When origami artist Kyoko Morgan steps into class, her pupils’ little faces light up with the knowledge that they’re about to create something special.
Kyoko teaches the ancient, and delicate, Japanese art of paper folding.
For the kids at Wesbank No.1 Primary School, learning the art of origami is a welcome break after a busy day at school.
The group of 30 Grade 5 learners is part of the Origami for Africa programme, a non-profit organisation started by Kyoko in 2009.
Originally from Japan, Kyoko has been living in South Africa since 1992.
The mom of two says she’s loved her art since she was a child.
“As a Japanese person, I took origami for granted, thinking everybody can do it. When others started asking me to teach them, I realised it’s something new in South Africa,” Kyoko says.
In 2011, she was approached by Wesbank No.1 Primary’s principal, Greg Gordon, and she started giving one class a month to 10 pupils.
Word of the new extra mural activity quickly spread, and now Kyoko gives classes every week.
One of the benefits of origami for children is that it helps build confidence and keep them focused in class.
“When the pupils see that they can make something out of just a piece of paper, it changes their way of thinking,” Kyoko explains.
Teacher Miss Jeffers says they have seen an improvement in the pupils’ academic work.
She says: “The programme teaches the pupils about 3D and 2D shapes, that helps with their math.
“They have also started taking what they have learned in the class home, sitting on weekends, trying to create new shapes, keeping them off the streets.”
Ivile Lamba, 11, a Grade 5 pupil, says origami is fun and helps her focus on her school work.
“I’ve learnt to make things like cups, butterflies, birds and cranes.
“Getting homework each week has kept me so busy, I don’t have time to go outside or think about boyfriends,” she laughs.
Her friend Sandisiwe Nkume adds: “It helped me with creative arts, and has also taught me the names of the shapes in math and how to make them.”
Kyoko, who is currently offering classes at Wesbank No.1 and in Endlovini Primary school in Khayelitsha, says she will be introducing an Afrikaans class soon to get more pupils involved in the paper folding experience.