I was invited to make a workshop with kids from Ard El Lewa at the art institution Art El Lewa (www.artellewa.com). 15 kids aged around 10 showed up eager to participate. They all lived in the same street as Art El Lewa, Mohamed Ali Al-Eseary.
To begin with I asked the kids the question:
Which places do you like and do not like in your street and neighborhood?
From this question came a lot of very well reflected answers. They fell in four categories:
– Garbage in the streets, graffiti, cleanness, flowers, green
– Co-operation/advise/respect between people – avoid quarrels, violence, thives
– Boys don’t like girls and visa versa – respect between the sexes
– That they cannot play in the streets because of cars and the unwanted noise they make
From this I suggested to make garbage bins. In dialogue with my helpers Awadhi and Hany we decided for it and to place the bins in front of shops and cafées as it could combine the three first categories:
Bins (garbage) painted and decorated (flowers/greenish) by the kids, placed in front of shops (co-operation) and made by boys and girls in co-operation (mixes of sexes). From this we supported the kids in making the bins, which they then painted and decorated. They also went to the street to “sell the idea” of having a bin. Not all shops agreed out of fear for attracting to much rubbish but they found five “homes” for the five bins.
We then held a grand opening with DJ’s from Denmark/Norway Katrine Ring and Åsmund Boye Kverneland. I held a speech and used the opportunity to praise the kids for their extraordinary efforts. The kids are different from other kids I have worked with:
They could concentrate for very long hours, one day up to five hours – kids I have worked with in other places begin to play and loose concentration after half or one hour!
They are precise, they follow instructions and understand what is being told
They are very well reflected about issues as seen in their answers to my initial question
The kids have now taken action on something they like to develop in their own street. This is very strong and must be celebrated. And Ard El Lewa has taken the “baton” and wishes to continue the project to all of Ard El Lewa. This is extraordinary and the first time I have experienced an art institution that offers to follow up and expand on a project in this manner. This must also be celebrated.