By Tess Goulsbra, EBPP Volunteer Art Therapist, March 2014
When I first started with East Bali Poverty Project I was nervous. I had so many ideas, but at the beginning, I was unsure how I was going to put them into practice. When I met the team I felt overwhelmed by the amazingly beautiful volcanic environment I found myself in, and all the new faces and names. I slowly became familiar with the different projects and staff members. I discussed with I Wayan Merta, and the rest of the Art Team, the ideas I had regarding themes that could be introduced to the staff and school children in a workshop environment.
During the first week I introduced myself to the children of the different schools. I emphasized that I was not an art teacher, but an art therapist, and an important part of the workshop is to relax, have fun, and think about the art-making process rather than the end result. I decided that we could introduce ourselves to each other by drawing a ‘Self Portrait’.
The children responded to this theme with enthusiasm. They were eager for their drawings to be the best, and most like mine, which is why a lot of them looked so similar. I encouraged the children to think more about themselves, and their own appearance and identity.
We kept the same theme for an entire week as the Art Team visited different schools each day, we felt it important that all children had the same experience. At the beginning of the second week I introduced the theme of ‘Cardboard Masks’.
At times, in the schools, I could sense that the children were working very hard, some of them had exams approaching. I therefore thought it was particularly useful to have the art workshops at the end of theirs days lessons, so they could relax and have fun before going home.
During the third week we continued with the theme of making masks, but this week they were made out of Paper Mache. The concept of the mask is very interesting; it provokes thoughts surrounding identity, appearance, and hiding ones true self. It was also useful to demonstrate to the children that there is more than one way to do something, and how themes can be elaborated on and further explored.
Balloons are a lovely medium to work with and the children really enjoyed it. There was so much laughter when they were slimy due to the glue; they slid on the tiled floor and they were very difficult to control. Plus, when a balloon inevitably popped the children were elated and the atmosphere electric. Other children simply enjoyed the tactile qualities of the wet sticky newspaper and enjoyed making a mess!
In the final fourth week we made ‘Full Body Portraits’, this was the theme I was most excited about; the actual making process is so much fun!! It is also very interactive, requiring team work and clear communication between peers, and again, it provokes thoughts of self.
The first day we introduced this theme we had a group of approximately 15 students, we used nearly the entire space of one school. All staff and children were getting involved and helping each other; offering support and guidance. There was so much laughter and an excited atmosphere, it was a truly lovely, therapeutic, experience!
I think it was useful that the four different weeks were thematically linked, particularly week one and four, and week two and three; it helped the workshops flow and linked the thoughts and ideas from each week. Now I have come to the end of my month’s placement. I feel settled in and I enjoy every day. I am still overwhelmed by the natural beauty of the environment, and consider myself very lucky to of had this experience, and to have been truly immersed in the rich Balinese culture. The East Bali Poverty Project team work together effortlessly and exist like one big family. The work they do on a daily basis is very important to so many people lives.
I am thankful that I was able to offer these children something which enabled them to be children, and to forget their worries and responsibilities in the reality of their everyday lives. I wish my placement was longer than one month but unfortunately I cannot spare more time at present. However, I would love to come back. Next time I would like to be more involved with the Health Team, to work with some children who are very isolated and who have disabilities; they do not attend school as there are none that would meet their specific needs in their area. This month’s placement has proven invaluable to me, and has enabled me to clearly visualize how else my training can be used within the foundation. I just hope East Bali Poverty Project has gained as much from me, as I have from it.