Energizing Mentao Refugee Community Through Art
“I trained in art, drawing and painting with the teacher and director Christina Mallie, and I am very pleased with the project.”
– Aminatou, age 17, Mentao Project Participant
November 2013 – February 2014
Mentao Refugee Camp, Burkina Faso
36 youth participants
Affirmed the importance of education and human rights
Colors of Connection, in partnership with the International Emergency and Development Aid Relief (IEDA Relief) who manage Mentao Refugee Camp, targeted 36 out-of-school youth aged 12-18 to create two murals in public spaces in Mentao, home to 10,500 Malian refugees.
This project was designed to address several significant dversities faced by this community. In addition to assisting youth, this project addressed issues related to promoting greater tolerance amongst the different ethnic groups in the camp, a more vibrant civil society, portrayal of culture, and self-awareness.
When the northern half of Mali was overtaken by Touareg rebels and Islamic extremists in early 2012, thousands of people were forced to leave their homes and flee across the border into Burkina Faso and other countries where they have been housed in multiple refugee camps.
Energizing a Refugee Community Through Art worked with a diverse group of boys and girls, some who had dropped out of school, some who were illiterate and had only attended Koranic school, and some who were waiting for an opportunity to continue their education at high school, which was not available in the camp. The community, predominantly of the Touareg ethnic group, but also including Arab and Peul families, collaborated with the project director, Christina, throughout the project and the relationships that were built during this process were both unique and rewarding.
The two murals created by the youth affirmed the importance of education for this community and asserted human rights as a path to achieving peace in Mali. The Peace Through Human Rights mural expresses specific rights found in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR) that community leaders expressed were missing from their lives in Northern Mali, such as the right to life and security, the right to free movement and speech and the right to participate in politics and government. Amidst efforts at reconciliation and negotiating a way forward in Mali, these rights are an important reminder of the issues that need to be addressed for a real and lasting peace. In the Importance of Education mural, several different forms of education that the community leaders support are represented: Western, Koranic and Alphabetization/Literacy. The images depict how the leaders imagine education could positively transform their communities and help resolve issues related to the current conflict, including self-representation and educated girls and women leading to greater economic stability.
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