Art workshops with refugees . I started art workshops with refugees when I was working at the British Council Hong Kong. The British Council gave the space and Christian Action supplied the materials. A group of refugees came every Friday afternoon. At first the group fluctuated but after a few weeks , I had a solid group who came every week. They were from Yemen, Somalia, Eritrea, Togo and Ethiopia. They were generous people with little or no experience of art materials but with much enthusiasm. At first I suggested ideas to them while trying to vary the choice of materials as much as possible. I gave practical examples and support but I wanted to help them gain confidence in their own creative ideas an to find a way for them to express themselves.
During the sessions we chatted and listened to music from their home countries. They told me about their lives before being refugees and their hopes for the future . They are strong and resourceful people but obviously being separated from families, culture and not being able to work in Hong Kong they also carried some frustration and sadness. The art sessions offered a place to be, a group of friends and a creative process supported by the group. The workshops lasted one year, culminating in an exhibition and a workshop to make a collaborative piece of work with local Hong Kong residents , based on the wave painting by Hokusai. The exhibition gave the refugees a chance to meet local people and foreigners and tell them about their situation as well as having their work on show and feeling respected and esteemed. It was wonderful to be part of this experience and I feel very lucky to have met them.
The refugees average wait for asylum is eight years. During this time they are not allowed to work and many are made examples of with fines or prison for doing so. Many of them come escaping danger and in some cases they are following the news as their home towns are destroyed , unable to make contact with their families. English through art for children and adults.
I'm giving art English classes for children between seven and thirteen at the moment. The teenagers have a good level of English and are very interested in art. The art class gives them an opportunity to extend their fluency while doing something they love. This combination is very good for teenagers who may begin to feel demotivated in certain areas at school. It also allows them to develop their self expression and interests in culture and communication. Teaching the seven year old girl is a pleasure as she has a passion for drawing and an interest in learning more English .
When I speak to her during the class I speak a mixture of Spanish and English , gradually adding more English as I notice her retaining new vocabulary . At this age children tend to be less inhibited and more curious allowing them to learn at a good pace while they enjoy making art.
I am working with a group of nine elderly people in a day centre in el Raval in Barcelona . These are basically art therapy . The group are given support and encouragement to develop their own work . Mostly painting , some drawing and a lot of silence followed by talking in groups and one to one about their art work and other topics, often memories or feelings. The group are very cheerful and enjoy painting very much.