Triple Exposure mural complete in Balata Girls’ School

This month, TYO mural teacher Rimah visited Balata girls’ school in the UNRWA refugee camp, Nablus. Over multiple visits she worked with two groups of girls, ages ten to twelve, to complete two murals either side of the sinks in the school.

The ice breakers and games on the first day really helped pull the groups together and let Rimah know what the girls are interested in. The final game centred on each person saying their name plus the meaning and their favourite subject at school, this brought forth a deluge of information about their interests, families, and dreams. The girls really loved having someone to listen to them.

To get the students started, she let them draw anything they want. And then to get them thinking about the theme, they drew something that symbolizes water and the importance of it to life. After coming up with designs, they drew these onto the walls together before starting painting.

Water shortage is a major issue in Palestine, one complicated further by desertification, climate change, and limited access to resources. The two murals were strategically placed by the sinks to remind the girls to be careful with this precious resource: no water, no life.

One of the two groups had been chosen specifically by the school director due to a history behavioural difficulties such as bad language and fighting in school. As hoped, they responded so well to the mural painting process and added incentive of doing another mural in the future. The teachers said were delighted at the transformation and how cooperative the girls were. They really came together to pool their talents and work as a team. This just goes to show that a little extra attention and creativity can work wonders for any child.

Each group had its own personality – while one was more aggressive, the other was quite shy, so Rimah decided to assign tasks and roles to play to their strengths and work on their weaknesses. For example, giving the girls individual responsibilities like keeping extra students away from the work in progress, or individual areas to paint and colours to mix, especially for the shyer students. The relative privacy of the areas given allowed them the space and time to come out of their shells naturally.

These are not simply paintings on walls, they are a way for kids here to develop their creative and collaborative skills, and make a lasting contribution to their community they can be proud of.

Please see tripleexposure.net for more information our arts projects.

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Intern Journal: Learning to draw

While all of the other children started drawing and decorating self-portraits of themselves in the present and in the future, Mahmoud sat still staring absent-mindedly at the table filled with art supplies. His brother Ahmad tried to give him oil pastels and paper, but Mahmoud refused to take them. He exclaimed that he just wanted to sit and not draw anything, but something made me feel that there was some other reason Mahmoud did not want to draw.

Over the past few weeks, I had noticed that Mahmoud never picked up a marker or crayon voluntarily during free time drawing despite the wide variety of colors and choices. Even when he finally picked one up, he would often just hold it in his hand and not use it. This lack of interest in doodling or drawing baffled me considering the fact that he continued to come week after week to my Arts & Crafts class. He was a good student who always listened carefully during storytelling, helped clean up at the end of class and was generally in a good mood. Why did he not want to color and draw like the other children?

I sat down at the table next to Mahmoud and started drawing my own self-portrait in hopes that maybe that would encourage him to start drawing. When that failed, I called over my translator Waleed to see if he could ask him why he did not want to draw. Mahmoud responded, “I don’t know how to draw. I can’t do it.” I quickly said, “Anyone can draw! Here I will teach you. It’s all about experimenting and having fun.”

For the rest of the class period, Mahmoud happily drew portraits of himself in the present and portraits of himself in the future as a teacher. As I watched him, I started to think about his response to my earlier question. Before coming to TYO, Mahmoud probably did not have the chance to express himself creatively and as a result, he did not think that he could do so. With a little bit of encouragement and direction though, he was now a little artist in the making. As he came running up to me waving his artwork, I could not help but smile broadly at his newly discovered enthusiasm for drawing. “Mumtaz Mahmoud!”

– Hannah

Hannah is an intern at TYO Nablus this summer.