The Peace Through Human Rights Mural, created on an elementary school building by youth of Mentao Refugee Camp during the Energizing a Refugee Community Through Art I Project, Burkina Faso, February 2014.

The Development Through Education Mural, created on a wall of the Community Center by the youth of Goudoubo Refugee Camp during the Energizing a Refugee Community Through Art II Project, Burkina Faso, June 2014.

Education was chosen as one of the themes by the community leaders because it is still not seen as valuable by much of the population.  For a largely nomadic people who live off of their animals, such as the Touareg and Peuhl, the idea of attending school has historically been seen as unnecessary and useless, requiring a complete change in ways of living, and this mentality persists today.  Schools are few and far between in Northern Mali, making access very difficult. This makes it challenging even for the more sedentary people, such as the Songrhaï and Arabs who largely rely on agriculture and business respectively. In the mid 20thcentury in Mali, the colonial French government forcibly took children from their families in order to put them in school, essentially kidnapping them.  One of the participant’s fathers, Oussmane Ag Souleymane, described being taken from his family at the age of 10 to be enrolled in a school. On the journey there he tried to run away but they tied his foot to a large rock.  His family took him back and tried to hide him in the desert but the authorities found him again and re-enrolled him. Oussmane’s father died the year he was taken and Oussmane never saw him again. After Oussmane was taken his family relocated, and moved outside of the town where he lived. Despite the trauma he experienced, he went on to finish his education, and became a government employee and is a huge advocate of education today, including for girls. (More can be read about him below.) This is a typical story of the colonial era and demonstrates the complicated relationship these populations have with education.  Regardless, community leaders are convinced that education is one of the only ways to improve their communities and wanted to advocate for education through the mural.

The Education Mural depicts different types of education, both Koranic and Classic. On the right, a marabou teaches children in front of a mosque.  In the center and left of the mural a teacher in a primary school helps a student to write “Bonjour” and “Matolahad,” which mean “Good morning” in French and Tamacheck respectively.  Next to a school building, a woman prepares lunch for the school canteen. The community arts council identified portraying the feeding of students as an important motivation for both the students and parents for the children to attend school.  Pictured below the school building, a father takes his child to school following behind other children on their way as well, indicating that parents need to support their children in attending classes. The classic education system at the university level is also represented in the top center part of the mural, in which a university building resembling the University of Bamako in Mali is shown with two students approaching it.   Two former students in the camp who studied at the University of Bamako were photographed for this part of the mural. They both hope to return to the University when the crisis is over.

·      The mural depicts types of work valued by the community that are possible through education. The three that were chosen by the Community Arts Council were:  a doctor, a customs official, and a lawyer. Fadimata Wallet Haiballa, a block leader in the camp, posed for a photo of the lawyer. While not a lawyer herself, she is one of the few literate women in the camp and therefore holds a prominent position as the chief of her block as well as a leader among the women.  She is an advocate for minority groups and women in her community in Northern Mali and in the camp. Oussmane Ag Souleymane, a retired Malian customs officer with a 37-year tenure, posed for the photo of the customs official. It was important for the community arts council to show that members of their own community could have positions in government, which would be a step towards greater representation of this population in government in Northern Mali.
·      People pictured in the mural have both light and dark skin tones in order to show inclusion of multiple ethnic groups in the education system. This is a prominent issue in Northern Mali because those with lighter skin, the Touareg, have been, and are currently being discriminated against and targeted for acts of violence.
·      Equal opportunities for women in education are also shown in the mural.  Throughout the various forms of learning and employment depicted in the mural women and girls are included, as gender equality is another prominent issue amongst the population of the Camp.
·      A poem about the importance of education was written in Arabic specifically for the mural by Sidi Hamd Ag Mohamed Ahmed, a Touareg poet in the camp. The complete poem was written on the mural in Tamacheck, the dominant language in the Camp, with excerpts included in French, Songrhaï, Arab and Peuhl. It is translated here in English.

An intellectual has to act with clarity and a great sense of responsibility to lead his people and benefit from the admiration of all.  His expressions must be relevant, worthy, and admired by others.

Ignorance is tantamount to a piece of clay between the rocks, which erodes in the winter rains.  Every time a person walks on the eroding path, the path becomes more and more dangerous until it arrives at its ultimate decline.