Awakening Creativity Project at Solidarity Teacher Training College, Yambio, South Sudan, Jan 2020
Solidarity Teaching Training College, Yambio is located in the southwest of South Sudan. It provides human-centered teacher training for primary school educators around the country. Most of the teachers in South Sudan are untrained, and in 2020, there are an estimate of 3.2 million children from 5-12 years old in need of quality primary education. Therefore, graduates at Solidarity Teaching Training College serve important roles for the education and future of South Sudan’s next generation.
Monica Gaspari, teacher at Solidarity Teaching Training College, is a long-time friend of Lily Yeh, the founding director of Barefoot Artists. Monica has experienced how art and beauty transforms community and individuals during their collaboration in Korogocho, Kenya from 2000-2007. In 2019, Monica initiated a collaboration with Barefoot Artists at the college.
Basing on her experience in her community building through art projects in the past 30 years, Lily created the ”Awakening Creativity” workshop manual for Monica and her students with the intention to inspire and empower participants and facilitators. She hopes that the manual will provide guidance for future teachers in training at the college who, in turn, will awaken the creativity in their students. Just like what Lily Yeh said “We want to train teachers, so everyone blossoms.”
The success of our first teaching project, has shown that the spirit of creativity can overcome physical limitations and when teachers and caregivers are empowered, they continue to inspired their children.
Following the Barefoot Artists methodology, Monica first presented a powerpoint prepared by Lily showing the power of art in transforming environment. It aims to inspire the participants. Monica and her colleague Guille then conducted a series of workshops in which participants designed individually and then in groups for some exterior walls on the campus. Decisions were made collectively after lengthy discussion.
- Individual Designs
Students took on the project earnestly. They drew, experimented with patterns and colors, and had fun.
- Group Designs and Presentation
Then, students worked in groups. They designed together for their chosen site. Everyone’s contribution was valued and respected, and their designs were shared with Lily online for consultation. Participants critiqued works created by groups, offering advices and encouragement.
- Site Painting
With a solid plan, students were so excited to start painting. Members in each group shared responsibilities in implementing their own collective designs.
During the painting process, new ideas emerged as Monica wrote in her reflection: “So the act of painting is not only execution but also a process of discovery and continued discussion.” Everyone naturally found their places in the project as they chose to do more things they enjoyed. The process also helped them to recognize different talents within the group and made plans to collaborate together. Even for the two students who did not want to participant in painting, they found themselves buying materials or playing music as other ways to participate.
When they graduate from the training program, the participants will become primary school teachers in all parts of South Sudan. We hope that they will share the methodology and the joy of creating together with their students.
Participants Said: “Together, together, together, step by step, we can do things that we cannot manage by ourselves. At the beginning, the campus looked so big and walls so long . . .”
It was a profound experience for me, because we started with nothing but at the end such jubilance! Through the transformative power of art, students feel that here is where they belong. They did it and now they CAN.
From the beginning, students took the assignment seriously. It was not entertainment or pastime for them. They wanted to express themselves through the design. They were encouraged to root themselves in their own rich cultural tradition and to design something as their contribution to add to their culture. The campus before the project was nice but serious, but now, welcoming and joyful. We experienced the transformative power of art in the process
This process is inclusive while encouraging everyone to make a contribution. The process of working together create a sense of belonging, a sense of home. The wonderful thing about the methodology is that it is very simple, only a few steps (see the manual), and some art materials, like brushes, paints, and a lot of turpentine.
At the end, the energy among the students were so high that they did not want to stop painting. They recommended more spaces for painting.
They created a play about the process of the project, and they were imitating me in the play saying “Go to work. Why are you sitting there? It’s beautiful!”
The process was simple but effective and empowering. The students are filled with hope and joy. They say: “YES, WE CAN.”