The National Arts Council (NAC) supported numerous impactful projects and organisations in 2018/2019. One of these is the Imbali Artbooks, which the NAC highlighted as a project that will have a lasting impact in the future, changing young people’s lives and teaching visual art.
The Imbali Artbooks came about as a result of observing art teachers from under-resourced and under-equipped schools, trying to teach a creative, visual medium without resources, and often without clear guidelines towards genuinely creative teaching. These typical circumstances were exacerbated by the fact that many of the teachers tasked with teaching visual art had no formal training themselves. The Imbali Artbooks: Adventuring Into Art, which were compiled and selected from 30 years of experience in art teacher training, thus aimed to address these issues. The project intended to provide as many schools as possible throughout all nine provinces with sets of The Imbali Artbooks: Adventuring Into Art, as well as to provide intensive workshops to each group of teachers receiving the books. These workshops were a crucial way to introduce the books to the teachers and to impart an understanding of their structure, use, method and approach. Often resources like this will remain untouched and untried, especially for inexperienced teachers, but even a single initial workshop establishes a sense of familiarity, confidence and willingness to continue to explore and use the books thereafter. The initial objective was to reach a minimum of 100 to 120 schools per province in the first phase, plus books for the Creative Arts Subject Advisors, as well as community artists coming in as mentees, required to support the teachers into the future.
Through funding received from the NAC, The Imbali Artbooks: Adventuring Into Art were successfully launched in the Northern Cape, North West and Limpopo. The books were distributed and Imbali ran intensive one-day workshops in two districts in each of the three provinces – six workshops in six districts in total. For the writers and compilers of The Imbali Artbooks: Adventuring Into Art, observing how the books have been perceived and received by teachers has been an enormously valuable process. The workshops allowed for quick feedback and were structured in a way that allowed teachers to immediately engage with the books, to discuss them with each other in small groups, as well as to present to the group. Overwhelmingly, the responses were positive. Teachers were very excited when talking about the potential books, and expressed keenness about the prospect of using the books with their learners.
The workshops were structured around the content of the books, and were adjusted and modified where necessary, changing to more basic or simpler activities and discussions, or to more challenging ones, depending on the experience of the teachers in the group. Charmaine Monareng, Arts Development Officer (Strategic Initiatives) at the NAC, says: ‘The NAC’s enhanced strategy aims to support projects that will significantly raise the profile of the NAC and have a greater impact. This project addressed the NAC’s priority, which is “to provide historically disadvantaged additional help and resources required to give greater access to the arts.” The Imbali Artbooks are important because of the educational value they have for the arts sector through providing schools that are particularly placed in the previously marginalised provinces.’