AGO’s Indigenous Art and Expression Collection En Francais Inspires Grade 10-12 Students

Posted by Admin on February 25, 2022 at 12:29 AM

By Coco Lee, Senior French Teacher

On January 31st, Grade 10, 11 and 12 French students participated in a private guided virtual tour of the AGO’s Indigenous Art and Expression collection. The virtual field trip provided rich opportunities for responding to contemporary art and honing students’ French language skills. Tour guide Dr. Lauren Spring explained several significant pieces, exploring themes such as cultural heritage and history, personal identity, and resistance and sovereignty.

Highlights of the tour included discussions of Christi Belcourt’s The Wisdom of the Universe (AGO) and Robert Houle’s The Pines (AGO).

During the tour, Dr. Spring asked questions, offered clarification, and invited interpretation from all of the students.

Students embrace open-ended questions with thoughtful reflections — in their additional language

It is always encouraging to see students putting their learning into practice. These senior learners were comprehending the majority of the guide’s explanations, and respectfully asking for clarifications when needed. Students sometimes struggle to offer creative interpretations, when there may not be a “right answer,” and this can be particularly challenging in one’s additional language. Nonetheless, Linden’s Grade 10-12 French students rose to the occasion and offered thoughtful responses and analysis.

Students inspired to create their own artworks

Following the tour, both the Grade 10 class and the Grade 11/12 class have extended the learning into their own creative explorations.

Grade 10s Aisha, Claire, Serena and Marlen, inspired by The Wisdom of Universe (Christi Belcourt), used the whiteboard to make a collaborative panneau of their own, connecting various elements of their identities, and practising les pronoms compléments.

“Les collines de sable: je les ai dessinés parce que ma famille de la côté de mon papa vient du Niger, et nos ancêtres viennent des tribus près du désert Sahara.”
“I drew the sand dunes because my family on my dad’s side comes from Niger, and our ancestors come from the tribes that lived by the Sahara Desert.”

“J’ai dessiné une montagne. Ma famille et moi, nous y voyagions souvent et nous y faisions de la randonné.”
“I drew a mountain. My family and I, we travelled there often and we went on hikes there.”

“J’ai dessiné un point d’interrogation, et j’utilise pour représenter tous mes questions.”
“I drew a question mark, and I use it to represent all of my questions.”

“J’ai dessiné des arbres et un lac avec un canoë. Je les ai dessiné parce que pour la plupart mon sentiment de ‘chez moi’ est lié aux régions sauvages.”
“I drew trees and a lake with a canoe. I drew them because, for the most part, my feeling of being ‘at home’ is linked to the wilderness.”

Grade 11s and 12s have been researching the political context behind The Pines (Robert Houle), a triptych depicting a very peaceful forest with an air of sentience or awareness, in two rich shades of green and blue. The forest in The Pines is La Pinède, land that was central to the Kanesatake Resistance, known in mainstream media as the Oka Crisis of the 1980s and ‘90s.

Before creating timelines of the events leading up to the Kanesatake Resistance, which are being used to practice the plus-que-parfait verb tense, students made their own personal works inspired by Houle’s The Pines. With only 15 minutes to work, and limited to crayons and markers, they drew inspiration from places that are meaningful to them personally and depicted them in colours symbolising the central emotions connected to those places. Unfortunately for the art world, many of these students opted to keep their personal triptychs private!

“J’ai dessiné l’étang où ma famille et moi nous allons pour faire du patinage. Le jaune et céleste représentent la famille et la paix.”
“I drew the pond where my family and I go skating. The yellow and light blue represent family, and peace.”

“J’ai dessiné l’allée à côté de Linden, et le gris et le bleu représentent l’école.”
“I drew the alley beside Linden, and the grey and blue represent school.”

Linden’s high school students to benefit from even more interdisciplinary work

Despite the many challenges for teachers and learners at this time, the Linden community continues to find novel ways to connect and learn together. Students in all grades can continue to expect cross-curricular activities, merging their communication skills in many languages with art appreciation, science and design, social justice and more. The best thing about these great teaching and learning opportunities is seeing the incredibly creative, brave, and thoughtful ways that our students engage with them.