30 April 2012
Wadi Shajneh, West Bank
In a school for refugee children tucked into the south Hebron hills, 25 students gathered for a hands-on learning experience with ceramics and painting. For many of them, it was the first time they had ever attended an art workshop.
“We always wanted to draw”, said 12-year-old Sumaya, “but this workshop has taught us how.”
The workshop in Wadi Shajneh was one of six planned in remote UNRWA schools across the West Bank, a project funded by the Australian Representative Office, to give Palestine refugee children a chance to explore their creative side.
School principal Ismail Abu Hashash hailed the project as a unique opportunity for his students, most of whom are Bedouin. “The children’s exposure to formal arts training is very limited.”
Visiting the children and painting with them was Jenny Grant-Curnow, Australian Representative to the Palestinian Authority. “The kids used everyday items in their creations”, she said. “They made cooking pots and small animals out of ceramics, and were keen to learn how to paint the Australian flag.”
Abdulhadi Yaish, the artist who instructed the students, emphasised the value of teaching art, beyond the practical skills. “Art encourages creativity”, he said. “It inspires self-expression and constructive thinking - skills that can help children in these kinds of difficult circumstances.”
For many of the children, the workshop was more than an art class. It opened their eyes to new ways of expressing themselves creatively. Faten, 10, said she hoped the workshops would continue.
“This was the first time we knew that art was so enjoyable.”