In 2007 the Curriculum Council of Western Australia (CCWA) introduced a new Visual Arts Course of Study (2007), which contains a postmodern perspective and is inclusive of social criticism, multiculturalism, feminism and non-Western art forms. In keeping with the new Visual Arts Course of Study in this Creative Visual Arts Project, I have used the CCWA course outcomes as a framework to develop a visual arts program that is a vehicle for exploring individual personal identity, and has the potential to increase self-esteem in students in Western Australian secondary schools. The research stems from my personal view that students can benefit significantly from investigating their identity, enabling them to situate their self in a stronger position in their present day life-world when they have a more definite sense of who they are and where they come from. I have placed myself in the position of ‘the subject’ in order to transfer the process into a visual art program that can be utilised within the classroom. The visual arts program is underpinned by Efland’s expressive psychoanalytic model for aesthetic learning, which posits that art is self-expression, a form of learning that contributes to emotional growth. Visual art awakens intellectual inquiry in an individual, increases cognitive potential through enabling personal liberation, and is an adjunct to informing society and culture. The research project culminates in an exegesis and an exhibition of artworks that communicate personal memories and significant historical events exclusive to my whakapapa (Maori genealogy). The artworks are a vehicle for exploring my individual self-identity, enabling me to connect more deeply with my Maori cultural roots. The research paradigm utilised is narrative inquiry, a process of collecting and structuring stories that is characteristic of the traditional Maori practice of storytelling. This project has resulted in a reinterpretation of the perception of myself within my personal life-world. I have a deeper understanding of my cross-cultural roots, a stronger sense of who I am, and a sense of empowerment. I believe Year 11 students can also achieve this outcome through the visual arts program, using it as a tool for investigating their own identity, challenging cultural, social and gender limitations that impact on them, and ultimately empowering their personal life-world
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