On February 22nd, I was enjoying my first day in Beit Sahour, one of the wealthiest cities in Palestine where I had the privilege to organize a creative activity with children of the Scouts Group of the same city. Before I share the experience, the aim and outcome I need to mention ATG Group that found my idea interesting enough to gather a meeting with 30 lovely kids, out of their schedule.
For further information about them please visit their Facebook page:
Alternative Tourism Group in Palestine
Before I have undertaken this project I have to admit I did not know much about Palestine or the issue of Palestinian people, but I have research enough to make a personal opinion about several aspects of the contemporary situation. One of the things you commonly hear in UK is that there is no such thing as Palestine, as it has become land of Israel. Israeli are the rightful owners of the land and Palestine does not exist anymore. I have been corrected many times when I was telling people that I will travel to Palestine.
At some point it became a frustrating to have so many people disagreeing with what I have understood of the situation of Palestinian people. Media promotes the same ideology, people depict whatever they consider important and finally make an opinion, what I consider, far from the reality. Thus, my aim was to find a creative way to make people understand there is Palestine beyond the political conflict and there are Palestinian people that want their voices to be heard.
I have decided to work with children aged between 4-7, from one of the wealthiest cities in West Bank, as they have suffered little to none traumatic experiences of the ongoing ethnic cleansing.
The activity required a simple illustration of what children understand of their country and how would they define it with crayons and paper. After the task was given, there was very little verbal interaction between the children and they were very involved in their work. The task was planned before my travel to Palestine, but no details have been shared until the encounter with the kids.
Excited, but shy in the same time, I told them little about myself and engaged in the same activity by drawing my own country. I had no interest in making them feel observed, but as much comfortable as possible. From time to time I used to take pictures, which they enjoyed enough to pose with every occasion to ask me to show them the pictures and to group with their closes friends. As soon as the activity was over, the “formalities” were over as well and despite the fact they spoke very little English we managed to create interesting conversations and at the end they asked me to post the pictures on Facebook so people can see them and their work.
The outcome was amazing and it contradicts the image created by the media and the stereotypes formed by people. The drawings will follow in next posts and they will be the art work presented at the exposition as it represents the innocent truth, without any political involvement.