Educator: María Cecilia Cañizares
Children: Sebastian, Amelia, Galilea, Felipe,
Amanda & Miley
Puertas del Sol neighbourhood still holds some vestiges of its history as a rural area that was built around and in relation to the Tomebamba river. In the past, Puertas del Sol’s landscape was made by haciendas that shared similar chromatic shades of carefully cultivated fields. In the last twenty years, its geography has been radically altered and forced to accommodate the higher demographic demands that intensely presses on Cuenca. Puertas del Sol’s metamorphosis has been shaped by an agglomeration of small gated communities and mid-size buildings that compete on offering the best views to their dwellers. Although this area in Cuenca has suffered profound transformations, its active population still co-exists in deep relation with the water flows and changes that happen in the Tomebamba river.
Approaches to the Tomebamba River
During this time, we have been invited to experience the school as an errant space and to meet with it from a different perspective. Therefore, paying attention to place, we relate to the Tomebamba River, an element full of life and stories, with water that speaks to us and invites us to think in many ways.
Approaching the “river” has taken time; establishing a relationship with the river requires attention and questions that nurture our encounters. What does the Tomebamba river ask of us? This question has interesting pedagogical implications. It shapes, deforms, and transforms our ideas.
We think in watery relationships . We work with watercolors to focus on the circularity, fluidity and complexity of the river. We notice how this material takes the language of the water.
We correspond to the movements of the watercolor with what happens in the river. The watercolors resemble the movements of the river, composing together and staying alive.
We create pedagogies that emphasize thinking collectively following the logic of the river. We notice how our thoughts are also circular, have fluidity and movement.
By creating meanings and recovering absent or perhaps evaporated memories, we open up to the possibility of generating moments of exchange, provoking ideas that can talk with each other. One of those moments brought us to think with water and the memories it carries. Through drawing, we weave collective memories about water and its relationships that bring us closer to the Tomebamba river. On one hand, water has a bodied memory that leaves subtle traces on the rocks of the river. On the other hand, it generates tensions, destroys, floods and carries toxins.
In our visits to the river we learn to notice its sensibilities, movements and expressions. Every time we are close to the river, we notice something of its singularities and its relationships:
“This river moves because it is awake” – Amelia
“It seems that the river wants to go up, but can’t because it is lazy” – Galilea
“These are baby rivers” – Atuk
“This river is very complicated” – Felipe
When we meet again with the particularities of the river, we return to think with them and delve into the relationships of a complicated, awake, asleep and baby river, weaving languages that have no beginning or end, but a constant interrelation between what is seen and what is invisible.
A river that, due to its particularity, evokes movement and constant sounds. It does not remain still, and knows no limits or order. Its way of communicating is through large and irregular waves, with mixtures of bluish colors and shapes with strong lines.
“The river that wants all the water for itself, does not want to share” – Paulo
“Crazy river because it leaves where it should be” – Sebastián
To coexist with these peculiarities, we embody the complicated river. Our bodies perform exaggerated movements that cause fatigue. The arms create a rhythm that, when moving with the fabric, evoke wide movements that indicate how big the complicated river is. To make its size visible, several layers are required, one on top of the other, which when joined together generate a large “amount of water” in relation to other rivers.
The brilliance and lightness of the fabric become the ideal means to work on these relationships in a more intimate way, linking us with their rhythms in a dance of marked movements.
“A river with current” – Miley
An active river that keeps harmony as one of its languages. The movement is present at all times with a certain regularity, becoming a river that expands in a fluid way and that holds relationships with other elements.
The language of the drawing shows the intertwined relationships of the waking river with the rain, the sun and the clouds. The bluish strokes and colors, created through unique rhythmic and orderly movements, denote familiarity with the river.
By embodying it, a firm encounter arises between the hands and the fabric, inviting us to make organized and at the same time repetitive movements.
The awake river does not require a greater effort but it does require constancy in its rhythms, capturing the essence of this moment to nourish it.
A calm river with few movements and silent languages that reflect its static and calm waters, without waves or agitation.
Amanda sees it as a river that fell asleep because it was tired. Warm colors and simple, slow and peaceful strokes evoke the sleeping river.
The drawings invite serenity and calm. The invisibility of the language of the sleeping river exists in relation to other elements such as the sun. But unlike the complicated river, the sleeping river interacts so calmly that it requires a lot of attention to capture its slightest movements or sounds.
The soft, light and shiny fabric became an extension of the sleeping river.
We embody it in a wide space that allows the fabric to be stretched into a single layer, practically flat, allowing a glimpse of an occasional soft and calm wave.
The movements when recreating it with the body are slow and careful.
A small river that still exudes life and movement. It is exposed as more vulnerable but its colors and strokes represent it cheerful with subtle movements.
When we refer to it, our tone of voice changes, almost whispering. It requires care because it is the smallest of rivers.
We embody it as a river that requires attention and greater protection. This baby river does not need our whole body, only a part or even just one hand. It is a river that requires more subtle gazes, touches and movements.
We use the smallest fabrics and most limited spaces. The rhythms of these encounters are slow and we tune in to the river in a more detailed and meticulous way.
of the river
A Baby River meets a Complicated One:
The awake river defends the vulnerable baby river from the complicated one that can hurt it. These relational encounters have generated moments of exchange, interactive moments in which ideas are in constant movement, as they are woven together, producing possible and visible connections of the concepts of encounter and proximity.
A Sleeping River meets a Complicated One:
Amelia’s drawing-narrative: A wild river meets a calm one and with the wind, which brought the water with it to return it, but could not do it because it was too far away. So, the sleeping river tells the complicated river: ‘calm down, as it can already see us, maybe it wants to give us back’ (the water) and, in fact, it did, because it found a way to them, making the wild river happy.
Drawing helps us to connect with the river’s particularities and relations.
To deepen the encounters with the river, we take the wonderings that arise in the children’s drawing during our visits. The stones are a constant concern for the children. They notice that the stones are cold when the river doesn’t have water.
Amanda suggests that we bundle them up by creating a blanket.
The Collective Blanket
We created the blanket with a “plastic sack” called Saquillo and with scraps of fabric. For months we had observed that the saquillo flows into the river and remains entwined in the stones and in the roots of the trees.
While we visit the river we find clothes and garments entwined in the stones. These garments escape the people who usually wash their clothes in the Tomebamba.
We form a blanket with pieces of fabric that connect us with our culture. Scraps that correspond to pieces of cloth rejected, forgotten or useless, but when they are put together take on a new meaning.
Families send us pieces of cloth to sew our collective blanket. When they were put together, not only mathematical and geometric concepts came into play, but also an aesthetic of color and shape to carefully fit each of the pieces of this new puzzle that was being formed.
In our pedagogical encounters, we have opened processes, knowing that each stone has a particularity. We wonder what might it do to create blankets that shelter those particularities and singularities
The process of creating the blanket, patch by patch, makes us notice that creating something takes time. Each process is built and nourished by collective efforts. Our ideas are assembled, united, and disassembled.
Singular movements are in constant dialogue
While Galilea carefully coordinates her movements, so that the stitches fit into her piece of fabric, Paulo makes careful movements so that the thread does not tangle and thus his stitches are more precise. Felipe leans over, and with his body resting on the ground, he approaches the blanket to decide where to put the next stitch.
Sewing takes time. It is difficult to stitch and join each piece. The hands meet the thickness of the material without clearly knowing which direction the needle is taking. And so, we create a rhythm with each stitch, noticing singular and collective movements that little by little create the blanket.
Bringing the Blanket to the Tomebamba
We return with the blanket to the banks of the Tomebamba that is asleep.
By carrying the blanket we feel that we are carrying the collective work, time, memories, and stories with us. It seems that each one of us left a piece of ourselves on each scrap of fabric. “They’re a little warm,” Amanda mentions as Amelia and Felipe carefully tuck in a rock.
Some stones still feel cold – Felipe
But others thank us for making them a blanket – Miley
skin, stones and cold
When we notice that the stones are cold, we also think about what happens when we are cold.
Do we feel cold
in the same way?
Our bodies also react to low temperatures. “We get ‘chicken skin'” – Sebastián
“It makes me cold when they don’t cover me” – Amanda
“I feel cold when I sleep in a T-shirt” – Paulo
We visit the river to observe how the stones feel cold in relation to how we as humans feel cold.
We are encountering similarities…
The stones, when feeling cold
My skin has little dots
My body when I’m cold
This is the face of stones when they are cold
This is me feeling cold
The stones with their blanket
The Relations that the Tomebamba river carries
The river’s level has risen. Most of the stones that we were paying attention to are now covered. Their ‘skin’ hidden. The river flow is strong and unavoidable and just as its flow, also our thinking follows a rich flow and a circularity of ideas.
The river’s rhythms bring us back to the conversations on water singularities. The sleeping river has awakened and its force has an effect on other bodies. The river shows that its relationships are not static. It always invites us to rethink relations from different perspectives.
On this occasion, the camera, has become an extension of our gaze and has allowed us to bring into our garden images of what is happening out there: a river that is about to overflow, stones completely covered by water, tree roots intertwined in the movements of a strong flow and banks dressed with danger tape. Behind the tape are a large number of fallen branches piled up to be transported out of there.
Anxiety becomes visible. Not being able to go to the river, the question, ‘what happens?’ is present. From our garden we perceive the sound of the complicated river that is acting with its force on other elements; as it passes by it take things with it, it does not respect limits and that has caused restrictions to access the river. For this reason, this new language has created new realities and its current has shown us that the river is not alone, it carries several elements with it.
“An awake river with current got angry
and now it’s difficult” – Miley
We collectively create a painting of the mighty Tomebamba River – a river that is awake, filled with movement and sound.
Paulo and Sebastián say that the mighty river carries a lot in it: fallen trees, leaves, fish, branches, stones and coquitos. Felipe notices how garbage is also part of the body of the river. Some of the memories and stories that the river carries are waste, neglect, and toxicity.
Fish, stones, tree leaves live in the river – Paulo
Fish, garbage, leaves, stones, coquitos live in the river – Sebastián
In the river lives a fish, a fallen tree, garbage – Felipe
Galilea tells us that the river is full of life. Miley says that the stones enjoy the company of the water, showing that they are happy because the water is back to shelter them. The bright and cheerful colors that she has used seem to be the mirror of this reality. Amelia continues her relationship with the river and the sun that eventually shines on the river water.
In the river there are fish, rocks, a fallen tree. Fish jump in the river – Galilea
The stones are living in the river because they like the water very much– Miley
The sun lights up the river that is very high. There is also garbage, a lot of clothes and a lot of stones – Amelia
The mighty river carries away very tall and ancient eucalyptus trees. The municipality decides to cut down trees to prevent further falls. The sound of the river has been replaced by that of machines and workers.
While we listen to the sound of the machines cutting the trees, we paint the eucalyptus trees.
Amelia announces: “I don’t want that to happen to nature because trees are living beings.” Felipe responds: “but the wind blows a lot and it can make things fall, like the tree that fell on the bridge.”
The richness of diversity and the approach that each one gives to the mighty river, allows relationships to expand, processes and dialogues to open.
While painting, the children return to the conversations about the stones. Paulo confidently says: “I think the stones are still cold because the water is cold.” Immediately we problematize this idea, putting it into conversation with Amelia’s initial thinking that “the wind’s whirlpools stole the water and now the stones are cold and shaking, because the water was what kept them warm.” Through this problematization, Galilea, Felipe and Sebastián support Amelia’s idea, mentioning that because the sun heats the water, the stones are no longer cold. On the other hand, Miley, Paulo and Amanda say that the stones are still cold because they feel cold when we touch them.
We decide to deepen the children’s disagreements about whether the stones are cold or warm…
Since we can not get close to the river, we draw it with its stones, while listening to its sound from the garden.
How do the stones feel when there is so much water?
“The stones are happy but later they get sad because there is a lot of water” – Miley
“This big rock saw a tree fall. Other stones are their stones’ sisters. One of the stones is crazy, the other one is happy and the last one is bad because she wants the river just for her” – Paulo
We transform ourselves into stones to embody how they feel with so much water.
Each stone is different, unique and peculiar.
We work with the difficulty of giving tridimension-al volume to the stones that appear in our drawings.