Nelson Mandela High School has a number of activities and initiatives that contribute to the spirit of our school community. From the amazing culinary creations available through the “United Bistro”, to our Leadership initiatives. School spirit at Nelson Mandela High School is alive and well.
Canada 150 – A Mosaic Mural Representative of Diversity
In September of 2016, as Nelson Mandela School prepared to open it's doors to students for the first time, a group of teachers met to brainstorm and discuss the possibility of receiving a grant. The grant money would allow students to create piece of art that would commemorate the 150th anniversary of Canada as well as the opening of our new school. We sat down and wrote the grant with great hope that we would be chosen so that we could liven up the walls of the school!
In November of 2017, we were notified that we were the successful recipients of a Canada 150 Grant from the Government of Canada. A committee of teachers began meeting on a regular basis to brainstorm and plan to create the commemorative art piece in our school. We put together a student committee, interviewed and selected an artist, and were well on our way into the initial stages of the work.
As a collective committee, we knew that we wanted the mural to be representative of the diversity that is so prevalent in Canada. We also wanted to celebrate and showcase how proud we are to be a school with such immense cultural richness. As we worked through this idea, we came up with a number of relevant options but ultimately we were excited about a nature theme within our mural to communicate our idea. Those involved could relate to an element of nature that was reflective of our own cultural, ethnic, or family background. The diversity we could see in nature became symbolic of the diversity within our community.
All NMHS students were asked to contemplate their family and cultural background and consider an element of nature (specifically a plant, tree, or flower) that was reflective of their heritage. Some students knew immediately what element they wanted to portray and others needed to do a bit of research, think further back, and/or ask their families for support in thinking of this component.
Students were asked to draw, paint, collage, or even just print out a photo of the nature element that they chose. The student committee and chosen artist, Michelena Bamford, collected these works and sorted them into similar categories. This gave us a great deal of understanding of what nature elements were most popular among our school population. We came very close to incorporating all of the ideas that we received! We met again with the student committee and broke the work down into sections. Students then volunteered to design different sections of the mural. Michelena took the drawings, enlarged them, and transferred them onto a lightweight substrate. The substrate, which is the base of the mosaic, was cut out into the shapes that we designed. At this point the collaging was ready to happen!
Every Art student took turns with Michelena during class learning about mosaic, cutting tiles, fitting pieces, organizing colours, and placing pieces. The work takes a great deal of time and effort, as thousands of decisions need to be made in a short period of time during mosaic creation. Some students stated that mosaic making is very much like a putting together a puzzle, as you must find the right piece and color to fit in each and every small
All Mandela students also had the opportunity to sign up in connect class to take turns during Success time to try out the art form and contribute to the mural. Glass piece by glass piece the mural took form. Students and teachers donated glass pieces to be a part of the legacy. Mrs. Martin, our principal, donated a beautiful floral patterned teacup that was once her grandmothers, which she is pleased will be a part of our school's story for years to come. Our school community also put forth quotes and words that they felt were reflective of diversity, growth, and community. English, Arabic, and Punjabi are some of the languages that you will find discreetly placed beneath glass tesserae within the mural's Banyan tree.
As the community came together to create this commemorative piece of art, students learned about the techniques of mosaic, about their own and others cultural and family background, and about the process of designing a large work of art. The final piece sits proudly upon the walls of Nelson Mandela High School's, foyer, and flows into the Learning Commons. Feathers flow throughout representative of the First Nations culture that is the root of this country. Turmeric flowers, wheat, tulips, bamboo, and allium flowers are all cultural symbols that can be found amidst the nature composition. The mural finishes with a grand Lotus, bamboo and jasmine flower piece that hangs upon the walls of our Learning Commons. Our hope is that the mosaic will give our school community the chance to look, reflect, and appreciate the diversity that we celebrated for Canada's 150th anniversary.
It is with great appreciation that Nelson Mandela High School would like to thank the government of Canada's contribution to our school. This work of art will be a legacy piece that has given our community an invaluable experience. The Canada 150 grant has provided our school with rich learning opportunities and a visual that will adorn the walls of our school for many years to come.