Kavadh

Story telling always came easily to me, even from being tiny, ideas and images sprung into my head inspired by what I saw around me, what I heard, every sense could trigger an imaginary adventure.

I’m sure most children can do this… if encouraged and nourished with care and love… sadly many of my students had not been as lucky as I was, families which didn’t seem to care, emotionally illiterate families… and I wish there was some way those adults could be helped too… however, as a teacher of young people in a pupil referral unit, my priority was my students there in front of me.

A lot of the young people were creative and imaginative, but would often need support and help to get a story down on paper – which is unfortunately what they needed to do for their public exams!

I’m sure lots of teachers have props to encourage their students, pictures, photos, presentations, displays, and physical things too, items which would trigger or support the creation of a tale. Somewhere, and i can’t even remember where now, I came across a kavadh…

A kavadh is in essence a cupboard, a small portable cupboard which Indian storytellers use to illustrate their stories. On the outside would be pictures, maybe of the protagonists, the gods and goddesses of their stories, all beautifully and exotically painted, often gilded and with mirrors attached. Open the kavadh and inside are shelves bearing the items needed to tell the story, the daggers, cups, gifts, jewels, sometimes real items, but more often painted.

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My students would take a piece of A3 paper and fold it so that the two ends made the ‘doors’ of the cupboard; on the outside they would draw their characters, for example it could be  Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, then inside they would draw items which figured int the story, the dagger for example, the cup which Lady Macbeth gave to guards with drink and poison, a witch’s cauldron… and some of the ingredients that went into it, and so on!

Sometimes we strayed away from the original objective of the exercise and the kavadhs took on a life of their own, but I didn’t mind, it was creative, it was fun, it was a springboard to a lot of other work too!

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