Kids’ Guernica - aims and experiences
15:00 - 16:00
chaired by Magnolia Albertazzi
El-Hanan! Affection for Peace, Longing for Peace.
Iman Nouri Mourad coordinated the Kids' Guernica peace mural titles "Enough. We want to live" in time to join the Kids' Guernica Exhibition held May 4th - 7th 2007 in Chios. Coming from Tripoli, Lebanon, her saga reaccounts what that country has been going through most recently since the war in 2006 and again after returning from Chios the fighting which broke out at the Palestinian refuge camp close to her home. It is a contradiction when efforts are made for peace and children out of fear of their surroundings begin to wish to carry a pocket knife with them for reasons of protection and to join when they are grow up to join the army to defend their country. These are the traces of violence in young minds. To her Kids' Guernica is like a huge family giving moral support when facing hard questions of survival in Lebanon and not only there. Kids' Guernica gives reason to be optimistic about the future. That optimism is based on the knowledge that there are people in the world who care about children and their future and who think internationally with an open heart and mind for others. She wishes to do soon a Kids' Guernica workshop.
The Experience of Martinique – the abolition of discrimination
Savina Tarsitano - artist, Italy
Yvette Galot - director of Cultural Centre Martinique
The peace message of the children from Dubai – life hangs in a balance
Children of Palestine
"The story of Palestine is a most difficult one to tell" - Michael D. Higgins
Jad Salman - Artist, Palestine
The original Kids' Guernica mural was stolen from his house just days before his departure. He asked the children to improvise and to paint their ideas on a simple sheet of brown paper. It depicts as a message in several parts weapons, tanks, an ambulance, things children experience there daily. On the upper part, horizontally speaking or right across the entire length of the painting, there are abstract symbols mixed in with a half moon. As an artist and graphic designer he wants to inspire children to uphold the human spirit - an almost impossible task under those conditions. He fears that the Palestine narrative is slowly disappearing. It is, poetically speaking, as if all traces of history of the Palestine people have been expelled to the desert and left there to the winds sweeping over the sand to leave behind just sculptured landscapes in silence.
Blind Boys’ Guernica
In the background can be seen the Peace Mural done by Blind Boys at the Blind Boys' Academy in India. It is an amazing work of art which anyone can retrace by closing the own eyes, then feel a cup, the shape, before transferring that form onto the paper. The blind boys did it by first putting thread on paper. The threads were glued with gum to the paper and always the fingers deciding if the shape was the one meant to be. One additional factor was added. Each of the threads had knots to indicate the colour e.g. eight knots for red, six for blue. Accordingly the images attained their colors despite the boys not able to see these colors. But the paint box was like any brille clear in the correspondence between knots of the thread and the kind of color they could find in the paint box. When the peace mural was finished all the boys went up to it and touched the works of the others. Everyone was astonished what the others had managed to achieve. If it can be imagined what light they brought into the Kids' Guernica exhibition then in turn our knowledge based on visual reference should be questioned or not taken for granted in light of what the Blind Boys communicate to the world about their wish for peace.
Asit Poddar Artist, India is himself an artist and member of the Kids' Guernica International Committee. He has studied in Japan, speaks fluently that language, and therefore works closely together with Takuya Kaneda.
Wall murals in Belfast – a city moving towards reconciliation
Bernard Conlon - Journalist, Northern Ireland
Brendan Kennelly, the Irish poet of 'Judas', an epic poem of enormous dimension, said the most difficult thing to unlearn is learned hatred. Certainly Belfast has seen over years many clashes and different forms of violence. Children from the other community experienced stones being thrown at them when they attempted to go to school. Taxi drivers of Catholic confession would get out while a Protestant taxi driver would continue the journey once crossing over into that 'other' territory.
Bernard Conlon has been working for some time in Brussels and experienced how difficult it is to convey information as to what goes on at European level to those who live not merely at local level, but in a twisted atmosphere of mistrust and suspicion. Naturally every information given will not be trusted immediately while this form of mistrust goes beyond any healthy scepticism. It makes building of bridges of understanding between various communities extremely difficult.
When he heard about the Kids' Guernica project he was most interested to take that up with a group of youth he was involving at that moment in appraising and taking stock of the wall murals created over the years of conflict in Belfast. Since the youth was about to go on an exchange program to Canada, there was no time to start a Kids' Guernica peace mural. Instead Bernard Conlon showed slides of these wall murals some of which are most impressive not only as documents of a certain period of time in that city, but truly outstanding art works. After seeing the size of the Kids' Guernica peace murals all having the same size as Picasso's Guernica (7,8 x 3,5 m) he got the idea whether or not it would be possible to transpose some of these wall murals onto the canvas and therefore come closer to the idea Takuya Kaneda has been expressing, namely these peace murals are not walls that separate and bloc paths, but are movable.
It might become a fantastic method by which the political language of these murals in Belfast shall be preserved before changes in urban development and political mood leads to painting over these murals. This was the case in Berlin when some of the outstanding murals of the squatters were simply erased once the house owners took over. It reflects what public spaces mean even on walls when certain expressions vanish. Heinz J. Kuzdas preserved, for instance, with his camera the countless murals as they appeared and disappeared along the Berlin Wall while still standing.
The dialogue between cultures – the Izmir-Chios painting done over a stretch of time from May in Chios to September in Izmir 2007
The joint painting between Greece and Turkey has a great significance as a message from children to both countries. Although the children could not speak a common language, they manged to work together harmoniously and established a strong bond by means of painting together. The workshop proved to be a valuable one for all children as well as the adults involved, and shall be an experience they will not easily forget.
In 2006, on the Turkish side, before communications with Kids' Guernica has begun, Assit. Prof. Deniz Hasirci and Gulistan Banu Cel from Izmir University of Economics (IUE) and TAKEV School, respectively, had established a Buddy Program between students and pupils of these two institutions. The program involves older and younger students being paired and working together on specific projects. A collaborative approach which is at the core of Kids' Guernica, appeared to be very much in line with the program. It is a great honr to be a part of this established group which has turned into family in the times that followed the workshop in Izmir.
Coincidences brought the Buddy Program and Kids' Guernica together, and the group started the painting in May, 2007, with children in Chios, and continued it in September, 2007 in Izmir, Turkey. After months of long distance communication, Hatto Fischer, Associated member of the ECCM Network as well as coordinator and Thomas Economacos, artist and art coordinator of Poiein Kai Prattein, along with Efi Lipari, tourist officer of the Prefecture of Chios, crossed the sea and came to Izmir with 8 youths from Chios and met up with Deniz Hasirci and Gulistan Ganu Cel, in Izmir September 2007 to continue the painting which had been started in May in Chios.
In Izmir, 2nd and 3rd students from IUE and 7th, 8th year students from TAKEV were waiting anxiously for the painting which carried opinions, and reflections from the children of Chios. The group first played games led by Thomas Economacos to warm up to one another. The university students and adultes enjoyed the games just as much as the children...if not more. Afterwards the children opened up the painting to see the ideas that were delivered to them. They diligently worked together for two days to create a painting of peace which was exhibited in Athens in October 2007.
The workshop proved once again that Kids' Guernica takes small but effective steps towards communication, understand and peace between people and cultures. Aziz Kocaoglu, the Mayor of the Greater Municipality of Izmir supported the project with the following words: "The message that these children help spread will hopefully set an example for all countries. I wish you success in your work and embrace all of the children were taking part in this fascinating project." The experience was a remarkable for all who were involved, having touched their lives that will undoubtedly be present even if in the background, to guide future thoughts and actions.
Deniz Hasirci - Assist. Professor, Turkey
Efi Lipari - Chios, Greece together with Vice President of Prefecture of Chios, Nikos Nichtas
The children of the 108th Elementary School - learning the power of abstraction
Thomas Economacos - artist, Greece
Kids’ Guernica International and the art of networking
- Networking: Lessons of Kids’ Guernica
Another type of collaboration is also necessary to realize such a workshop as between Chios and Izmir, Greece and Turkey. For that purpose, it is very important to create good networking among participants.
My ten-year experience of Kids Guernica taught me the importance of networking not only among children but also between children and adults, and among different cultures. Here are some important points for promoting good networks:
- Non-hierarchical networking
To avoid top-down control in networking. In Kids’ Guernica project, there is no director to control the whole project but each organizer can develop a workshop in his/her own way. It is the same case with the Internet; each personal computer has equal power to take the initiative. In this regard, coordination is more important than top-down leadership. Dr. Hatto Fischer is a good example who is playing a great role of coordinator in Kids’ Guernica project in Greece.
- Face to face relationship
Cultural networking is not connecting cables but expanding human connections. The network should be like our veins which are necessary for blood circulation. It means that the network itself must be not mechanical but human. Therefore, face to face relationship is essential to make the network more vivid although computer and Internet should be utilized as a tool of communication. The Kids’ Guernica events in Crete and Chios or this symposium in Athens are good examples of such gatherings to facilitate face to face relationship.
- Networking as an artistic action
It is also important to consider the process of networking as an artistic action or poetical action which requires imagination and creativity. If so, the network will be more vivid and give more joy to those who got involved in the network. That is what I learned from my experience of making Kids’ Guernica worldwide networks.
Note: this painting was created by 80 people in Japan, ranging from 2 years to 80 years of age, and depicts the cherry blossoms as symbol for a life which is both sweet and short.