Telling history with sand


If you have seen this video presentation before, I hope you are like me and desire to watch it again. It moves me every time.

This remarkable anti-war video by Ukranian artist Kseniya Simonova, 24, captures the famous lines by poet Wilfred Owen, “My subject is war, and the pity of war. The poetry is in the pity.”

In an unusual art presentation — an illuminated sand table — Simonova shows how ordinary people were affected by the German invasion during World War II. I think the only thing that needs explanation is the Ukrainian monument, which is to an Unknown Soldier. Simonova’s presentation won the top prize in a competition, “Ukraine’s Got Talent.” Would that our TV programs would showcase talent like this.I am so thankful for artists and poets among us. So often, they are able to express in words or pictures what the writers of history books would have us forget. Their works contain the memories of our souls, something that is much harder to erase than “facts” in a book. Except from a blog by Joan Chittister.

If you have followed the situation in Texas, we have now a textbook selection review board that is as far right as a group can get. With their additions and deletions, they are literally changing history in the social studies textbooks that will soon be adopted for the next ten years.  There are too many egregious moves by this committee, chaired by a fundamentalist Christian dentist, to mention in this blog. However, if you google “Texas textbook controversy” you will be inundated by the number of people who have already commented on this subject. It is not a topic I can spend too much time on before my blood pressure starts to rise to dangerous levels.

When I was growing up, I always thought that history was an extremely boring subject. All we were taught were names of presidents and military leaders, dates, and battles. dates and battles. It was very dry to me. It was not until I started teaching it myself, and I, thankfully, had the freedom to introduce any enriching material into the curriculum that I desired, that I started to humanize history for myself and my elementary students. We started studying the ordinary people. We looked at life beyond the wars. The students were able to connect to these ancestors at a deeper level.

Due to the amount of material that teachers must teach now, fewer of them have the option of including anything else other than what is in the textbook. It is the text that is the basis of the state testing program. If a teacher gets a student hooked on opposing viewpoints and wider perspectives, s/he might not prepare the students sufficiently enough for the canned tests they must pass. The students might have a much deeper understanding but fail the test.

That’s where the poets and the artists come back into my blog today. The textbook committee is trying very hard to rewrite history, including very much downplaying the civil rights era, and reintroducing the glorious leaders of the Confederacy and the Moral Majority. Since the committee is 10-5 Republican (fundamentalist far right at that) they are looking like they are the victors. History belongs to the victors. It always has and always will.

Hooray for the the artists who cannot be stilled by being deleted from a text. Hooray for the way they can touch our emotions and get to our souls to help us remember the struggles and the changes of those that the people in power wish for us to forget.

This young sand artist does more to portray the travesty of war than all the textbooks will ever be able to do. I’m sure she reached more people in her audience than any chapter in any book could ever do. Namaste. Attic Annie

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3 Comments

Filed under art, Casual conversation, education, general topics, life, musings, Uncategorized

3 responses to “Telling history with sand

  1. mark m

    regretfully, when i attempted to view the video, the link is broken & the note “this video doesn’t exist” came up. i think i have seen that video elsewhere, it is quite good.
    geologically, any sand does retain interesting clues to it’s history in its’ grains.

    • atticannie

      I have found over the years in which I was actively writing this blog that many links have disappeared.

  2. It was rather interesting for me to read this article. Thank you for it. I like such themes and anything that is connected to them. I would like to read a bit more soon.

    Hilary Swenson