Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

The impact of the murals

The experience made when seeing these huge murals reflects the tremendous impact they have upon everyone.



The impact can be described like walking through magic spaces. 




once touched by the souls of children and youth it frees the imaginaton to travel through the world of others.



Many murals are filled by optimism despite the threats of war and other things like violence in city streets or at school and yet they seem to grow up with an unbroken spirit  of friendliness 


in their eyes the world is not as of yet completely spoiled or destroyed so as to justify an Apocalyptical vision. Rather the world is filled with wonder about where the rainbow ends and the reality of friendships begins. They relate to the tree of life besides which they grow up and they enjoy being chased if not by butterflies then by friends. They do many things in order not to lose touch with human reality and that means speaking with one another.

Still, quite other questions confront by now the experiences made within the context of both Kids' Guernica and Guernica Youth. For the experiences made cannot be reduced to just the making of beautiful pictures. That would leave unnoticed what they wish to say by writing and painting these huge letters to a world which has yet to learn to listen what children and the youth are saying.

The critical question:

Can Kids' Guernica - Guernica Youth through the work with children and youth while painting these murals contribute towards peace in the world? To know alone what shall further the peace process, that is a huge task.

There is more to come. First of all, burdens are unequally distributed and many children robbed of any sense of a happy childhood. Then, even while these children still dream, they shoulder all the responsibilities even if the weight is to great for their frail bodies.

But just as Vincent Van Gogh discovered that despite people living in alienating urban spaces, they would still retain the good old stories in their hearts, likewise children and youth do not give up easily a vision of a good and peaceful life. That vision is most important for having a common future. Therefore, it matters how these murals are perceived in relation to what people do to each other and what children and the youth wants to change. They have the power to resist in their imagination and in their dreams. Hence the work they do can be called according to Bart Verschaffel a critical bottom up empirical memory work.

The appreciative nature of a child goes a long way to understand why compassions run so deep about justice and just a wish to have some crazy fun. It gives an idea as to how children are to be brought up and what a youth needs to find in society, if they are to engage in serious dialogues with adults who have too often in their eyes succumbed completely to the system.

If one reads in the newspaper that two girls, the one thirteen and the other fourteen years of age, ran away from their much older husbands to which they were married by arrangement,  then one begins to wonder where childhood stops? Those two girls managed to escape by disguising themselves as boys. They managed until they were caught at the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. A policeman had spotted them at the back of a truck and returned them to the village where the council of the elders along with their chief, a former warlord, flogged them as punishment. If this does not underline how violent society can become especially for those who do stand up to their own rights and freedom, then the pain inflicted is not only due to the physical form of punishment but more so due to being highly unjust. These two girls were described as never so much flinching when they were flogged. And all along the men of the village not only watched for some of them took videos. However, no one interferred on behalf of these girls.

Modernity in Afghanistan is introduced by this small detail of a video camera. It makes the scene much more cruel since the men were onlookers, witnesses and yet none had the sense to intervene. They praised even the former warlord for his action. This man had beaten one of the girls so hard that he twisted his wrist and had to give the belt to some other man but obviously this man did not do it hard enough, so he took back the belt. The men were counting but got confused and started over again while the flogging continued. All the more amazing is that the two girls did not flinch. They stood upright and looked past those men who claim their abuse of young girls is not abuse but a cultural norm. Early marriages are common in tribal society of Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Surely that says a lot already as to the tasks ahead for Kids' Guernica in view of the widely spred practice of child abuse, and this in many forms throughout the world. Janusz Korszak was one of the few who would call the world's attention to the need to respect the Rights of a child, including the Right to love. He did so before he perished himself with 200 orphans he was protecting while still in the Jewish ghetto of Warszawa. They all persished in the concentration camp. Janusz would say one never knows when a child cries if it is because of it feels some injustice is being inflicted upon it or whether it is a sign of a historical pain since the child feels in that moment to be one with a thousand of years of persecution.

Understanding the impact of these murals

Since these peace murals can be perceived as big letters which children write, in order to send out their messages, they have to be read carefully. Many of the murals express wishes for peace by relating peace to friendship, open landscapes, weapons of war transformed into tools for education. All these require trust and openness, happiness and cheerfulness. These feelings are best expressed by a splash of colours or an array thereof which can often wind up in becoming a rainbow. Thus some symbols become a part of a common trend. Other more subtle details reflect not only what process the children went through, but their composition of ages. In the mural 'The War is Over' (Poiein kai Prattein, 2005), there were three age groups: the 2 to 3 years olds stayed at the edge of the canvas and painted snails, houses, fences etc. while the 7 to 9 year olds took off, literally speaking. They danced over the canvas and where they fell, they painted their bodies in flight. And the 16 year old painted a figure which contradicted all this happiness: the best evidence of where the child in oneself leaves and the difficult age of the youth enters the picture. 

There is one thing that seems to unify all murals, for they exclaim how world seems not to take notice of either the issues at hand or for that matter what all children want, namely the freedom to play, to tell stories, and to reflect upon issues. Once everything stands in apparent contradiction to each other, it seems to make a search for solutions nearly impossible. But it should be recognized that the children and youth are developing ideas about how they will have to live these solutions in near future. To do so they need to try out many things.

Too many of them have become already at a young age witnesses of conflicts at home with parents shouting at each other and confronted all kinds of 'invisible violences' at school and ever more so over the internet. In the past it used to be that those who were in full despair would run one night out of the house and smack into darkness. In the case of young women this would mean quite often to enter a marriage turning out to be in reality sheer hell. The need to escape has often to do with no longer wishing to hear those shrill voices when parents or other adults shout at them, for those loud voices cause pain in sensitive ears. Instead of listening to the sounds of life, they feel themselves to be immersed only in noise, and this due to sounds becoming sharp as if wishing to reinforce a certain ugliness in life.

Interesting is the development of a symbol like the pigeon which Picasso used originally to designate a message of peace as it was interpreted world-wide. Naturally Kids' Guernica does not aim to imitate or derive all impulses from Picasso's Guernica. The linkage is more formally by using a canvas of the same size as Picasso did for Guernica, namely a canvas measuring 7,8 x 3,5 m. And still there is a language development which means children and youth discover their own hand writings not on walls but on movable canvas.

The latter aspect is something Takuya Kaneda, international coordinator of Kids' Guernica, emphasizes: the canvas is not static like a wall, but can be rolled up like a tent and easily transported when someone goes on a trip and takes along with him one peace mural. Quite often this is how the murals are shipped from continent to continent when an exhibition takes place in Nagasaki, Japan or else in Tallahassee, Florida, USA as was the case in January 2010, the year when Kids' Guernica celebrates its fifteenth anniversary.

But to return to the role pigeons play, they were message carriers prior to the age of the Internet. Maybe this is why they assume still a dominant role in peace murals or else there is a pigeon on the ground, in the shade of these big murals, as was the case in Chios when a Kids' Guernica exhibition organised by Poiein kai Prattein took place there in May 2007.

HF 2.6.2010


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