ART FOR CHANGE - CHILD FRIENDLY MESSAGING
By Eric Sande, FilmAid Journalism Trainer, Dadaab
Dadaab Refugee Settlement provides an expansive canvas for artists to express themselves. Moving through the vast camps that house roughly 250,000 people, you can be overwhelmed by the dust and haze, but if you're lucky you may catch a glimpse of lively and strikingly colorful works of art on the public walls that line camps. These large-scale murals are the work of refugee artists who were supported by FilmAid's team of fine arts trainers and messaging strategists.
Ifo 1, a camp that houses victims of the 2011 famine in Somalia, now welcomes guests and visitors with a vibrantly colorful mural spanning the 1000 square meter perimeter wall. The artwork is a series of panels depicting moments from a typical Somali girl's life, and celebrating her ability to make her own choices. The goal of the project is to provide context as well as a call-to-action for the community to engage in difficult discussions about female genital mutilation (FGM) and early marriage - cultural practices that have disadvantaged young women across many African countries.
Initially, FilmAid and the young artists experienced resistance from some members of the community. They were concerned that the art work and its message would not be in accord with their faith. FilmAid's community-based approach demands that we be sensitive to and work with the community. This ensures not only the effectiveness of the message, but also helps protect the individual artists from accusations that they are not adhering to their faith.
A young Ethiopian who participated in the project, Mulugeta Gashaw Yifru (pictured below), said,"the first time we made our drawings in Dagahaley camp, the Somali Refugees destroyed our work but after talking to them about its importance, they accepted the drawings and guarded them."
"Our Trainer, Handerson Kiruri, made it easy for me to learn how to express myself with paint, and draw human beings, using shade, proportion and other techniques," according to Mulugeta.
The four Dadaab camps are home to approximately half a million refugees, mainly from the Somali community who are estimated to comprise of 97 percent of the total population.
The art pieces about FGM provoke and provide a positive context for conversations among Somalis in the camp, and provides support for the section of the Somali community who would like to end the practice.
"There is nothing as beautiful as refugee artists using their talent in drawing to pass informative messages that are influencing positive behavior change in their community," says Fatuma Roba, the artists’ Project Supervisor. "The project aims at providing a platform for children’s voices to be heard and respected," She adds.
FilmAid International conducted a two week, intensive training with nine young artists from the Dadaab Refugee Settlements. Through the workshops participants were able to develop their technical skills as well as expand their ability to incorporate stories, emotions and messages into their art.
With the guidance and mentorship of the trainer, the artists made sketches that were later transferred to five walls. The trainer directly participated in the production of one mural in Dagahaley Camp and supervised the production of the four murals that were painted by the Fine Arts Program trainees. As part of empowering the community, this initiative has provided the trainees with a job opportunity to complete the remaining four murals this September in Hagadera camp.
Since the paintings were completed, children in Dadaab have identified and engaged with the wall mural paintings and were able to easily interpret the messages behind the drawings and showed great interest.
This project was supported by Terre des Homme and Save the Children