“Let us cast light unto injustice, and create for it an exit door”.
The words belong to 13 year old Malek, whose painting adorns the poster for the newly opened exhibition at the Palais des Nations “Peace Paintings – Children’s messages for equity and peace”.The painting is part of an exhibition that consists of 22 pictures created by children from 13 different countries in Peace Painting workshops.
The NGO Peace Painting was created by Catrine Gangstø, a Norwegian artist, in 2007. Through painting workshops, the NGO aims to (i) use art as a form of psychosocial support, a medium through which the children can process experiences, feelings and trauma, and (ii) create a space, through exhibitions like the one currently exhibited at the Palais des Nations, for the children to convey what is important to them.
Though painted on the same type of canvas, with the same brushes and paint, the paintings are all very different. Some illustrate sorrow, like the picture by Anna Sigala called “my wounds” and the picture by Arjhay called “I hope - the silence after the war”. Others portray hope and illustrate the joys of peace, like Salim’s “Good Neighbors”, and the five doves painted by Ri Jin Mi accompanied with the text “Happiness - the five doves symbolize the five continents on earth. The doves are looking for peace. They are happy because their hope is strong.”
The paintings have been created by children living in very different contexts. These include children living in post-conflict settings, others in refugee camps and again others who have arrived to new countries through international resettlement programmes.
The workshops have a well-developed methodology that includes inspirational sessions where the children contemplate and share their thoughts on colours, peace, equity and sharing. The children paint two pictures each during a workshop, one they get to keep and take home, the other they get to give to an exhibition. The exhibition creates a platform for the children where they know their messages will be seen and heard.
“We wish to make the children’s view on equity and peace visible in public spaces as well as to political decision makers,” says the head of the NGO, Catrine Gangstø. She, and her colleagues in Peace Painting , provide workshops with children and young persons, as well as Training of Trainers for staff in humanitarian operations, resettlement programmes, and many other contexts. “This work is meaningful to me because it is about peace. I see myself as a “midwife”, helping children express their thoughts and use their own words,” Catrine Gangstø says.
3 October 2018 marked the opening of the exhibition. Ambassador Brattskar, in his opening words, said: “It is an important priority for Norway to make sure that children are provided with the means and the opportunities to influence their surroundings and for their voices to be heard.”
The paintings are on display until 12 October 2018 - as a reminder and inspiration to all who work and attend meetings at the Palais des Nations, to continue their work to create peace and an exit door for injustice.