By Ayesha Nasir
I miss going out into the field, doing interviews, making notes and asking questions. In journalism we refer to it as burning the shoe leather and while I used to burn it every day, almost all the time, being an ammi and then more recently turning into Scaryammi has affected all this. Now my timings are dictated by my kids, Scaryammi and running the house.
But sometimes I come across a story that I can’t resist sinking my teeth into. An ammi who is a sculptor, wields a jigsaw and wears a dungaree, I was sold! When I found out that she was also conducting Lahore’s first ever wood workshop for children, I was sold even more enthusiastically. This was an ammi I had to meet. Ammis who are pushing boundaries, exploring new avenues of teaching and just daring to be a little crazy are the ammis I need to meet.
Here is my tete a tete with Nausheen Saeed , a sculptor and professor at NCA. She has recently launched the first ever wood workshop where children are being taught how to handle saws, jigsaws, measure and cut wood and at the end of the two weeks, all the students would have created a wooden bird house of their own design.
Me: What age category are you targeting with your wood workshop?
Nausheen: I am most interested in the Under 16 age group because I feel once they cross the age of 16/17 years, they become entangled in various life issues. After 10 years and before the age of 16 years is the best time to grab hold of these children and really help them explore and think.
Me: The wood workshop is taking place at Mansion Art Residency: what is Mansion?
Nausheen: Mansion is the house I live in and I set up the residency to cover up a gap I felt existed in the field of art. When students graduate from university they are suddenly thrown into the real world without any transition or hand-holding. This space provides them with the transition they need to grow further.
Me: How come you didn’t opt for a summer camp based on arts and crafts, given your background as a teacher at NCA and a sculptor?
Nausheen: I feel these courses already exist. There are loads of places where children can go to learn painting and crafts but there are really no places where children can go to learn skills that force them to challenge existing notions.
Me: What kind of notions do you feel the wood workshop will help children challenge?
Nausheen: There is an inherent fear in our children. A fear of tools. A fear of carpentry. We have become very protected instead of picking up a hammer and just fixing a painting ourselves, we want to call a carpenter. Instead of having the confidence to just change bulbs on our own, fix door knobs and do other errands around the house, we want to call someone to do it all.
Me: So, are you saying that kids today are not very well exposed?
Nausheen: They definitely aren’t street smart. Most kids would shiver at the idea of using a drill machine or would quiver if asked to manage a jigsaw or a saw. Through this wood workshop, I am hoping children gain confidence and can at least explore the possibility of working with their hands.
Me: What are the key skills children will be learning in this workshop?
Nausheen: Children will be learning how to measure. How to work with the tools of carpentry. How to think of a design in 3D and 4D. They will also be learning how to work as team-mates and follow instructions.
Me: Tell us about your journey as a mom to Masha Allah teenagers now.
Nausheen: I was both an involved mom and a passive mom. Involved because I was always present around my kids and passive because I never interfered a lot with what they were doing. I was there as a presence and a support but I let them do what they want to do.
Nausheen Saeed is a sculptor and a professor at NCA. The wood workshop at Mansion Art Residency is the first such children’s initiative she has taken.