Rivers of the World is a cross-curricular arts education programme delivered in partnership with the British Council in secondary schools connecting young people with their local river and peers around the world.

Now in its twelfth year, Rivers of the World is a two-year programme where pupils learn about their own local river and in their partner schools in the second year, enabling international dialogue and exchange through river themes. Working with artists and designers their learning and ideas are then channelled creatively into drawings, paintings, photographs and other visual media which ultimately result in the creation of large-scale works of art. The pieces are then exhibited beside the rivers they celebrate for all to engage and enjoy.

In 2016 we worked with 65 schools in Addis Ababa, Debre Zeit and Bahir Dar, Ethiopia; Chittagong in Bangladesh; Colombo in Sri Lanka; Hanoi in Vietnam; Kafue in Zambia; Manila in Philippines and London, Lincolnshire, Monmouth, Gloucestershire, Yorkshire, Thurrock and Southend-on-Sea in the UK. 

Here is a taste of just some of the work they created, techniques involved and themes raised.

Bethlehem Secondary School, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Partnered with Bacon's College, London

The Kechene River in Addis Ababa near Bethlehem School is polluted by industries including battery and paint factories, tanneries, before feeding the reservoir which supplies Addis. On its journey it irrigates crops, which supply the markets of Addis.

Together with artist Martha Hardy, the students wanted to express the idea that the people of Addis are what they eat. They were inspired by Italian artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo from the S.XVI Century, who painted portraits made of vegetables. The students created a sick man from sculptures of vegetables created with leather, metal, paint and waste materials.

Coloma Convent Girl’s School, London
Partnered with Jayawardenepura Girls School, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Coloma Convent Girl's explored their ideas with Rivers of the World lead artist Shona Watts. The participants researched the traditional art form of Rangoli, an ancient tradition creating patterns and symbols from rice, coloured pigments or flower petals.

Celebrated by Hindus in Sri Lanka for Diwali, offerings are made daily, the most complicated using flower petals can take five days to complete. The participants made hats using silk organza petals which they hand coloured. The final piece was made in Photoshop from photographs of their hats and painted arms.

Malanday Elementary School, Manila, Philippines 
Partnered with Banovallum School, Lincolnshire 

The River Witham in Lincolnshire has been valuable in terms of navigation since the Iron Age. This river enables people to move from place to place and exchange goods, thus allowing the City of Lincoln to flourish.

Students in Manila worked with artist Rev Cruz, who expressed their awe of the River Witham through story stones, painting each stone to depict the river, its flora and fauna and the people depending on it and combining everything to create a river with unique heritage.

In 2017 we are working at home and in Ethiopia, Zambia, Vietnam, Nepal, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. 

  • “The project allowed the pupils to develop team-building understanding other cultures. To have an artist come into schools and work with the students is a wonderful experience. Every time we come away with new ideas for projects. Quite a few of these students then go to study Art GCSE and A-Level and all continue to talk about their experience of the workshops.”
    Carmen Hannaby, Teacher​
  • “The workshops were very nice, we enjoyed ourselves and we learned a lot about art and how to care about the pollution in our river. How pollution can cause disease to parts of our body. ”
    Biruk Andewerk, Rivers of the World participant​