On the paper trail

Jerusalem's first origami festival takes shape.

origami 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
origami 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
When Jerusalem native Miri Golan was six, she began folding paper into figures. Little did she know that the hobby would evolve into a profession. The founder and director of the Israeli Origami Center in Ramat Gan, Golan discovered the educational value of origami while studying the ancient paper folding art in Japan as a young adult. After founding the center in 1993, Golan developed a program to teach origami in schools, which eventually gained recognition by the Education Ministry. Today Israel plays a leading role in the field of Origametria - an innovative method for teaching geometry through origami. "My vision is that children should learn Origametria from preschool until the age of seven, the ideal ages to grasp geometric concepts," says Golan, organizer of the origami conference and festival to be held in Jerusalem from July 22-24 at the Moriah Classic Hotel. Currently Origametria (and Progametria for preschool) is taught to some 10,000 children in 70 preschools and elementary schools throughout Israel, in both Jewish and Arab sectors. The Israeli Origami Center trains educators in this novel method of teaching geometry, and an additional training program is set to open in Ahva College near Kiryat Malachi. Among the benefits of origami are developing spatial awareness, logic, concentration and fine motor control. "These skills are not developed with other activities that involve the hands," explains Golan. "Origami develops both the right and left lobes of the brain at the same time, since you're actually doing the same activity with both hands. The student also grasps the process of one shape turning into another shape." In addition to education and design, notes Golan, origami is used in biological research, for example in the study of DNA. Golan will speak about the educational value of origami at next week's conference with psychologist Peter Wielinga of Holland. In addition to lectures, there will be workshops and demonstrations in Hebrew and English. The conference's guest of honor is master origami artist Eric Joisel of France, who breathes life into paper with his distinctive masks. Also participating in the conference is professional origami artist Paul Jackson, who will lecture on the world of origami, its past and future. Jackson, who is married to Golan, is the author of 25 books on the subject and is an expert in the free application of traditional paper folding techniques in media, design and education, and the creative exposition of these techniques in the context of a fine art practice. Other conference participants include Larry Hart, editor of the British Origami magazine, Gila Oren, who will present a workshop on folding easy models and Udi Sasser who will focus on using various types of paper in origami. On the last day of the conference, two busloads of Jewish and Arab children from Jerusalem will meet the artists and participate in workshops. In addition, they will be shown a movie made in 2005 about Jewish and Arab children working together on origami during the peak of the intifada, as part of the Folding Together project, initiated by Golan. The project received funding from the Japanese government. On display at the conference will be the works of the guest lecturers as well as some 1,500 origami figures created by children from around the world as a gift to Jerusalem. "One boy, from an orphanage in Moscow, sent us his model and wrote that he wished for peace in Jerusalem and to have a father and mother," Golan relates. For more information about the conference and for pre-registration, visit: www.origami.co.il or call (03) 751-3483.