A quiet buzz was coming from the hall, which soon turned into a loud excited clamour as a group of fifty children entered the theatre space at Billund Centeret. They were ready to find out what was going to happen today, curiously observing a white bed which stood in the middle of the room.
“The bed is the safe space where we are born, where we look for solace, where we can be alone or where we can play with our friends. We rest in bed, we sometimes eat in bed, we play in bed. It is like a magical space, it can become a den, it can become a space ship.”
Gathering in a big circle around the bed, Culture Shift welcomed the children from both Billund Skolen and the International School of Billund. For the series of workshops in Billund, a new member of Culture Shift is joining the staff: Kara, who will, together with Lucy, Amanda, Rachel and me (Ambra), facilitate the Billund workshops over the next couple of months.
With the ritual sentence “Velkomme til Belong Kunst Projekt”, Lucy presented the structure of Belong workshops, and the plan for the day themed “My name is…”. The activities of the day are focused on a reflection about what makes you YOU; allowing the children to go on a path of self-discovery. It is additionally, an opportunity to talk with someone you have never met before and find out what the other is like, what he/she loves. Finding out differences and similarities, the groups got a grasp of what exactly constitutes the basis of any relationship and/or friendship.
After warming up with a fun game, the five groups: Glue Guns, Erasers, Sharpies, Double-sided sticky Tapers and Staplers, moved to a space in the room . The activity for today was to draw oneself on a white sheet, together with all the things (passions, objects, sports) one likes to have or loves to do. At the beginning the children were taking just a little part of the sheet, timidly drawing a small human shape. When given the confidence by the staff to really get involved in the activity, the small sketches became more colourful. Then a bit bigger dog, and a slowly even bigger football ball, hearts, mums and dads…the individual space for each child grew bigger and bigger, expanding to cover all the spots of the sheet.
The second half of the workshop required the children to step out of their comfort zones, having to pair up with another member of the group, possibly someone that they didn’t know before. The children from the two schools had the chance to mix up and to get to know each other.
“It was a bit awkward to draw someone else”
“I’m so happy I met him.”
“She also has dogs as I do!”
“He likes to swim while I like to play football.”
“We both play Pokemon!”
From the drawings made, it’s easy to see how drawing someone else is more difficult than drawing oneself; the hesitation comes from the worry to offend and upset the other, maybe not representing him/her properly. Without always expressing that explicitly, the children, wisely, spontaneously and organically found alternative ways to represent the other: using words, or including the other’s passions and characteristics into their own sketch, mixing the representation of the two people into a single draw. In their own time all the children managed to create connections between each other, exchanging stories, experiences and favourite games.
The two hours workshop came to an end too quickly and it was already time to leave. After walking around to take a look at the work of the other groups, the children left Billund Centeret, looking forward next time; to meet each other again and to explore new artistic possibilities.
Tak for i dag!
Ambra Molinari is working on the Belong project with the Billund and Jelling Belong artists. She is co-facilitating the workshops, documenting the work, connecting the children between the groups through sharing photographic postcards and blogging about her experience. Originally from Italy, Ambra came to Denmark a few years ago to study for a Master's degree in visual anthropology.