Monday, October 10, 2016

Meaning of the Sea: From the Perspective of Bajaunese Children’s Drawing

All of us experiencing environment before we even can talk or write. Our understanding of space and architecture lies in our experience of our room, our home, our street, our homeland, our village, our landscape. We try to understand the surrounding since early life. Unconsciously, we learn about them and become one of the most important memory in our life. 

"The roots of our understanding of architecture lie in our childhood, in our youth: they lie in our biography" (Zumthor, Thinking Architecture)

That would be interesting if we tried to remember what kind of environment we live in when we were a child. Our understanding of landscape at that time reflecting our hopes, our stories, our daily life.

I’m so immersed when I have a chance visiting a sea tribe in Wakatobi, South East Sulawesi, Indonesia. Bajau or Sama, is name of sea people who lives in the middle of the sea. Sea become the most important thing in their life. Since their early life, they were taught that sea is reflection of their twins. If one of them were sick, then the other sibling would feel the pain. Sea becomes their guardian, their twins and their mother who keep them safe and sound.

I’m curious about what Bajau’s children thinking about their surroundings. The children are the future of Bajau’s tribe. I want to know what perspective the children have? How close their daily life with the sea? What kind of the future they are expecting?

Trying to understand from children’s perspective, I use drawing as a tool for them to communicate. For young children, drawing is the best means of conveying their fondest hopes and feelings. Before they was introduced to the words, they already processing images to their expressions. Even after they mastering language, they use doodle or painting to expressing something they can’t put into the words.

“Children's drawings have often been used to diagnose the developing personalities of their authors. But perhaps they may also serve one day as instruments for assessing the environment and help us to improve the quality of environmental planning both for children and adults.” (Krampen, 1991)

Everyday Life and Surrounding

From the day they were born, Bajaunese children are inseparable with water. They are mastering swimming even before they can walk. When I was playing with them, one of their favourite activities other than swimming is drawing. Their age varies from 5 to 13 years old.

Every time we drew, we always ended our session with presentation about their drawings. They shared some of things that makes me interested. Here is some of their drawing and their explanation:

Figure 1. Fish Drawing by Iwan and Boyo

Things that always they draws are fishes, boat and house. They can identified sea creatures precisely complete with coral reef, sea grass, sand, and lagoon. The size of fish they draw may varies, but they always draw fish bigger than other creatures, sometimes bigger than people. They explained that everytime they draw big fish it makes them excited and happy. They hope they could catch it when they grow up.

Figure 2. Marni’s Drawing: House

Besides fish and sea creatures, their scribbles about house is really interesting. Their house’ signature is a ladder which help them climb from boat to their house (Figure 2, no 3) and the columns which erected on the sand (Figure 2, no 5). In this picture, Marni (10 years old) draw her house complete with her self portrait, flowers, butterflies, and sea waves. Under her house (Figure 2, no 2) is how she describe sea waves with dots, represent of large anchovy school which always following her everytime she walks on the bridge. She drew flower and butterfly too. It turns out some part of their settlements stacked by dead coral and becoming a land where they could grew some plants and flowers.

Culture and Religion