Creative Arts Program

Since 2015, Many Hands has offered a creative arts program to young people in the Lautem district. Creative classes are lead by established local visual artist and MHI staff member Cesario Lourdes. Public art classes are offered every weekday at the Lautem Cultural Centre over 40 weeks of the year. With increasing demand, the program has expanded to include an additional three classes, seeing a total of eight weekly classes available to community members. The additional classes include twice weekly workshops in the Bauro, initiated by the young people of Bauro community. Other new sessions include a weekly class delivered at the Centre for local primary school students, to encourage the inclusion of a creative curriculum in local school. Creative classes have featured learning of new artistic techniques including portrait painting, landscape painting, community murals, lino-printmaking, watercolour, sand painting, painting onto traditional ceramic pots, mural painting and sculpture (paper-mache, mangrove and wood).

A priority of the program in 2018 has been to increase female participation numbers. The MHI team has applied much effort and made commendable progress in achieving this. Having started the year with less than two regular female students, we now have a 28% female participation rate. Additionally, in 2018, our overall participant numbers have grown to an average of 240 young participants each week, all of whom come to seek out opportunities to develop their creative skills and engage in community life. This is very encouraging and a big achievement for the team.

In January and July, an evaluation feedback survey was carried out with students to understand their experience of the program and to learn what other creative activities they might like to see offered in their community. Students reported that engaging in daily creative activities made them feel ‘happy’, ‘relaxed’ and ‘more confident to creatively express themselves in front of their community. They reported having learnt new skills such as how to ‘paint portraits’, ‘how to draw’, ‘how to create lino prints’ and how to do ‘wood carving and paper-mache sculpture’. Future creative activities they would like to see offered in their community include ‘oil painting classes’, ‘music lesson for guitar and djembe’, ‘dance events’ and ‘music concerts’. 

In 2018 MHI held three community art exhibitions showcasing students work. At one of the community exhibitions, parents and community members were invited to provide feedback on their experience: 95% of attendees reported it was the first time they had been to an art exhibition,100% said they felt more connected to the young people in their community while at the event, and 100% reported they felt they were experiencing something special and felt excited and inspired during the event.  Students have also had opportunities to exhibit their work internationally. In March 2017, Cesario's students have their first international exhibition at Gallery 54 in Penola, South Australia where 60 of their linocut artworks are on display. Later that same year, the works were also exhibited at the Warburton Waterwheel in Victoria.

In 2018 MHI also started offering a school holiday program. During the April school holidays, MHI hosted visiting artist Simao Pereira, from Arte Morris. Working with MHI Youth Arts Officer, Cesario Laudes, Simao facilitated a 5-day creative workshop series teaching students about digital imagery and painting on glass. 25 young boys and girls participated in the program which concluded with a community exhibition to celebrate their creative achievements with their families. In August, visiting performing artist Maria Madalena from Theatre Timor is facilitating a five-day workshop that will lead to a final community performance. ​

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