In the Whorl of Time

Oct 10, 2019

A MANDALA project at James Simons School led by Pamella GIBBS with artist-in-residence Sonia OSIO

The circle is continually found in Venezuelan indigenous craft especially in the Guajira culture. It has the same repetitive symmetry that the Mandala does, and they are both about community. Making Mandalas for me is about gathering people to tell a story.

I discovered the sand Mandalas made by monks about eight years ago. As an artist I wanted to combine and to reinterpret where I come from with the fascinating Mandalas. The use of different materials is part of the story to tell, for example the mandala made for the Water Protectors in South Dakota was a medicine wheel made with colored water. 

                 The GLOBAL MANDALA is a way to bring many pieces in a large vision of community gathering and connections for a purpose. The inspiration came at a conversation with my 15 year old grandson, who is very worried about the state of the world. After our conversation I wanted to show him somehow that there is more beauty and people that care about the world than don’t. I wanted him to see that everybody could be a part of a Mandala equally. I wanted to create a web of possibilities. People all over the world could write their hopes for humanity on card-stock circles. Every circle would be like a grain of sand representing a person, a dream, a possibility of community power. With our art, we could build connections.

               The MANDALA  AT JAMES SIMONS PUBLIC SCHOOL grows out of the spirit of the Global Mandala: approximately 2000 circles to touch with what has happened in the 100 year history of the school. So far children have focused on civil rights and the history of desegregation, others on the values of Montessori, some have brought the stories of their grandparents, TINY businesses and artists of the community of Charleston; a team effort. One of the most important and biggest difference between this project and another Mandala has been the collaboration with conNECKtedTOO apprentices, JEMAGWGA & Pam Gibbs’s dedication and efforts to make it happen. We are a community ! It is also an opportunity for all those involved to get closer to their own stories, and see beyond their school. This project has opened the doors to collaborate with Montessori schools outside of Charleston and the US. In an effort to expand a sense of community, last year I had the opportunity to visit a TINY school in the middle of the rainforest in Ecuador, where kids were excited not only to contribute to the James Simons project but also to listen to their stories. Other Montessori schools that are making a big impact on this project include Noble School, Core, Tree of Life and Unity Kids.

                At the core of all of this is the same passion and hope. For all to see their stories connected, as they will see all their circle pieces moving together beautifully. At the end, 2000 pieces will make a spiral in the Moultrie entrance of Charleston James Simons Public Montessori School. 

A spiral is a special way to see and use circles, for it is not closed, it continues on and welcomes the future.