Portrait Avo Project

In 2017, MHI has delivered a creative outreach project called Portrait Avo. The project aimed to strengthen intergenerational understanding and appreciation, while offering new learnings and understandings of the differing life experiences across generations in Timor-Leste.

This project included a series of workshops in the subdistrict communities of Cacavei and Leuro, where a number of collaborative creative activities have been offered to 40 young people (aged 10-15 years old) and their elders. Activities have included teaching the young participants how to paint their elders’ portrait, teaching the students how to conduct interviews with their elders, and capturing their elders’ life story on film.  In June 2017, an exhibition at the Cultural Centre showcasing the student’s artwork was held and enthusiastic crowds of approximately 200 family members and community attended from the villages to celebrate the achievements of participants.

 In the first half of 2018, the MHI team evaluated the project and completed an extensive analysis of the participant feedback data collected. Key findings from the evaluation suggest the project offered something new and different for children to experience, sparking their curiosity about their elder's life stories and the past. Through creative activities such as the portrait painting and storytelling, the children and elders were able to reflect on their differing life experiences, and the sacrifices made to create better opportunities for the new generation. By opening a space for elders to share their stories with the child, they were also able to offer advice on the importance of education and not taking present-day opportunities for granted. Findings from elders also suggested that cultural belonging was also reinforced through their storytelling and the new experience of observing the child paint their portrait. Many recognized the cumulative nature of culture and the value of new and innovative ways of expressing culture. 

MHI seeks to improve social cohesion through activities that engender health, well-being and co-operation. Projects such as Portrait Avo are developed to enable people of all ages to come together to engage in peaceful activities that promote creative self-expression, cooperation and inclusion. There are few such opportunities for utilising creativity to enhance social cohesion in Lautem district, so the work of MHI is significant in this respect. We have continued to receive positive feedback on activities that bring people together and build cooperation and connectedness. These findings are now being written up into a journal article to document and share the lessons learned through the project.

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