To us, they may just be soda cans tied together with wire or a string of colored bottle caps, but to the children featured in “Power to Play: from Trash to Treasure,” these items are self-made and treasured toys.
As part of Geneseo’s annual Cultural Harmony Week, the Kinetic Gallery is hosting ChildFund International’s innovative exhibition, which is very much akin to the week’s theme of leisure and play.
The exhibition focuses on children’s handmade playthings from impoverished areas of various countries. The toys include universal objects such as balls, trucks and dolls as well as culture-specific objects like instruments; all are made from recycled local materials. Even the exhibit walls are decorated with posters that recount short stories about children’s favorite toys and games.
Senior Maya Shah, a student assistant in the Office of Multicultural Programs and Services, discovered the “Power to Play” exhibit online while helping to plan Cultural Harmony Week and said that she advocated for its inclusion in the programming.
“I grew up jump roping with my sister, but when you see kids making a jump rope out of garbage bags, it puts things into perspective,” Shah said.
The craftsmanship of the toys in “Power to Play” is truly admirable and crosses the border between toys and art, a line that the shiny, plastic playthings we are traditionally accustomed to don’t often touch.
Standout toys in the exhibition include a hand-carved wooden boat with bottle-cap sails and a miniature bike made from wire. Another is a wooden airplane with rolling wheels, an asymmetrical door and small windows carefully drawn onto its side.
A statuette titled “People on Bench” made from plastic bags, copper wire, cardboard and flip-flop foam is one of the most intriguing in the exhibit. Composed of two figures reading newspapers on a bench, the work communicates that creating art and observing the world around us is an integral part of leisure.
“Power to Play” is an acknowledgment of the poverty that abounds internationally as well as a celebration of the ingenuity and creativity of the world’s children. It fits into Cultural Harmony Week as a reminder for us, as busy college students, to appreciate the true beauty of childhood across cultures.