawings.

 

This was a rather a novel project for the students which enticed and enthused them, I also took a rather mischievous delight in vamping them into a complete frenzy so as to extract some untamed expression in their drawing and acting. The initial result was chaos in the class room, the end result, these photos and film and some wonderful memories.