August 3, 2010
Greetings from Asia where my wife, two boys, and I are wrapping up a month of travel. We’ve absorbed massive doses of art and culture in museum-rich destinations like Ulaan-baatar, Beijing, Xi’an and Shanghai. But our most memorable art experience, by far, was drawing with the kids of a nomadic settlement on the western edge of Mongolia’s vast steppes.
Inspired by April’s Lacandón art workshops, we’d brought along colored pencils, markers, paper, erasers and sharpeners as gifts. Such materials are scarce in these parts, and as
the Lacandón sessions had shown, passing art supplies around serves to break the ice and communicate across cultural and language divides just about anywhere.
Our hosts were a welcoming Khalkha herder family who live from breeding livestock on the Gün-Galuut nature reserve. At dusk their traditional ger became the ‘studio’ for our mini-workshop, where their son Zursan Oiduvsurén and his cousins Mandukhai and Oyuntvlhvvr drew with our boys till nightfall. Four of five kids chose to draw the stunning landscapes surrounding us. Our youngest son opted for drawing outer space, clearly inspired by the night sky in this part of the world where the Milky Way is bright enough to cast shadows.
Our stay concluded with an exchange of drawings, the most cherished souvenirs of our trip. They’re unique mementos of new friendships, shared insights, and global engagement forged through art. And that type of collaborative encounter, I’d say, has more transformative potential than any number of summer museum visits. Our boys couldn’t agree more.