By Bodóczky István                                                 Budapest, December 4, 2017

What makes a Real Pearl work of art recognisable? Why is it so special?


I would say it is because you can see the children’s vision, their emotional relationship to the pictures, and their total presence, while at the same time the works are aesthetically delightful and exciting. They are the result of mutual acceptance: the children have used the techniques and tools of expression offered to them, while the teachers have taken the children as they are. I believe this is called proportion, the result of the special and empathetic educational methods which are Real Pearl’s trade mark.

The job of these primary, after school, art schools is to nurture talent. The children generally come from different schools and are of different ages, and they are mentored by one teacher in each group.

Real Pearl operates in a corner of Hungary where there are a huge number of underprivileged children who do not and cannot get from their own families the relevant support for their mental and emotional growth, nor the necessary socialization. It is very hard for us living in an urban and privileged environment to imagine how the vast majority of the Real Pearl children, who create these pictures, live. For them, a room of their own means simply a roof over their heads, where the whole family sleeps, and they are lucky if they even manage to heat it in winter. Homework is done sitting on the floor, using the bed as a desk, as the only table is needed for preparing and eating meals. Water is brought from the public well in the street, making a hair wash or the laundry an huge chore. One of the greatest joys for these children is having a real bath full of hot water or a trip to the swimming pool, neither of which happen that often.

The secret of Real Pearl is that you will find the blonde or black haired children of rich or poor, educated or uneducated parents in the same group, as a result of the social sensitivity of Ritók Nóra, the founder. It is probably this, as well as what Nora saw as a challenge, that has led to Real Pearl becoming a phenomenon: she created a school. It is never easy to work with mixed groups, and here, due to the highly diverse family backgrounds, and the experiences and skills the children bring from home, the student mix is so extreme that it puts huge demands on the pedagogical creativity, empathy and patience of the teachers.

For children will not paint pictures like these by themselves. I do not believe that all newborn babies are potential artists and that it is only a matter of proper education and good teachers whether or not they become a new Picasso. However, I believe that all babies are potential children. It is the responsibility of the adults to give them the chance to become a child, to have a childhood, to create such happy, smiling, hopeful drawings that display not only their affinity to beauty, but also their hope and confidence that life is indeed beautiful.

To achieve this, children need an adult environment, such as Real Pearl, that with close and loving guidance draws their attention to the beauty of the world and to their own inner values, helping them to find their own role models. They are given many ways and techniques to do this, and are provided with the necessary tools. But above all, these children, most of whom lack so much in life, are given the experience of successful accomplishment.

Many believe that the methods and techniques used by Real Pearl are something new and special, while in fact they have been described in many pedagogical books. However what makes Real Pearl unique is that they are actually putting these ideas into practice. As Father Titus, from the Pannonhalma Benedictine Archabbey in western Hungary, wrote in his  dedication  to Nóra Ritók’s recently published book: “She does not speak the gospel, she lives it among those in need.”