In the continuing saga of grade 10 English, we have begun the tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. For those of you not familiar with the story, it starts with a green-skinned man crashing King Arthur’s Christmas party with a strange request. The Green Knight challenges one of the Knights of the Round Table to cut off the green man’s head provided that, in one year’s time, the green man can return the blow. After stepping up to the challenge, the brave Gawain, as well as the rest of the court, is surprised when the now headless knight picks up his head, bids farewell, and tells Gawain to honour his agreement in one year’s time.
The Green Man is representative of three things: humankind’s connection to natural world, rejecting civilization in favour of nature, and the wild part of us that we keep hidden away. Focusing on the latter concept, we were asked to use our highly questionable artistic skills to create a “Green Man self-portrait” and present it to our classes, telling them about the part of ourselves that others don’t know.
Today was our presentation day. Sitting down in English class, I prepared myself for a period full of artful BS-ing in front of a group of sleeping students. Presentations started and I found myself learning the fears and dreams of my classmates.
Though very different, a common thread ran through all of the presentation: “I am alone and different and drifting through the world.” We are young, we are teenagers, it’s practically in our job description to feel like we don’t fit in. The truth is you are different and you are drifting through the world but you won’t be that way forever. We still have time to find our passions, to find people who understand us, and to understand ourselves.
Though extremely revealing and more than a bit awkward, this has been one of my favourite assignments. It reminds us that whether it makes you feel better or not, you are not the only one trying to understand the person in the mirror.
Below are just a few of the self-portraits made by the students for this year’s Green Man assignment.