Mural #4 – UXO Education Mural – Xieng Khouang Mural Workshop Day 3

You can download a document with the 5-day mural workshop lesson plans here.

Day 3

Today was a breakthrough, with students laughing, joking, truly having fun with each other, and looking into my eyes when talking to me!

1.  Meditation first, and then they just got started with painting (the students are moving at different paces so I want to save any extra assignments for the end.

Tips to give while students are sketching with pencil and painting:

  • Don’t need to sketch everything (just a helpful guide) – but they really wanted to sketch everything with pencil and pen – it’s a hard transition to make away from pencil and to painting!)
  • Transfer it so it’s bigger than on the paper – the mural is a lot bigger than your sketch, and it will make it easier to paint.
  • Mix the paint away from your painting (ideally you would have a paint station, but there wasn’t enough tables).

2.  When each group finished, we had the whole group come and stand at least 5 feet away and look at the mural. First we had the audience ask the artists any questions they had, and then the artists could speak a little (Usually this meant criticizing something that was “wrong” – ie pink mountains).  After the “critique” the students usually went back and finished their murals.

They finished the murals by 10:30 am!

Here are their beautiful finished murals:

3.  We played a game called Imaginary Toss.

4.  Because they finished so quickly, we transitioned into painting a new mural – this time their vision of Laos without UXO.  I wanted to mix the groups up though it was hard to create dynamics that got everyone working together and making different things – somehow both groups started drawing roads and trucks with an ATM.

5.  After lunch they wanted to draw so much we had free time with the materials (pencils, oil pastels, etc).  I forget the value of free time. It’s amazing how they all want to draw/make the same art….they copy each other so perfectly!

6.  We continued to sketch for a new mural – but this time I re-broke them up into two groups – girls and boys.  They worked together a bit better, and I figure you can only climb so many mountains in a week (they’ve already completed their first mural in 2 days!).  This time, I tried to make the assignment clear: talk, and then sketch, a drawing of what you think Xieng Khouang would look like without UXO, and put yourself in the picture (what are you doing?  What is around you?  Who is with you?  Is it city, fields, streets, etc?).

To make sure they understood (this was a very abstract concept), we sat in a group and I told them twice what the activity was. When I asked if anyone could repeat it back, no one could, so I told them that if they couldn’t repeat it back, they would have to do a chicken dance.  I explained twice more, and then asked a Hmong artist and then a Lao artist to explain back what they were going to do.  They got it!

They don’t do much discussion – mostly, they draw their own pictures and then talk when they get one big piece.  It’s been a struggle still though to have everyone draw their own pictures, and not just copy each other, but the results when we mixed up the groups and had them draw themselves into the picture really missed things up and created more interesting ideas.

Lessons learned:

  • It was good to try to mix up the groups, but it’s a tough balance – the groups were working together really well before getting mixed up, with everyone participating.
  • When working with more abstract ideas, try to have the students repeat back to you what the activity is, and check in with them throughout (ie where are you?  What are you doing?)
  • Some of the students are a lot more passive than others, and get kind of bullied – generally they can handle themselves but I definitely had to step in a little!

It helped to remind them, in mixed language groups, to speak both, and elect someone who speaks both languages well to help.

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Mural #4 – UXO Education Mural – Xieng Khouang Mural Workshop Day 2

You can download a document with the 5-day mural workshop lesson plans here.

Day 2:

Setup: Bag of paints, bowls with bags over them (or a banana leaf works well too!), paintbrushes, water cups, and you have to have prepped the paint surface (painted it white, etc).  It can be good to have a whole paint mixing station as well – especially if it’s many students working on one big mural – but for three small groups of these very responsible and careful kids (they only use as much paint as they need.  It’s amazing), I just let them have free reign – especially also because they are making their own work, not trying to faithfully copy or transfer a sketch that someone made.

1.  Meditation.  I keep trying to ask students what they are thinking about or listening to when they are meditating but they hate speaking up so much!
2.  Painting practice.  They each got a small piece of primed mason board to paint on.  We went over the color wheel, washing brushes, and thinning with water.  The assignment was to paint what makes you safe (is it a person, place, thing, food, event, time of the day or year?).

The students painted all the same thing – hills with trees and a road, and bombies, with a person looking at the bombies.  So it goes.  Some added flowers, or different kinds of bombs, but they were generally the same.  The painting skill level is pretty high, however, with lots of different styles.

3.  Presentations.  I wanted the students to present what they had drawn and why they drawn it, and have students in the class ask them questions, but presenting in front of the group seemed very traumatic – students were frightened (everyone looked unhappy).  So instead they broke into groups and shared their paintings in their groups – and therefore the mystery of how that specific painting came around was never answered.  They didn’t’ do presentations in the traditional sense, but instead just passed around each other’s paintings and asked questions. It was cool.

4.  Game! We played the Noise Game and did blind contours.
5.  Mural painting.  I talked a bit about background and the technique of trying  to fill in the background before trying to draw in the details, so each group finished filling in their sketches with color.  Then as they finished we talked to them about what colors were the background, and then they drew the outlines of the background.  As they finished that, they mixed paints and filled in the backgrounds.

There is a lot of enthusiasm!  Which is great.  But it meant running around a lot and being kind of crazy.  I wish that there had been another artist to help coach students in mixing colors (though Nick was excellent help as well).

When they finished painting the backgrounds (all three of them are wonderfully different!  We have a bright colored one, a very pastel muted one, and a dark one), they started sketching with pencil their designs.  Again, I wish I had an artist friend who could help students not put too much detail in with the pencil, or draw with water soluble pen, etc…. But things will be fine.

The students are painting very fast – I think some groups may finish tomorrow.

The students are very wonderful of course again.  They say they like drawing on paper more than they like painting, but I think they will get the hang of it!  I want them to be more confident about speaking about their work, but have to balance that with meeting them where they are – and not forcing them to do something that they hate with their whole hearts (you should have seen their faces!).  So maybe we can do mini-presentations each day.

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Mural #4 – UXO Education Mural – Xieng Khouang Mural Workshop – Day 1

I’m back in Xieng Khouang for a 5-day mural workshop!  Eight UXO survivors between the ages of 7 and 16 are back together (with two new kids and 5 missing from last time – so it goes).
Goal: Teach kids how to create composition, work together, consensus skills, problem-solving, art skills (paintbrush, etc), to involve them in the UXO Survivor Information Center.  To create murals that do UXO education/tell stories.
Note: I am not an art therapist, and I can only hope that I do more help than harm with these students.

picture by nick anderson

You can download a document with the 5-day mural workshop lesson plans here.
Day 1:
1.  Names/Introduction  Goal of today – try to figure out the compositions for three murals to hang in the center that you will design and paint.
2.  Meditate first (5 min)
3.  Game: Noi says (Simon says).  The students got it in the end, but generally were confused.  Games are so difficult to explain!
4.  Warmup: compose a village.  We will divide up into groups of 3 (or 2) and these will be the groups for the rest of the week.  Students work together on big pieces of paper to draw a village. What’s in the village?  Who lives there?  What symbols can you use to represent things?  How can you work together?  Think about looking at it from above.

Here's an example. All the circles on the right are apparently bombies.

5.  Present their drawings, and have students ask them questions (ie how many people live there?  Do you have a school?  Where is the road?).  This activity is good because allows students to work on a big piece of paper, practice working together and discussing compositions, but works with familiar and relevant concepts.
We tried to make groups that mixed up Hmong and Lao, genders, and ages, but the students just ended up going into groups they wanted anyway, which was fine.  There were three groups:
#1 – Sipai (girl, 14 yrs old, Lao) and Xue Yee (boy, 13, Hmong) – they mostly worked side by side but discussed some as well.  Didn’t socialize much
#2 – Awnaly (14, Lao, girl), Phet (13, girl, Lao), and Yankuh (16. Hmong, girl) – all worked together like fiends, having a great time.  Lots of discussion and also socializing.
#3 – Sompan (not sure how old, Lao, boy), Huagku (boy, 10, Hmong) and Yang Vue (not sure how old, Hmong, boy) – had a great time together, all three chatting away and working hard.
6.  Mural Introduction:  Tell them we are making 3 murals for the center.  Discuss:

  1. What is a mural?
  2. Goals of mural – why painting it?
  3. Who will be seeing it?
  4. What do you want to say?
  5. What do you want to teach?
  6. How do you want to teach/say that?

As usual, the group discussion is not where the pithy stuff is, so we just presented the questions and asked students to talk in their groups about what they want the mural to have in it.
I passed out their books so they could look at them again, remember lessons learned and discussed last workshop (reminding them about the interviews), and showed a couple of the images from last mural workshop (UXO ed and art).
7.  Composition building.  The groups then proceeded to figure out compositions.  Each group went at composition building differently:
#1 – worked side by side without much discussion, but ended up with similar sketches.
#2 – Talked a lot, and then drew together in one sketchbook.
#3 – talked a lot (don’t know how to write well)


We then went around and visited each group, asking them to present their drawings, and guiding them to think big (and also not all three draw the same mural).  Some tips include asking them to remember what they learned in school, asking them to put a person in the picture, and put their own stories into it (what would they do?).  Groups #1 and #3 were mostly drawing landscapes with UXO in them, so we pushed them to add people.  Group #2 did three different lessons (where UXO come from, as well as 2 things to do when you see them).

 

picture by barbara lewis

After visiting the group, they got a big piece of paper to start sketching their big ideas on.

Lessons learned:

  • As usual, the students are brilliant, and they only need to be left alone to create excellent works.  The adults actually left the room sometimes, which worked really well!
  • Sit down – don’t have the facilitators/translators tower over the students so they get intimidated!
  • Test the materials beforehand!  I assumed the mason board would work (as it’s lightweight, cheap, easy to hang and transport, and takes paint well) but I didn’t test it out.  If it had buckled when we painted on it, I would have had a hard time finding a good replacement.  Luckily it held!
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VIS mural booklet

Available for download is the VIS mural booklet, that goes through lesson plans, resources, and has pictures of the student’s work.  However, it’s incomplete, as the mural wasn’t quite finished (just the title) – the final image will be going on the front.

Click here to download the PDF.

Here is the mural so far (sans being signed and titled).  This work is 100% created by the students and looks great!

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Not a mural…

But an artworkshop with the Participatory Training Development Center (PADETC)!  PADETC is a Lao training center based promoting participatory processes for sustainable development.

This workshop was developed for a youth-led research project about water with students who have gone through PADETC training about interviewing, making connections, and critical thinking, in particular using the “wisdom box”, adapted from the AtKisson group’s “Compass of Sustainability.” The illustration below comes from a comic I am working on with PADETC about youth-led research activities.

These students, however, hadn’t been exposed to it, nor had they been researching rivers, so we focused generally on just water instead.

We went out to Panyanivej, an organic rice farm, with 12 highschoolers from Don Noune High School in the pouring rain.

Goal of workshop: To have students visualize their ideal river and their connections to water, and to begin to think about how this vision is connected to action.  A mix of artmaking and dialog, that will produce visuals for the artshow and expand on the Xao Ban research projects.   Connect students and artists.  Inspire artists’ work.  To utilize creativity, make learning fun.

Framework: art as a place for listening – an open place to create honest dialog, a way to connect, a way to figure out what we are working towards and the solutions.  Visual – an important language. Learning and art are a meeting of reflection and action.  Everyone is an artist.

Timelength: 9:30 – 3:30 with a lunch break

1.  Warmup #1: Blind contours –  Break into groups of two.  Participants will draw each other’s faces without picking their pens up off the paper and without looking at their paper.  The idea is to help students not worry about getting the “right” answer – to have fun and be creative, let their hands talk.

2.  Warmup (15 min) Telephone: Each student has a piece of paper and a pencil.  They write a sentence along the top of the paper and pass it to their right.  They illustrate the sentence on their new piece of paper with a drawing underneath it, and then fold the paper over the sentence so that the next person can’t read it and can only see the drawing.  They then pass the paper to their right, write a sentence that narrates the drawing, and then folds over the drawing so it can’t be seen and pass it to the right.  They keep drawing and writing sentences until the paper is full (usually about 4 sentences and 3 drawings).

Talked about visual vs word storytelling and languages, and how you can only act on the information you have.

We were lucky to have Xay, an artist from the Lao Fine Artists Association, attend and give some great insight.

3.  Visual language activity:

Looking at the following images, we discussed WHO made the mural, WHAT they saw (images, colors, shapes, lines), HOW it was made (materials, techniques), and WHY they thought it was made (context, subject-position, etc). This went really well, with students coming up with very interesting responses.

4.  Mindmap: This activity links the wisdom box and art.  Breaking into small groups, each group gets a piece of paper.  Each corner has a different topic: well-being, economy, culture, and environment.  Fill in bubbles for each corner for what you think about when focusing on water (ie boats, fish, food, agriculture, etc).

With tracing paper over the top, draw lines between the connected points!  List the top 3 points with the most connections on the tracing paper.

In the middle of your original paper, paint those points for your vision of an ideal water usage.

The three groups had really interesting styles: one was led by two very engaged young women and had everyone involved, one group had a teacher in it who just drew everything and made the kids color it in, and one had everyone working on their own sections.  The

The group that worked together best

results were really great though.

Afterwords, we discussed the connected points – what happens when one of them disappears (ie fish) or changes?  Or if you change one of the most connected points?

The teacher's group

The scattered group

4.  Group activity: (1.5 hr) – we didn’t do this because we ran out of time!

Present their drawings.  Are there any points that are repeated?   What are the connections

between the different groups drawings?

Making a “mini-mural” –

The whole group discusses how to put these works into a composition on 3 large piece of paper.

Materials: 3 large pieces of paper, collage materials, and colored pencils.

What elements do we want to include?

Are there any larger themes coming across that we want to express?

How should we compose it (read from left to right, from middle to center, outside to in, top down, etc)?

Where does everyone’s sketch fit in?

Lessons learned:

  • Go slower!
  • Rain slows everything down by at least a factor of 1.5 hours.,

Thanks so much to my momma, Pia Andersson, for participating and photographing!  And Chantalangsi and Dtai for facilitating!

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Mural #6 – Abundant Water

My excellent friend Sunny Forsyth (you may remember him for a 4 am run with me 30 km out to trace the bug mural) runs Abundant Water: “Abundant Water is a ‘not-for-profit’ humanitarian development organisation sharing the innovation of clay-pot water filters with indigenous potters in Lao and elsewhere. These simple ceramic water filters are made from natural materials using traditional techniques and are able to eliminate waterborne
diseases… This approach transfers knowledge and expertise and develops local capability and ownership.”

The Water Filter Workshop

Anyway, Sunny asked me to do a sketch for a mural and I whipped out some crazy colorful watercolor rainbow explosion. Inspirations: Marimekko and Aino-Maija Metsola.  Because the wall was corrugated, I wanted to make sure we were working with blocks of color so that detail didn’t get lost. The logo was already painted on the container.

The sketch

…which he suddenly was tracing on the wall with charcoal at 10 pm the other night. He’s a doer, man.  The idea behind the mural was to make something that showed water being cleaned (from left to right), and the blank space is where a real water filter will be mounted to the wall.  We had to add some bits to the ends because the sketch wasn’t proportional.

We used a digital projector to throw the image on the wall and trace around it with charcoal – great work Jen and Sunny.

Specs: the wall was 8.5m long and 2.6m high.

Sunny rounded up about 10 volunteers – these were some brilliant folks from around Vientiane. All very creative, confident with the paint, and I think they enjoyed it?  Thanks Maxime, Andrea, Jen, Kate, Cammy, Filippa, Sunny, Tai, Delia, Kerryn, and Sunny!

Tracing took 2 hours

Painting – we painted steadily for about 4 hours and got mostly done, and then a couple people spent 1.5 hours finishing up.

Paints: ~6 quarts (almost – .875 L) of different colors (red, brown, white, 2 blues, green, yellow), synthetic resin enamel?  We didn’t use up all the paint at all.

There are definitely skills that you need to just learn as you go – ie how to finish the mural to make sure it’s professional, coordinate volunteers, work from the top to the bottom, make sure you have enough paint, balance between seeing a vision through and letting people go wild and be creative, etc.

More pictures to come soon once we’ve hung up the water filter – it’s going in that big green space next to the figure with the bowl.

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Stories of the students

All these students come from areas that were heavily bombed during the war (check here for a map).  Some more facts about UXO: All 17 provinces in Laos suffer UXO contamination.  “Throughout the Second Indochina War (1964-1973) more than 580,000 bombing missions (or a bombing mission every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day, for 9 years) and wide ranging ground battles, led to over 2 million tons of ordnance being dropped on Laos. Over 270 million cluster munitions were used, of which there an estimated 80 million malfunctioned and remanined live and buried in the Lao landscape after the war’s end.” (Lao National Regulatory Authority).  23% of all accident victims are children.

Here are the stories of the artists:

Xue Yee was 13 years old when he was playing near his house. His grandfather was dismantling a bomb, which exploded, killing him. The hot shrapnel from the bomb ignited the thatch roof of the house and part of it fell on Xue Yee, burning him on the back and left eye. He has had multiple treatments on the scars of his back at the  Friendship Hospital in Vientiane. Now he has scars on his back, his lower abdomen, and he was blinded in his left eye.  He is very shy.

Daeng  is a 14 year-old resident of Ban Lathouang, Paek District. He was injured by a UXO on November 16th 2000 when he and a friend were grazing their water buffalos. His friend was digging a hole for a stake to tie a rope to the buffalos when he hit a cluster bomb.  Daeng was injured and had treatment both at the province hospital in Xieng Khouang and at Friendship Hospital in Vientiane, and his friend died. He was great friends with Jalaw and Yagkuh.

Jalaw  is a 14 year-old resident in Ban Nyouan, Paek District.   When his father passed away, his mother had re-married in Ban Viengkham Mai.  He was injured on 30 March 2008 when he and his younger brother went to the rice field with their parents, and his brother was playing with a cluster bomb.  The explosion injured him and killed his brother. Jalaw received treatment in the Provincial Hospital for almost a month.  His mother is now divorced because of the accident and moved to Ban Nyouan Paek district, 35 KM from from his old village.   In his dreams he wants to be a doctor to help other UXO survivors to repay for his treatment.

Yangkuh is a 17 year-old resident of Ban Khang Khai, Paek District. She was injured by a UXO on March 6th 2005.  She and her friends were playing in the village where other people were burning garbage, and suddenly the cluster bomb exploded from the heat of the fire.  The shrapnel cut her intestines.  She wants to be a doctor and smiled often.

Huagku is a 10 year-old from Ban Ngoil, Paek District.  He was injured on 13 August 2008 when he and his 4 friends were going to find scrap metal to sell. One of the boy picked up a cluster bomb and hit it near a fish pool, where it exploded.   Two boys were killed and three were injured.  Huagku’s face was injured.  His parents took him to treated in the Provincial Hospital.  The youngest artist, he also understood the assignments the quickest and expressed himself really clearly.  He had a very serious face and didn’t smile very often – though in this picture he is being a snake (from a game we played)!

Yakguh is a 14 year-old resident of Ban Phonegum,  Paek District.  He was injured on 28, March, 2005 when he and his 2 friends were going to find scrap metal to sell.  One of the boys picked up a cluster bomb and threw it when it exploded.  Three of them were injured.  Yakguh was injured in his face, left eye and chest.  His parents took him to be treated in the Provincial Hospital.  He acted as a big brother to the other Hmong boys during the workshop.

Mr. Vongphone  is a 48 year-old resident of Ban Mon, Paek District, and the father of the twins Sawnaly and Sipai.  He was injured on 8 September 2006,  when he, his wife and children were digging in the ground of his garden near his house to plant chilli. When he found a piece of rusty metal he thought he could sell it, so he knocked it on a stone – and it suddenly exploded.  The shrapnel seriously injured his right hand.  When he arrived the Provincial hospital, the doctor decided to operate his right hand.  After one year his hand had an infection of the bone and he came to the hospital for another operation. Now he has a prosthetic hand, and his life is changing, because as the main income-earner in the family he cannot help his family as he has in the past.  The twins are very funny, serious, and their drawings are always very very similar…

Mailawr is a 17-year-old from Ban Yod Ang, Viengxai District, Huaphan Province . (Learn more about Viengxay here) She was injured on 9 February, 2004 when her friend, her younger brother, and she were going to find bamboo shoots and plants in the forest near their village.  Her brother picked up a cluster bomb and threw it.  The explosion injured all of them.  Mai was treated in the Huaphan Provincial hospital. After she finished secondary school she continued to study in an English course in Khang Khai Teacher College and hopes to be a teacher.  Apologies to Mailawr for this horrible picture – she really is very beautiful.

Arnousone  is a 17-year-old resident in Ban Gnoil, Paek District.  He was  injured on 21 December, 2010,  when he and his friends were going to bathe at the river.  They found a small piece of white metal and did not know it was UXO.  He picked it up and put it in his trousers pocket, and then it burned his buttock and hand.  His parents took him to the Provincial Hospital and the Friendship Hospital in Vientiane.  He speaks great English, loves soccer, and wants to be a doctor.

Phet is a 12-year-old from Ban Nakhoun, Paek District.  She was injured on 13 November, 2002, when she and her mother were digging in the rice field.  Their hoe is hit a cluster bomb and when it exploded, both of them were injured.  She and Sawnaly bonded during the training.

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