In October 2022 the Guernica Remakings project collaborated with Kids’ Guernica, the Keiskamma Art Project and NGO Masifunde in South Africa to facilitate 2 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).
In each location the Kids’ Guernica peace painting workshops created the setting for the learning lab where Guernica Remakings curator and artist Dr Nicola Ashmore spoke about Picasso’s Guernica and the history of the project, while Savina Tarsitano talked about collaboration, place and peace. Children helped with the installation of the Guernica Remakings exhibition which had been re-designed to be child friendly and easy to set up. This combined approach of the learning lab, pop-up exhibition, and the Kids’ Guernica peace painting workshop fostered collective decision making and the creation of 2 new collaborative artworks which display culturally shared imagery that relates directly to each of the locations.
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 so we had 5 full working days with the group, as well as a 6th day to host a celebration event where we displayed the canvas and invited the public to see the artwork created.
This workshop was interesting as we were 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.
The second workshop, in collaboration with Masifunde, 10 – 15 October 2022
The second workshop took place in the city Gqeberha in collaboration with the NGO Masifunde. This workshop involved 27 teenagers aged between 12 and 19 years old who attend the Masifunde Learner Development Programme and after school art activities. For this workshop we only had 1 full working day and 4 short after school sessions, before the celebration event on the 6th day. This meant we had much 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 after school visual arts lesson and completed it over the following two weeks after the workshop.
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 their 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.
There is clearly a need for creative and arts-based education within these two locations and this is something we hope to build upon in collaboration with Kids’ Guernica, the Keiskamma Art Project and Masifunde. The workshops were documented by Videographer Joe Hague and two co-created documentary videos (one per each location) will be produced as a result of this work to be used and shared by Masifunde and the Keiskamma Art Project.
This work was supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council [grant number AH/W00612X/1].
By Dr Carolyn Watt and Dr Nicola Ashmore