Sociocultural Influences on Brazilian Children's Drawings
Stokrocki, Mary, Art Education
In 1998, while I taught and visited schools in Sao Paulo, Brazil, I observed children making art Sociocultural influences on their representational ability intrigued me. Brazilian educators have studied children's visual responses to the following questions: What is my life? How would I like my life to be? How do I see my city? No one, however, asked students to respond to the theme, What do I like to do? This article reports insights about sociocultural influences on Brazilian children's drawings through visual anthropology, as children were asked specifically to draw what they liked to do.
Visual anthropology, a process of analysis, elicitation, and interpretation of an everyday event through visual means, is a relatively new field that utilizes ethnographic research methods (Stokrocki, 1985). Using this research method, anthropologists examine a collection of photographs or artifacts for repeated patterns of behavior. Researchers also elicit participant explanations by showing viewers selected objects and asking them to respond. They gather further interpretations from field notes and literature review. In the United States, such studies began with Navajo children's free drawings and crayon pictures by mostly adult Navajo (Leighton & Kluckhohn, 1947). Hatcher (1974) advocated the study of creative visual cognition, a process to engage how the Navajo acquire knowledge and intuit meaning. She discovered that they valued their enduring past and holistic philosophy, as seen in their painted landscapes. In a later study of Navajo children's drawings, I found evidence of traditional and popular culture schema and deep space (Stokrocki, 1994). Sociocultural findings included high status of the arts, traditional education through observation and demonstration, peer imitation, and male drawing competition.'
In this study, I used microethnography, a process of data collection and content and comparative analysis of an everyday event- in this case, one art class. I collected data through field notes, photographs, and interviews for one month and observed art instruction and students' artmaking abilities. The teacher conducted all lessons in Portuguese and translated them simultaneously for me. Content analysis occurred by scanning transcripts and reviewing children's artworks. Children wrote explanations on their artwork and the teacher interpreted them. By showing the teacher and children who could speak English photographs of students' drawing, I elicited further comments.
Two doctoral students, one from art education and the other from psychology, and myself reviewed the children's artworks. We borrowed categories of representation, such as use of schema, space, and color (Lowenfeld & Brittain, 1987; Wilson& Wilson, 1982). The study is primarily interpretive and not statistical. Findings are probable and contextually limited. I simply indicate numbers by numerical format (e.g., 5/19). Comparative analysis occurred by continual reference to the contemporary and historical context (Page, 1995).
A BRIEF BACKGROUND OF BRAZILIAN EDUCATIONAL INFLUENCES
The Brazilian population consists of European, African, and a variety of indigenous racial influences. Through the years, schools ignored the arts in favor of religion, literacy, and the sciences. Nonetheless, the Jesuits taught arts and crafts until the Portuguese king, in 1759, expelled them from Brazil (Page, 1995). Performing arts persisted, yet schools taught little about their indigenous arts. Since 1973, the national curriculum goal has been to make education "serious and pleasurable with interdisciplinary aspects and art/culture the center for literacy training" (Freire, 1993, p. 51).
CONTEXT AND PARTICIPANTS
This private secondary school is located in a middle class suburb of Sao Paulo, Brazil, The school is tuition-run, in reasonably good condition, but has no art room, few supplies, and offers art once a week to all students for 50 minutes. …