Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Peace mural of Zabbar


    Starting to paint

Feedback on Kids Guernica – Guernica Youth Activity

When we met, the group got together for a small discussion. The participants were asked about developments on their thoughts on the mural since the last time they met and also the subject of peace – what is happening around them. They all seemed determined and eager to start painting and had a clear idea of what they wanted to do. They decided to paint the happy side with bright colours and the other side with dark and gloomy colours. They enjoyed showing the new participants the sketches and explained to them their ideas.

Interaction between all the participants was very good, except for the older ones, who kept to themselves and to their side of the mural. It felt as if they did not want to form part of a youthful world – and one of them kept stressing and talking about her job. It made me wonder – do they want a clear cut from childhood? Do they want to show how grown up and serious they were? Is this the effect of society on youths? This made me wonder - do our young people feel restrained and lose their spontaneity to appear grown up? This was apparent across all the group of older participants. When they were informed that they can paint over what they had already painted - they reiterated that they do not like to change their minds and they wanted to stick to their ideas.

A sweet incident was when one of the youths stepped on the painting and made a mark on the skirt of the girl painted in the mural. The youngest girl told her it is nice, do some more and the skirt will look really nice. That was a cute example of a young girl telling an older one how to learn from mistakes. We can learn a lot from children – if we listen to them!

Gertrude Spiteri


Some further comments - or observations from afar


  A figure of speech starts with the hair

When looking at this image, then the language of the hair reminds of what Pier Paolo Pasolini wrote in 1968 when he observed for the first time young men not only having extremely long hair, but them walking through the foyer of a hotel in Prague towards a couch, and once they sat down, they let the hair do all the talking.

Naturally in the case of this imagine, the hair reminds as well of a more traditional, indeed local make up. Equally noticeable is the inscription on the shirt. It reads: 'colourful life'. If this is taken as a kind of vindication for life having been denied for too long by forces leading to war, then the figure symbolizes an important turning point, in order not to give in to this danger of succumbing to forces leading to war.


       Another angle of the same figure as above

Painting together a mural is also about finding out who is vis a vis. The huge space provided by the canvas allows for gaining quite other perspectives on things. The horizontal one elongates the vertical, and together they combine to make things appear as if three dimension. Once that is intuitively realized, thoughts and figures of speech translated into painting strokes can easily lead to other thoughts, the traces thereof expressions realized on the canvas. At times, all of this does overlap, at other times things co-exist while it is being realized there is something which seems to jump ahead of the rest. This is when reactions set in. It determines not to a small extent what everyone decides then to do next.

A constant observing as to what the others are going continues to give shape to this collaborative learning process. At the same time, everyone takes courage from the other. Mutual support and shared paints ensures no one falls back or is left behind. For all the immediate task is to absorb the details as they emerge and which constantly transfigures the relationship between parts and the whole. That implies the entire surrounding can be forgotten as well, even though there is constant present to the society lived in a world marked by constant news of wars and still more people hurt. Children and youth have to cope especially with that negative impression for this can wound them already in their thoughts about a world in need of their trust and openness.


       Matthem Charles Zammit


View from above - action taking place at Community Centre of Zabbar


         Another angle from above

The mural is beginning to take shape

While to the left can be seen the face of the dictator, to the right are symbols for peace used in almost every demonstration. Lovely is the red bus which was drawn with the wish to go on a voyage. At the same time, the two figures holding hola hoops give the space an enchanted tranquility.

This action was done on Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014 with more to follow on the next Sundays.


Sunday 19.10.2014


                           Putting finishing touches on the mural




Some reflections after the experience made in Zabbar

Some initial observations can be transformed into further going questions:


It prompted an exchange of emails as part of further going reflections.

Observations by Anna Formosa:


The feedback about the older children vs younger children in terms of the Geurnica project is quite interesting actually.

I read Gertrude's report. It is fascinating how they feel about making mistakes.

From my experience of working with children, when I explained a game and mixed things up, or forgot one of the rules, and they start playing and then we had to fix things etc... they didn't like it at all. They like order, they like things to be clear. I find that admirable.

Let's think about when adults start messing around, hiding information, making mistakes, for a second. Terrible things start to ensue so from one of point they are admirable for not wanting to make mistakes. On the other hand a lack of flexibility is not healthy either. One of the contributing factors of depression, for example, is lack of flexibility.

In terms of older children vs younger children, yes of course. At a certain age they want to associate themselves more with adults than children and some need to prove that more than others.

Also from my experience, children coming from poorer backgrounds usually tend not to have proper childhoods. Even at a small age, 6, 8 years old, they tend to get bogged down into 'politics' between them, not relaxed, not allowing themselves the luxury to play, as if they are in constant battle to keep afloat, to survive, while in reality they don't need to at all.

Completely in contrast are the kids from affluent families I worked with in Oxford and Exeter. Those ones allowed themselves to play, to let go, to immerse themselves in different realities of the make-believe, resulting in lots of fun, positive moments of unpredictability and meaningful interaction and laughter because they know they are safe in the real world. They have no fears of losing anything, not even face, cos they are grounded and safe and know everything is ok.

I worked with children in Valletta. They were more difficult than teenage young offenders in England and from the most deprived areas of London! It had impressed me. In 1 whole hour of workshop in Valletta we'd do only 1 game, a total of 10 mins of playing. They would come up with a 100 excuses to stop an even fun game from taking place. By the end of the hour with them, myself and the volunteers were voiceless and drained. There were moments of light in the project, of course, but that was the most difficult project in the 10 years of working in this field.”


On Thu, Oct 9, 2014 at 2:04 PM, Hatto Fischer wrote:

Athens 9.10.2013

Dear Gertrude and Paul,

practically you have seen Anna during the Poetry Evening on Sept. 7th as she sat beside me in the front row. We met during the conference. She approached me after my presentation and from there developed this contact. In the meantime, I know more about her and her three main projects about which she can tell you more since she lives after all like you in Malta.

The importance of this letter is simply explained. I had invited Anna to come to Zabbar to see the creation of the mural, but being Sunday, and after having come back just from Belfast where she met by the way Bernard Conlon and Kevin Cooper (both are linked to Kids' Guernica - Guernica Youth), she had to attend to family related matters first of all. However, she read your report, Gertrude, and I asked her what sort of meditation she could propose between younger and older children as one of her three projects deals with inter generational issues under the heading of 'active ageing'.

I find her remarks / observations very important for several reasons. She picks up on this notion of being free or not to make mistakes and to learn out of them. This is as said already a general motto of V18 with regards to the youth and their wish for a greater freedom to be able to make mistakes.

Then she emphasizes differences in feeling secure or not which has an impact upon on children's behaviour but also willingness to go out of themselves and adopting different roles in a playful manner.

Given the recent experiences in Zabbar when painting the murals, it is worthwhile to think about our various perceptions of children and youth as this will govern our attitude and behaviour towards them. It would be crucial to discuss also some of the other aspects of mutual interest, for how to gain in literacy so as to be able to defend oneself against especially invisible forms of violence. Also Gertrude has done some research into how different youth bridge the gap between education and job. Also in relation to the observation of children slipping at a certain age into the roles of adults so as to learn by imitation, here the question can be posed if this is the best learning model or must something else happen for children/youth to retain the abilities e.g. Picasso's remark about the imaginative creativity of children being lost once they become adults, while growing up?

In any case, I do hope you three meet up sooner or later at some point. Unfortunately Anna is also not free this coming Sunday as it is her birthday, but then you can meet at another time and place whenever it is convenient for the three of you. But I do hope you meet up for a further going exchange of experience.

With warmest regards




09.10.2014 17:10


gertrude spiteri


Hatto Fischer


Dear Hatto,

I have read the interesting feedback from Anna. I can understand how she felt working with children in Valletta. I had facilitated a group of drop outs from school and organised a programme to facilitate their entry into the world of work as part of an EU project. Mostly it was teaching them soft skills and how to write an application or cv. I tried to do this by introducing games, however they would not want to participate. I feel they are so used to an environment without too much stimulation that they fear to try something different.

With regards to the mural with the youths at Zabbar, their sticking to signs shows a lack of creativity and imagination. However I feel that this reflects a reality. Our youths have become rigid and poor in imagination. They always take the easy way out. I think this is the effect of the media and there is a reluctance to use their minds. It comes from years of learning things by heart at school and an education system which stifles creativity. It is much easier to control a classroom who follow rules and obey than giving them the freedom to express themselves.

Bye for now and regards,



From: Hatto Fischer
Sent: Friday, October 10, 2014
To: V18 Karsten xuereb; Graziella Vella; Neville Borg
Subject: Re. children and youth - how to safeguard their future? learning from mistakes / sustaining the imagination

Athens 10.10.2014

Dear Karsten,

I always keep in mind this wish of the youth to be free to make mistakes, in order that they can learn.

Due to the recent experiences made in Zabbar when children, including four year old Serena, and youth came together to paint one mural, some first reflections can be made as to identify more concretely what programmes shall be needed in support of children and youth so that they grow up without loss of their imagination and creative potentials.

It is a huge chapter and needs to be dealt with from various angles. For instance, when I was in London, we formed a group which included teachers at Neill's Summerhill school, but also the niece of Anna Freud. We combined the philosophy of Bertrand Russell with insights of Freud to develop a new psycho-pedagogical concept. I applied that by doing work in Kindergarten and later by linking up all of this with Kids' Guernica - Guernica Youth.

It is a challenge for every parent on how to support rather than intervene in the life of the own child when growing up ready to challenge old assumptions. So see some of the discussions starting due to initial observations being made after these few experiences in Zabbar, the latest being some important remarks by Gertrude in response to what Anna Formosa has written as a reflection of children disposed or not to be playful, outgoing and ready to slip into different roles. She made here an initial start of some comparison. That will be crucial for mapping a way into the future and poses at the same time the question how can children and youth be given a security which does not mean over protection while at the same time gives them the freedom they need to explore and hence risk to make mistakes.

All the remarks do indicate something is deeply troublesome within the overall educational system of Malta. For instance, the dominance of Catholic school systems but also school buildings devoid of any contact with nature can lead to a double alienation and therefore make these children flee into facebook and social media to stay in contact while frightening into thinking the environment outside is only hostile. The very loss of nature underlines as well a deeper problem besetting the Maltese society. Repeatedly I hear people speaking of claustrophobia and of having no longer any contact to nature since much is being overbuilt and over crowded. That includes the road system which compels in turn parents to drive everywhere children the moment they step out of the house. In the bid book there was mentioned an entire greening of roof tops and streets. I have seen in Malta districts which have no trees and others where tree or plant planting efforts were undertaking and immediately you could notice something else in the latter case: the streets were cleaner and more people living there were to be found sitting outside their houses and ready to chat with those passing by. This informal social structure is also a safety zone if children are to play in the street. It goes back to what the artist from Lambedusa said at the conference: the real capital is children playing bare footed football in the streets.

With regards


Dear Hatto

Thanks for sharing these thoughts. There is more truth in them then you know! There are circumstances we live in which people believe are beyond our control, and therefore we do tend to get by while accepting these limitations on our well-being.

Best regards

Karsten Xuereb

Project Manager of Valletta 2018



Hatto Fischer








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