Sunday, March 9, 2008

Art Makes All Things Better:

Guest artists in Tucson, AZ work with refugee students in an ESL classroom to use photography to explore the concept of "home."

Kimi Eisele talks not only about the success of the program, but also about the challenges of funding--particularly in the face of No Child Left Behind which has shifted focus away from the arts in order to keep up with standards. Eisele poses- "The irony is that arts programming may be exactly what such schools most need to improve student achievement."

Reminds me of Augusto Boal's description of Peru's 1973 government campaign for literacy - Operacion Alfabetizacion Integral - to wipe out illiteracy within the country over four years. The variety of languages has often posed hurdles to addressing this problem - but ALFIN took the approach that "the illiterate are not people who are unable to express themselves; they are simply people unable to express themselves in a particular language" (Theatre of the Oppressed, 2006, 121).

The educators at ALFIN used photography with the literacy education participants-- asking questions in the language Spanish and seeking answers in the language of photography. Participants would be asked Where do you live? in Spanish and asked to respond using photography.

Boal summarizes one man's photographic answer:

"One day a man, in answer to the same question, took a picture of a child's face. Of couse everyone thought that the man had made a mistake and repeated the question to him: 'You didn't understand; what we want is that you show us where you live...

"Here is my answer. Here is where I live."

"But it's a child..."

"Look at his face: there is blood on it. This child, as all the others who live here, have their lives threatened by the rats that infest the whole bank of the river Rimac....A few days ago, when you asked me where I lived, the rats had come while the child was sleeping and had eaten part of his nose. This is why there's so much blood on his face. Look at the picture; it is my answer. I live in a place where things like this still happen." (Theatre of the Oppressed, 2007, 124)

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