iCandy x Muffin Sisters: Connecting Across Generations with Children's Art Week

iCandy x Muffin Sisters: Connecting Across Generations with Children's Art Week

From the global pandemic to the Black Lives Matter movement and Pride, recent events have highlighted the essential nature of creativity and the visual arts when it comes to learning, connecting and wellbeing. With many sectors of the creative industry still closed, such as galleries, museums and cultural organisations, engaging in the visual arts is more important than ever. As such iCandy is delighted to be supporting Children’s Art Week, a UK-wide programme run by Engage, the National Association for Gallery Education. The programme runs over three weeks and focuses on three special themes: week one focused on The Natural World, so iCandy teamed up with Illustrator and Painter Camilla Perkins for some top tips how to get young children excited about art by re-imagining the natural world that surrounds them- a theme very prevalent in Camilla’s art.

 

 

Week two’s theme was ‘Connecting Across Generations’, so iCandy caught up with Jane, Founder of Pigment Perfect, a wonderfully empowering range of positive prints and colouring books for children of colour. Jane’s guest blog feature highlighted the importance of using art as an empowering tool in the journey of a child discovering their identity. Connecting Across Generations is also a theme that is prevalent in the work of Muffin Sisters, a brand that creates African inspired children’s products, nursery and home décor. We caught up with Founders Kady and Lafia to hear their thoughts on the importance of preserving heritage for future generations.

 

 

iCandy x Muffin Sisters Interview

Why did you start Muffin Sisters?

Muffin Sisters is our dream. It was born from a passion for using traditional African fabrics merged with European modern style to create children products. So it all started back in 2014, after the inspiring journey to Mali. We were born and raised in Poland and currently live in London, UK. Our upbringing allowed us to come to know Polish culture, traditions, and history, although the visit to Mali gave us the chance to learn and understand Malian cultural heritage. After that event, we realized how important it was for us to reconnect with our ancestral roots. The first product we made was a baby blanket at the end of 2015 and then we started to create more children’s accessories and nursery décor.

What is your brand’s mission?

Our ethos is ”Preserve heritage, cherish tradition, be inspired by diversity. Let’s cultivate African culture!” Muffin Sisters was created with the simple aim to ease practising African culture and maintaining heritage by creating colourful children’s accessories for the next generation. We want to bring joy, happiness, and inspiration to babies and families by providing them with unique products inspired by Africa.

Connecting across generations is a key theme in Children’s Art Week- in what way did exploring your family’s history and culture have an impact on you as sisters?

Since we grew up in Poland, exploring African culture was not so easy but our father and his friends have taught us about important family values. We were always thrilled when we received handmade traditional jewellery or accessories made of African fabrics. As we got older, we wanted to learn more about the rituals, events, architecture, music and textiles from available sources at the time.

The journey to Mali was really important and a great occasion for us to meet our extended family. Throughout our 3 week journey, we had the chance to find our origins and comprehend the African means of life.

We also had the opportunity to attend the Boubakar Dombia and Ndomo Textile Workshop which is located in Ségou, the city where our father was born. He hires young employees and staff from the city and trains them to create beautiful pieces of art. They are making a unique and high-quality fabric called Bògòlanfini or Bogolan. It’s made of plain woven narrow strips hand sewn together and decorated with geometric patterns using fermented mud. The patterns include symbols which provide a coded message as a unique form of storytelling. We also found out that within African culture, there is often a hidden meaning behind clothes and we were more impressed that different types of clothes are a way of communicating with others.

Were you introduced to art from a young age? What are your earliest memories of connecting with art?

We were surrounded by art from a young age in different forms. Firstly, our family house was filled with traditional wall art, for example, wooden African masks and cloth wall hangings.

On the other side, we could easily learn about Polish history in school and by visiting museums and going to theatres and opera.

We were creating DIY toys and crafts together with our Grandfather who was spending a lot of time with us. He also was singing and playing on the guitar and that inspired us to want to play instruments together for family celebration events. This helped us to develop some of our creative art skills and gave us more possibilities.

As children were you able to connect with your heritage and history and in a positive way?

We were growing up in Bydgoszcz, a lovely city in northern Poland and the eighth prime city in the country. The population was not ethnically diverse and its completely different to London which is one of the most multicultural cities in the world.

While we were able to learn about Polish heritage and history, unfortunately, we didn’t have so many opportunities to connect with Malian heritage. Nevertheless, we tried to connect with people that had similar backgrounds and experiences to ours. We always appreciated spending time together and sharing and learning about each other.

In what ways do you see art as an empowering tool in the journey of a child discovering who they are?

Times are very fast-changing and now we have wide access to resources which can help to empower children to explore their potential on a journey of self-discovery. There are many books, workshops and community events which are helping children to raise their self-esteem and confidence.

If we want children to find out who they are, and who they want to be we should help them to reconnect with their past in a way that can shape their future. We believe that understanding where they came from, their roots, and family history will guide their future.

Muffin Sisters’ ‘rich collections of African lifestyle accessories for infants and toddlers is perfect for inspiring parents to cultivate African culture in their baby’s life, from the very first day’. Do you have any recommendations for books, resources or brands that have a similar mission statement to your brand?

We have recently shared recommendations received from parents about diverse books. The blog post titled Teaching Children Through Books To Value One Another And Celebrate Diversity highlights the importance of teaching our young ones how to value each other and understand the concept of diversity. To help your children understand this in a fun way, we have put together a selection of 15 recommended books.

How can parents continue to educate future generations on diversity in a creative way?

We believe that parents can start teaching children from the very beginning of their lives – there are so many topics explaining how unique we all are. Educating about ethnicity, languages,  gender, race, religious beliefs can be through reading stories that showcase similarities and differences and from there start a conversation and children might be even more curious about the topic. For example, parents and children could come up with themed events where children can learn about different cultures, traditions and history of different countries. The perfect way to do it is celebrating this at home throughout a weekend.

Do you have a favorite gallery or creative space you like to visit as a family?

We don’t have a favourite space as we love exploring different places every time our family visits, so we always choose a new gallery or museum. We enjoy long walks around the city and watching street performances especially in Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square or Southbank and of course enjoy the amazing views and atmosphere.

What are your future plans for Muffin Sisters?

We are planning to expand our product range and try to educate about African culture as well as folklore, music, textiles and languages. We aim to instil the love for the culture and traditions by preserving and maintaining from day one.

Kady and Lafia

Ndomo Textile Workshop in Ségou

You can find over 180 free creative activities and events on the Children’s Art Week website.

Children’s Art Week is run by Engage, the National Association for Gallery Education and supported in 2020 by Arts Council England, Creative Scotland, Arts Council of Wales, The D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust and Garfield Weston Foundation

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