LNOB Art Workshop with Young Mothers Group – Dominican Justice

A Road to Success

I called my painting ‘a road path to success’ because the question asked what gives us hope and strength. This path gives me hope. My painting has some hard rocks at the end here: when you are looking from far, it looks like there is no road but when you keep going, the road starts becoming visible to you. I put some birds here because in my Yoruba dialect we say “Oju orun to eye fo laifara gbara“ which means “the sky is big enough for everybody to fly in.’ So thank you to the people of Ireland for giving us this opportunity to fly.

Workshop Participant

On Monday the 22ndof May, three members of the ATD team had the honour of holding a Leave No One Behind, series 3 workshop with Domican Justice’s Young Mothers group led by Marie Williams. The Domican Justice office in Dublin aims to promote Justice and Equality through education, research, advocacy and justice campaigns. Its purpose is to share information and learning about justice work across borders, including their work supporting young mothers in direct provision in Ireland.

For several years Marie Williams has coordinated a peer-support project and network for women seeking asylum in Ireland and who live in the Direct Provision system. It started small, with one or two mothers but over time has gained momentum and a large number of active participants. We were grateful to have almost 20 women turn up to attend our workshop, many of whom still live within the confines of direct provision. The Young Mothers group meets fortnightly, and as well as offering the women a safe space to share food, tea, laughter and conversation whilst their children can play in the crèche – Marie also organizes for a variety of different speakers to attend the project and arranges insightful workshops for participants to take part in. These may range from practical, educational themed programmes to more holistic and creative ones such as the workshop we held.

Our main methodology for the series 3 workshops has been using creative mediums to spark conversation and insight based around the theme of SDG 3: Good Health and Wellbeing. With this group of young mothers (after giving them some background to ATD and the Leave No One Behind project concept) – we decided to ask three main questions related to this theme: what gives you hope? what gives you strength? and what is important to you? We explained to the participants how we wanted them to use the paint, canvases and different crafts, including feathers and leaves on their tables to express their answers through the medium of art in whatever way made sense or felt good to them. We reiterated the fact that there was no right or wrong answer, only different forums of expression. We played some African music while the women let their creative juices flow, and had some fun on the journey. The ATD team were on hand to answer any questions along the way. After 2 hours or so we began to unwind the session and started to ask those who wanted to share a few words on what they had painted and why. The incredibly colourful artwork and the meaningful reasons we heard behind their paintings were both extremely powerful and touching. Below are a few examples:

  • “This is my painting. It’s about nature, because nature is life. And this part is dark because sometimes life can be dark, with stress and difficulties that you pass through every day. And in the middle, there is love. There are different types of love – small love and big love. Sometimes, when you have difficult times in life, you can get big love. Sometimes, the love can also come small. But even that small love can give you hope, and that is why I wrote hope here. This is what gives me joy every day.”
  • “This is my painting. For me, the sun gives me hope. Every time the sun rises, it gives me hope that you still have a chance to make it, in whatever you think you failed in. My three kids give me strength. I put in all of their favourite colours. And my happiness is important to me. These feathers represent my happiness, which must be as colourful as these feathers!”
  • “This is my painting. What gives me hope are the people around me. When they are doing something that I wish to do, the more I see them doing it, I think since this person can do it, I too can do it. And when I communicate with others, it gives me strength, I get stronger, I have morale in doing things. And my health is very important to me. And my family and those around me are very important to me.”
  • My painting is of Peace and Tranquility. When I think back of where I am coming from, Nigeria, at the moment there is no peace in Nigeria. There is a lot of killings and kidnapping and banditry. A lot of things are happening back home. But we are here, and there is a lot of peace here. So we can have a focus to do things here, but back home we can’t. And also, we are scared of going home, of taking our kids home at this moment. So hopefully, we believe that peace will come. And the symbol of peace is the dove.
  • I have a guitar here, which is one of the musical instruments. I chose to draw this because music is what brings me out of my dark moments. Anytime I’m sad, anytime I’m going through challenges, I have to look for something to do to help me come out of that mood. It is actually music that makes me come out of my dark moments. That is why I painted a guitar”

What became apparent from listening to the inspiring participants in this group, was the importance of themes such as nature, love, faith, family, connection and peace. There was a real focus on the positive energy that the sun brings, as well as the beautiful colours of the flowers, the birds, the sea and the trees. When freedom is limited due to unforeseen circumstances outside of our control, such as having to leave your country because of inhabitable conditions e.g. extreme poverty, war, abuse, crime or a general lack of peace – and/or we find ourselves in confined systems such as direct provision – life can be a real struggle and dark at times. However, what we learnt from this workshop is the importance that everyday interactions and experiences based on the above themes have in terms of giving people strength and offering them hope. It doesn’t always take grand gestures to brighten up someones day, sometimes little acts of kindness and love as well as the peaceful touch of nature – goes a long way and contributes to the positive health and wellbeing of individuals and families, who may live under difficult cirumstances. This is why it is so important for everyone to respect the dignity of all those they meet, and to try empathise/walk in another shoes before they make assumptions or fall prey to creating judgement, bias and misinformation.

ATD Ireland would like to say a huge thank you to the wonderful women we met and learnt from in this workshop with the Young Mothers group and to Marie Williams for all her help in allowing us to facilitate such a colourful and joyful session. We are looking forward to bringing representatives from all the groups from around Ireland we have worked with through our Leave No One Behind series 3 project together for our ‘Festival of Change’ taking place on July 26th, in the Mud Island Community Garden. At this (hopefully sunny) exhibition, we will showcase the art of the different groups as well as the various positive actions taking place in these projects/communities to the wider public and government officials. We hope this may influence positive policy change as well as public opinion on various matters e.g. direct provision and asylum seekers/ refugees. We hope this festival can bring together the different groups and give them a platform to speak about their various different projects and positive actions, thus bringing together a wide variety of individuals and themes that are equally important to wider society. Hopefully this can expel different types of public misinformation and stereotypes of certain groups/communities and instead give them space to learn from and grow with each-other. All the while, planting the seeds of their experience and what is important to them/gives them hope and strength into the garden of knowledge. We look forward to seeing you all there, for what is sure to be a colourful and positive day 🙂