In October 2022 the Guernica Remakings project collaborated with Kids’ Guernica, the Keiskamma Art Project and NGO Masifunde in South Africa to facilitate two peace painting workshops, Learning Labs and pop-up exhibitions which enabled children to express their hopes and dreams through collaborative art practice and artistic engagement.
Within these workshops the children considered what they wanted to tell the world about their home, their community and experiences. For some they discussed what they want to change, while others talked about what gives them comfort and where they feel safe. Savina Tarsitano, Kids’ Guernica facilitator and artist, states:
What we are achieving is the capacity to work together, to take responsibility, but also to understand how it is important to think together to make change. What is nice, is to see how the children are collaborating; this is the power of art and creativity. The workshop also gives them the space to think about who they are, their collective identity, and also their own identity. One thing that is also interesting is seeing the development of critical thinking, to say what is wrong and what is right, which is very brave (Oct 2022).
The exhibition re-design was child-friendly to enable young people to actively help with the exhibition installation. It was compact and highly portable and able to be installed in under an hour. The artworks were installed on poles with self-supporting stands, the stands were colour coded for each artwork. Text panels accompanying each artwork featured a question – directed at the viewer but also to introduce a line of thinking about the artwork. This created a stimulating learning environment. It added value by bringing the Guernica Remakings exhibition to these two communities, for the first time. In the exhibition key empowering collaborative activist art practices were highlighted through the effective cross-cultural translation of Guernica. Participants were invited to engage in the exhibition through accompanying drawing exercises and a curated talk given by Dr Nicola Ashmore. The talk began with Pablo Picasso’s experience as a child of being taken to bull fights, where he witnessed the suffering and death of the matador’s horse and the bull. This highlighted the significance and value of personal experience and personal iconography. This practice of using personal experience and familiar and meaningful imagery was discussed in the other artworks on display. This validated the project’s approach and encouraged the children to use their own personal experience and iconography within the canvas design. Dr Nicola Ashmore adapted her talk to ensure it was suitable for the mixed age group, which included the use of body language, gestures, enactments, simplified and informal language. The talk had to be adapted to be suitable for live in person translation to Xhosa by the respective project collaborators, who stood in front of the artworks alongside Dr Nicola Ashmore. This meant that the pace of delivery was adapted and at times words explained.
The accompanying Learning Lab encompassed a range of short talks by means of an introduction to the project team, a curator tour and the Kids’ Guernica workshop. Participants were invited to engage in the Learning Lab through accompanying art activities and a curated talk given by Dr Nicola Ashmore. The varying formats and activities engaged groups beyond academic communities, with a focus on artists and school aged children living in disadvantaged communities in urban and rural settings in sub-Saharan Africa. The aim of the Learning Lab was to co-create understandings of the role of art in the two respective communities, with a focus on elevating children’s views, opinions, and experience of art. The setting of this Lab brought together the Guernica Remakings exhibition and the Kids’ Guernica peace painting workshop.
Dr Nicola Ashmore first visited the Keiskamma Art Project in 2015, located in the village of Hamburg. Where she interviewed those involved in the creation of the 2010 Keiskamma Guernica. Two years on the fifth, small scale Keiskamma Guernica was commissioned in 2017 and its creation documented, featuring the makers.
In 2019 four artists from the Keiskamma Art Project joined the 2019 Guernica Remakings tour in Mauritius and participated in the pARTage international artist residency. This tour continued the collaboration with Savina Tarsitano of Kids’ Guernica which began in 2019 in Mauritius. Savina is an international artist and peace activist. It is through this shared interest in remakings of Guernica that Nicola has come to know Savina. Savina has been working closely with Kids’ Guernica for many years facilitating youth workshops internationally, enabling and encouraging children to create their own collective image of a better future, in the form of a large scale painted canvas – almost a counterpoint to Picasso’s Guernica. The experience of working with Savina Tarsitano inspired this phase of the project.
The first workshop, in collaboration with the Keiskamma Art Project, 3–7 October 2022
The first workshop took place in a rural village called Hamburg in collaboration with the Keiskamma Art Project. This workshop involved 18 adults, all female artists and makers engaged with the Keiskamma Art Project and 36 of their children/grandchildren/children in their care aged between 4 – 13 years old. This workshop took place during the school holidays and ran across 5 full working days, as well as a 6th day to host a celebration event where the canvas was displayed and public invited to see the artwork created.
This workshop involved working with a large group of participants across 3 generations, children, mothers, aunts, and grandmothers. Both children and adults alike, when asked to express their hopes and dreams, discussed the value of education as offering more possibilities for the future and so they chose to draw a school in the centre of their canvas. Community and family were also key themes for participants, many of the children demonstrated community focussed thinking drawing houses not just for themselves, but for their parents or grandparents. An important message came out as participants used their drawings to highlight the prevalence of GBV (Gender Based Violence) in their community, for example one girl wrote “we have to fight together to protect children”. This became an important message the group wished to convey through their canvas.
As well as the canvas a number of additional art activities were developed, learning to mix paint colours, observational drawing from the Guernica Remakings exhibition artworks on display, drawing from their own experiences and imagination, painting found objects and experimenting with installation of artworks combined with other materials such as string or foil to create shapes including a heart, sand dunes and bugs. In doing so the space was filled with art created primarily by the children.
The second workshop, in collaboration with Masifunde, 10 – 15 October 2022
The project formed a new collaboration with NGO Masifunde located in the Walmer Township, Gqeberha. Masifunde takes a holistic approach to education embracing the creative arts, children are aligned with particular after school clubs in the visual arts or in music and performance and are taken through a 10-year Learner Development programme. Enriching their educational experience.
This workshop involved 27 teenagers aged between 12 and 19 years old who attend the Masifunde Learner Development Programme and afterschool art activities. This workshop took place over 1 full working day and 4 short after school sessions, before the celebration event on the 6th day. This meant the group had less time to work on the canvas together compared to the first group. Consequently the participants continued to develop the canvas as part of their afterschool visual arts lesson and completed it over the following two weeks after the workshop.
Both the Masifunde Junior and Senior visual art groups took part in this workshop, these groups had not worked together before and so it took time to learn how to work together as a team and share ideas. The children come from 3 different schools and so they would often arrive at different times meaning this workshop was slightly fragmented, with moments of intense focus. There was little time for additional activities, however the initial drawings from day 1 were displayed around the walls of the space alongside some of the observational drawings the children had created throughout the week in response to the Guernica Remakings exhibition artworks.
As with the first workshop, education was a key focus for participants, interestingly not just for the teens themselves, but their community as they expressed a desire for adults to also have access to education. The cow became an important symbol placed in the centre of the canvas to represent cultural identity and South Africa. Participants here also spoke of Gender Based Violence as well as the gang-based violence and criminality that takes place within the Walmer Township. Some of the teens were critical of the government (past and present) and produced satirical drawings. As with the first workshop, the canvas became an important representation of culture, community and identity. Participants wished to highlight some of the issues they experience within their township and political environment but wanted to ensure the positive aspects of their lives took precedence.
During the workshops the team spoke to participants about what excites them, what they care about and what they think about art. Research Fellow Dr Carolyn Watt worked alongside Principal Investigator Dr Nicola Ashmore and Widening Participation consultant Dr Katie Reid to develop a flexible reflective sharing practice – offered both in the context of enabling workshop participation and to facilitate co-creation. Videographer, Joe Hague, filmed the workshops and discussions. Excerpts will be incorporated into two distinct documentary videos, one per each location. These videos will be shared with the collaborative organisations for their own use as well as published on this website.
Michaela Howse, Director of the Keiskamma Art Project, intends to use the video as evidence to showcase the value of arts and the role and importance of art within education in rural South Africa. She wants to ensure the video reveals the voices of the children as demonstrated through the canvas. Laura Klapper, Programme Manager for In-School Programmes, plans to use the video to show the expanded nature and scope of Masifunde and their holistic approach to education, from complimentary arts and performance based education to social enterprises and training for young adults.
This work was supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council [grant number AH/W00612X/1].
By Dr Carolyn Watt and Dr Nicola Ashmore