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Goessel students learn about international art

Staff writer

Goessel Elementary School fourth-graders recently completed art projects mimicking the designs of the Maisin people of Papua New Guinea, which they dye into their tapa cloth.

Teacher Thomas Krehbiel got the idea for the project from McPherson resident Merril McHenry. McHenry’s daughter, Marisa, has spent about 15 years working with the Maisin in Papua New Guinea, so he has a substantial collection of the cloth.

Tapa cloth is made from the bark of the wuwusi — a type of mulberry tree, Krehbiel said. The Maisin dye patterns into the cloth using natural pigments. Typically, they quarter fold the cloth, dye a pattern into one fourth, and repeat it on the remaining three sections from memory.

The Maisin use the cloth for many purposes, including clothing, tablecloths, and burial shrouds.

Krehbiel decided to do the project as a memory exercise. His students didn’t use mulberry bark or pigments from local plants, but they did repeat their designs from memory.

He didn’t tell the students they would have to repeat the design from memory, so some of them made intricate patterns, he said.

“It was really fun,” Jenna Nightengale, Julia Nightengale, and Meghan Simington said simultaneously.

The students had never done anything like this project before, and that made it interesting, Simington said.

Krehbiel said his students exceeded his expectations on the project. Some did extra patterns at home.

“They took a great interest in it,” he said.

Krehbiel’s students will present their artwork at McHenry’s home museum Thursday, when they will hear a lecture about migratory butterflies and birds.

Last modified May 20, 2010

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