Reflections from MHI’s 2017-2018 Creative Arts Program

Tuesday 07/08/18

This financial year community members in Lospalos continued to have opportunities to develop their creativity through participation in MHI’s regular art classes and specific projects run by Youth Arts Development Officer, Cesario Lourdes. Public art classes were offered every weekday at the Lautem Cultural Centre over 40 weeks of the year. With increasing demand, MHI’s Creative Arts Participation 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 village of Bauro, initiated by the young people of that 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 featured learning of new artistic techniques including portrait painting, landscape painting,  lino-printmaking, watercolour, sand painting, painting onto traditional ceramic pots, mural painting and sculpture (paper-mache, mangrove and wood).

A priority of the program this year 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 our team.

In January and July, an evaluation 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. Students reported that engaging in MHI’s 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’. 

Throughout the year 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.  

In 2018 MHI also started offering school holiday activities. During the April school holidays, MHI hosted visiting artist Simao Pereira from Arte Moris in Dili. Working with MHI Youth Arts Officer, Cesario Lourdes, Simao facilitated a five day creative workshop 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. 

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