A Eighth Impression of Kamepao, 8/03/99
Although Kamepao, the camp, is over, the classes continue. From 10am this morning to 1:30pm another class of 7 children between the ages of 4 and 6 begins. Today's project is to build airplanes out of precut pieces of wood. In this case there is no model, so the children can, with little guidance, assemble the airplane as they wish. They choose where they prefer to attach each piece. Essentially, each plane resembles another, but except for the basic structure, each is unique. After the wood is assembled they attach 3 wheels to the bottom, 1 in back and two on the wing. After the wheels are attached, they begin to paint.
They are attentive throughout the process. They only slip out when they don't understand how to do something. But once they look on at the other children, or get help from one of the Kamepao members, they quicky become excited again. Once the planes are built, before they're painted, the children immediately have something to play with. They use them as cars or as planes. The satisfaction of their own work is instantaneous.
When they begin painting they choose their own colors and designs. The pink plane is quickly pegged as girly. When I tell the boy who said it was girly that I also like pink he asked me if I was a girl. The following jokes centered around that, to the point where the boy was confused as to who was a girl and who was a boy between the Kamepao members. We did our best to confuse him. It's interesting that color can have so much included in it. In the same way that Nakahara is interested in the notion of copyright and no copyright, in shapes and symbols, somehow pink seems to have a copyright as a girl's color. For a boy to use it takes on the credentials of copyright infringement. But who owns the copyright on a color and who enforces it? To say there is no copyright is to throw previous thought into confusion. This notion of color copyright can only be taught by parents or other children who have learned from adults.
To hold onto a copyright, or the notion of copyright, is to be over protective. Certainly credit is deserving to those who create something, but to make something in order to get credit for it is to value the self more than the thing created. In the ideal case, for the thing created to have power without ownership may be the best way for it to live. Yet pride, in the case of the maker, and greed in the case of the taker, are the two causes that make copyright a necessity. But if the thing constructed, the idea conceived, the design produced, exists beyond and without its maker, sometimes to mention the maker is to distract the object from its own work.
After the planes are painted and taken outside to dry, the play quickly turns to a game of throwing a stuffed turtle around like a football. Keiko Nakahara had made the turtle earlier in the week, with a turtle cover, like a shell sweater, attached. The fiberglass turtle shell rucksack that Aya Takami made earlier in the week also quickly becomes the resting place for the stuffed turtle or a helmut. Then, somewhere in the confusion, I made the mistake of lying down, or sitting down, to find kids crawling all over me. I then transformed into a horse-turtle with riders clinging all over me.
Finally, once they start eating, the kids rest a little, until they realize that their bento box rubber bands make good distance when flung across the room.
Occasionally I'm surprised that there is no discipline. Not that any is needed, but I think certain adults seem to consider their role in dealing with children to be that of disciplinarians. In Shibutare's sessions, there seems to be no discipline, no warnings, no instruction on what one should or should not do. Teaching in this sense seems to not be the issue nor to be desired. Children will learn from themselves what they should or shouldn't do. Everyday, children are being told what they should and shouldn't do, as children, as boys, as girls, etc. To impose morals as such here would be to not allow them a free space. This is not to say that they are bad kids doing "bad" things that go undisciplined. It is only to say that they make their own rules, and find for themselves when they should or shouldn't do something. The kids teach themselves, as much as the kids teach the adults that are present. The adults probably do the least teaching. This style of education, which I'm guessing at simply from watching for the past 8 days, seems to be productive and educational.
Although I don't know any of the children by name, since I met so many in the past few days, it feels strange that I won't be here the next time they come back. It feels arrogant for me to think that I'll be missed when they come back. At the same time, I'll wonder what they will be doing while I'm not here. I wonder also how I'll be remembered? For me, the experience of learning how to speak to children was a way of getting to know the children personally. I learned how to communicate by way of watching the other members of the Kamepao Project Team. I feel as if it was I who was taking part in a lesson with Shibutare and the others conducting. In the same way that I will remember the kids as kids in general, they will probably remember me as the foreign guy, as foreigner in general. It will be up to their parents to define me to them. I won't be able to define myself anymore. I hope for them that it was not only I who learned a great deal and who will hold onto what I learned directly from them.