As My Chapter Ends, The Story Continues…

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It does not feel like an end. It is just the beginning. That is how I look at my departure from Nablus, from my students, from my coworkers, from Palestine. I may be physically leaving but the work continues. My student’s newfound confidence in their own creativity, in their personal expression and in identity development will now be tested outside of my classroom. We ended this Triple Exposure program on the theme of story. Using the power of a story in discussing change and creating it within our own communities. But the story does not end. My student’s will have the opportunity to develop their own stories in the month that follows. A new class focused on Oral History and Storytelling will be offered specifically for them to continue their stories, to help them grow up.

We will all continue to do the important work that empowers the next generation. I believe that we are working towards a positive change, the empowerment of a community on every level. The themes of this session’s Triple Exposure program highlight this evolution, individual identity development, community awareness and finally the change that comes out of this. These themes will continue to affect the community through the next generation of leaders, the student’s of Tomorrow’s Youth Organization.

Beginning my time here as an intern I have had the privilege of seeing several of my student’s continue to evolve here at TYO. I see Olfat, Rafat, Hala and Hala as they head up the stairs for class, they are full of smiles and tell me how much they love their new classes. These previously quiet students now feel at home in TYO, I see them interacting with their peers and walking proudly at the front of the line.

I will continue to tell these stories, the stories of the children here in Nablus. As a photography teacher I have something more valuable than memory, I have the image that goes with it. The spark that brings the emotions, the reality to the story. As a teacher I have had the privilege of learning from my students while teaching them. From the soccer pitch to the crowded hallways of Balata primary school, I have witnessed the children of Nablus embrace challenge with determination and courage. Empowered, these young girls and boys will make a change. The story continues. Watch them.

Memories I will not forget:

Their chosen class name: The Flowers

Class name: The Flowers     Where: UNRWA Primary Girl’s School, Balata Refugee Camp.

First time with the Canon. Class: Basic D Where: Khallet al-Amood.

 

Puppet Faces: Momen and Nabil. Class: Basic D Where: Khallet al-Amood.

 

El Ein Girls. Class: Outreach Where: UNRWA Primary Girls School, El Ein Refugee Camp.

 

Before the game: TYO Girl’s Soccer Team. Where: Khallet al-Amood.

 

Story Day. Class: Basic D. Where: Kallet al-Amood.

 

-Abi is the Triple Exposure Coordinator

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Story Time with Triple Exposure

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As we move into the last theme of our session students express themselves through story. Emerging out of exploring their individual identities into what they define as community, this week they expressed change through their stories. A story is a powerful thing, a necessary tool for successful photography. Author Isabel Allende asks us, “What is truer than the truth? …answer: the story.” With storytelling a certain truth comes out that is lost in the nonfictional books of facts. The story allows emotions to surface that emerge from our own lives. The story not only tells us how or what, but why. It explains the emotional thought behind certain actions as it gives color to our words. Photography does this with an image. The image can become more than the photographer intended as make meaning out of the image, it can translate across borders, across languages and cultures. That is the beauty of the story. We transitioned into story-telling verbally first, with an exercise that encouraged creative story-telling in front of the class.

The audience gave a place, a person (subject) and a thing for our story-tellers to base off. Three story-tellers lined up in front of the class with their backs to the audience. One by one they turned to face the audience and tell a story .

This taught them structure and broke the story up into three sections, the beginning, middle and end. It also assesses and encourages their ability to present in front of the entire class, to entertain. Their newfound confidence in their own creativity was revealed as they had to put use it in front of the entire group. This is something that I hope will transcend beyond the classroom and into their own lives.

Stories ranged from a castle in Syria, to a hunter who killed too many animals, to a boy who could run as fast as a horse. These verbal stories emerged into images as they used the camera to tell the story with color. This time we introduced the idea of change, of a problem coming up and somehow being worked out by the students. As the plot thickens the student’s stories emerge. Although they used butterflies, bunnies and clowns as characters, their stories are full of violence and struggle. This is what our students know, the stories that they hear and experience.

 

The Bee and the Butterfly, by Ahmad(12) and Salah(10).

There once was a Bee who liked flying in the garden. He was hungry trying to find flowers to eat but there were not many flowers left. The Butterflies were eating them all up.  Sure enough, the Butterfly came and wanted the flowers for himself. They began to fight.

 Until the Bee decided to try talk to the Butterfly. He told the Butterfly about how hungry he was. He told the Butterfly how many Bees were hungry. He made the Butterfly realize and sympathize with him. They decided to share the flowers and protect them so that they did not disappear.

 

             Soccer Stars, by Hamza(9) and Bakar(9).

Two friends wanted to play soccer, the clown and the bunny. So they went outside to the soccer field at TYO. But a lot of older boys were playing soccer on the field. They were scared to try and play since they were so little.

But Clown was very good at soccer, they called him Messi. So he went and began to play. Bunny watched but was sad that he could not play. Messi was struggling to play surrounded by so many bigger guys, he needed help.

So Bunny came to the rescue and they passed and scored a goal! The big guys always allowed them to play whenever they wanted from then on.

   The Butterflies and Clowns, by Taha(9) and Yazan(10).

One day Butterfly flew high up into the sky. It was dangerous to do this because then the Clowns could see him. The Clowns were killing the Butterflies and had been doing so for a long time.  Sure enough, the clown came and saw the Butterfly. He began to attack the Butterfly.

They could not talk to each other because they spoke different languages. But the Butterfly decided that he would try anyways. Somehow the Clown understood and he stopped. The Butterfly told the Clown how many Butterflies were dying and that they would become extinct soon. The Clown understood, he decided to tell his other friends to stop. So, today there are still Butterflies in the world.

The End.

All photographs and stories by Triple Exposure Students from Khallet al-Amood, Nablus.

-Abi is the Triple Exposure Coordinator

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Our first win

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As the team heads out onto the soccer field they march in pairs screaming TYO, TYO, TYO. They call out numbers indicating what to do and stomp onto the field. This is not an average soccer team. In fact it is anything but average here in Nablus. Where the field is dominated by boys and girls do not play the beautiful game. The TYO Girls team is anything but average in their enthusiasm, variety of age and raw talent.

It is only our second game and about half the girls are new to the game and to the team. We begin cheering in the middle with a quiet huddle that becomes a loud shout, welcoming Salem and shouting our name. A small crowd forms of the girl’s little sisters and even brothers, the TYO staff and the curious neighborhood kids. “What these girls are doing?”

What they are doing is beyond playing a soccer game. They are revealing themselves as leaders, as young girls with confidence and strength and they are doing it in their neighborhood. Khallet al-Amood is one of the most conservative neighborhoods in the Palestine. They are trying something new and putting their hearts into it with enthusiasm. I cannot express to you the beauty of a huddle, looking into the girl’s eyes and seeing their excitement. Their little sisters are watching, wanting to play and asking me every five minutes if they can go in. Unfortunately they are too young; they need a team of their own. But they stick around and join in the crowd; they support their older sisters and cheer the loudest when we score.

They are expanding the small space for girls. They are kicking it open as they score goals and introduce the community to themselves as a soccer team. After our first game the shebabs (guys) that usually hang around and play on the field wanted to play against us, the girl’s team. I remember my first experience here venturing outside to play against them, how hard it was for them to accept me as a soccer player. Now, today they are accepting their sisters as players.

The game begins. We are playing Salem village. It is our second game and girls have more of a handle on rules, no handballs, goal kicks etc. They have a newfound confidence that I see as they walk to their positions. The game starts with Salem’s ball but we quickly change things with a goal from Susan. This first game focuses the girls and brings them further into the game. Our new goalie, Amina is naturally fearless and vocal. Two qualities many seasoned goalies do not have. Salem Village girls are smaller but quick and have more skill but our girls are determined. Salem scores again but we return with another quick goal, its tied at half time.

The game ends with a tie, the girls are more than happy it’s been a close game and they had fun. But it’s not over. We go into Penalty Kicks and Amina saves the day! With three goals the girls celebrate their first victory. A victory that is more than a win, it is just a start. It is girls striding onto the field in confidence and showing their community who they are.

-Abi is the Triple Exposure Coordinator and the TYO girl’s soccer coach

*All pictures were taken by Abi’s Triple Exposure students.

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Nablus turns inside out

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On Saturday, 19 youth from Nablus came to the TYO center for a photography workshop. At some point or another all were previous students of the Triple Exposure program and some still are. They came from Balata, Askar, Khallet al-Amood and the greater Nablus area. They came to take pictures and participate in a group project of identity. They came in cliques separated by neighborhood and age. At first the room was quiet as most of these young adults did not previously know each other. We mixed them up into four groups, a mixture of Nabulsi youth ranging in ages from 12-15. The project began.

These young Palestinians unraveled themselves in a profound way. Once they discovered that this was a safe space they poured themselves into the project. The Inside Out project is an international photography project that aims to give a voice to an individual’s community about who they are. It began with French photographer, ex-street artist JR when he won the Ted Talks prize. His project has taken off across the world as people from Madagascar to Canada have participated. It’s simple, create a statement of intent upload a portrait on the website and a large portrait is sent back. This portrait is than pasted up within your community for everyone to see. The process is documented and your portrait is put on-line for the world to see.

JR inspired me from the moment I saw his Ted Talk, “Use art to turn the world inside out.” He speaks about the potential of art to inspire change, to express our hopes and dreams to the world in a way that inspires change.

In Nablus, I’m pretty sure a majority of it’s resident don’t think art can change things. But this Saturday I was convinced that it is often the spark, the inspiration and the place of expression that creates change.

I didn’t know most of these youth before they came. They don’t even know each other. But we all came. They all photographed each other creating portraits outlined by their silhouettes. These silhouettes framed their faces in words, of change, of identity and hope. They each were asked to talk about three things to write about themselves, something about who they are, about their community and about what they want to change. What they wanted to tell the world.

                                                      Suma, age 16. Nablus

I want to lead. To be a leader to change our society so that it can be right (fixed).

Mahmoud, age 14. Askar Refugee camp

Will we ever live in freedom? I want to raise our thoughts, our society’s thoughts, and our freedom of expression. I want to raise our thoughts to the next level of freedom of expression. I want to free our thoughts.

Loai, age 12. Balata Refugee camp.

When I play football I feel free.

I would make everyone learn Hebrew so that we could tell the Israelis, so that we could communicate with them.

-anonymous

 The statements from these Nablusi youth come out like they are at the tip of their soul, ready for the world to hear for their communities to hear. They leave excited with new friends, asking how they can sign up for summer classes at TYO. Art, photography created this space for them. A place where they are encouraged to pour out their hopes, their dreams and ideas for change without criticism. They know that TYO is a safe place, a place there they can do this. They leave asking what is the next step of our project?  When will they meet again?

There’s more to come, this is just the first stage of the Nablusi Inside Out project.  Where we turn our identities inside out to the community.

Once again I pose this question to you. Can art change the world?

 

-Abi is the Triple Exposure Coordinator

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Reaching Outside of our Walls

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Most of the work done here at TYO begins within the walls of our six-story building but translates far beyond into the streets, schools and universities of Nablus. From the physical presence of our murals to the professional development of our women, the impact reverberates outward. Sometimes we start outside.

Today I taught my first photography class outside of the Khallet al Amood neighborhood where our center is located. I headed to Balata refugee camp, the largest and most crowded camp in the West Bank. With only four schools serving a population of over 23,000, it is more than crowded. I was lucky to have a small class of just 10 fourth grade girls from the UNRWA primary school. As I waited for my class to start, the bell rang for break and the pavement filled with girls. Over a 1,000 girls attend the school. I could barely see the cement playground where they milled around. I searched the crowd for familiar faces, and found several girls from my previous sports class at TYO. To their surprise, I had come to their school to teach a photography class. Normally, the students leave their neighborhood to come to us. The girls and I were more than happy to reunite this time in their own community.

Two girls, Aya and Aya ended up being in my class. They remembered our marching by number; they even remembered our English words and actions of the day. I was impressed as they took on a leadership role in getting the girls to line up and follow suit. The enthusiasm and respect that these girls showed me and ultimately themselves re-enforces my faith in the work we do. Class was exciting, fun and serious. Like my classes at TYO, this class will revolve around three themes: Identity, Community and Change. We began right off with the cameras and taking pictures of each other inside of our homemade Identity frames, talking about how emotions are part of who we are.

It is so important for us to reach into the community of Nablus and extend our hands so together we can serve those that need it the most. On Sunday I will head to El-Ein refugee camp to teach another ongoing community outreach class of girls photography. As the spring slowly comes to Nablus, we venture outside of the center in teaching and painting. Rimah’s mural class will be starting their first mural as the sun comes out and we will continue to reach outside of our walls.

-Abi

Abi is the Triple Exposure Coordinator

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diversity

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As the end of February approaches so does the end of Black History month. From Gordon Parks to Roy Decarava African-American photographers have played a critical role in exposing the civil rights movement and revealing racism in the United States. Not only as photographers themselves but in what they focused their lens on. Revealing a part of America un-discovered and exposed to the rest of the world. These images allow us to relate to those we feel separated from, they expose the in-humanity of violence which is now apart of our history. In the living rooms of America black and white images of segregation, lynching, and the fight for civil rights forced the country to change.

These images continue to force change. The images from New Orleans forced America again to see what was happening in its own county. Not just the impact of Katrina but the racism that still exists in the economic form of segregation of areas like the 9th ward. Diversity has become a buzz word as America reacts to these images and tries identify as a nation composed of so many different cultures and ethnicities.

diversity |diˈvərsitē; dī-|noun ( pl. -ties)the state of being diverse; variety  [usu. in sing. ] a range of different things : newspapers were obliged to allow a diversity of views to be printed                                                                                        -Oxford American Dictionary

This week we talked about diversity in the classroom exposing what makes us different and how to capture diversity in an image. Students practiced capturing diversity in line, shape, color and light. Each than choose a theme for their next assignment. Doha, a 13-year-old girl from Khallet al Amood told me she wants to focus on girls who wear hijab and those who do not. Diversity becomes a tool of photography that is important, in the creation of the image’s composition and in its meaning.

James Mollison used diversity to do a photography project on children’s rights. “Where Children Sleep: A Diverse World of Homes” reveals children’s portraits next to an image of what they call home, where they sleep. These images have high contrast of colors and expose the beautiful diversity of our world and the hard lives that some children face.

Another example of using photography to talk about diversity is Derek Brown’s project, “Picturing the Diversity of the Muslim World.” For 18 months he photographed the diversity of the Muslim world. He traveled to 20 different countries capturing images that speak to us through the beautiful shades of Muslims in our world.

It is with these images and messages that I end the month. Let us honor our difference, it is what makes us unique and beautiful. Let each image speak to you through its reflection of humanity and learn from what separates it from you.

 

-Abi is the Triple Exposure Coordinator

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the power of an image

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What better time to talk about the power of an image than now. In today’s world where the image travels with more speed and accessibility than ever before, when its power is magnified by its accessibility – as internet reaches more people the image gains power – it does not need to be translated, its emotional significance is expressed in a couple of seconds and just a glance can make an impact.

The image translates across culture, language barriers and borders. It touches a part of us that stirs emotions and meaning while conveying a certain trust. We trust images to tell us what is happening in the world.

From the transformation of Che’s epic face to more recent images of rebellion there has become an overload of meaningful images. Do we become more desensitized to these images as they become more mainstream, more readily available? Do they actually lose their significance? I got the feedback of my students from Nablus on this recent explosion of the image.

They walked around the room in silence looking at several images, the original Korda image of Che, images of Palestinians like themselves, an image of Glacier Lake, a classroom full of students, the Afghan girl with green eyes and a recent image of an Egyptian protestor. These 11, 12 and 13 year olds walked around with a marker and wrote down their reactions on posters surrounding the images. They responded to each image by asking a question, commenting on another person’s response, critiquing the composition and talking about its significance.

I am surprised by the familiarity of these images for my students in Nablus. Would a room full of 11 and 12 year old’s from the US recognize the Che image? What difference comments would be written on the image of the Egyptian protester, outlined in flame. Would they write, “hero” would they identify with this young man and see him as a strong figure standing up for what he believes in? My students assumed the man was Palestinian not Egyptian. They identified with this boy so strongly they were all surprised when we unpacked the image revealing who he was and what he was doing. It seems the image of the protestor, the rebel has become an icon like the Che image itself. The images are transformed from just their factual significance into something more layered representing an entire movement, the Arab spring, the fight against dictatorship and finally the struggle of any group of oppressed people against a larger power. My students know these images so they do not ask questions about these particular images. They assume they know what these images stand for and the story behind them. The repeated story of the oppressed seems to be all mixed together into some sort of flat image. Does this mean they have become desensitized? Has the image become so popular that it has lost its power of interest? It only gets a glance without much pondering about what actually is happening in the photograph. Many knew the Che image but nobody knew the story behind it.

 

While the unknown photographs created more questions. The “peaceful” positive images raised more questions for my students. They did not relate to, the image of Glacier Lake and the classroom crowded with Chinese students. Their comments regarding these images were positive: “peaceful, the importance of education, working to help educate, hope with education etc.” Several questions were written around these photographs: “where are these children? Where is this lake, is it an ocean? What is falling into the lake?” etc. So again, I ask if the true meaning of an image is lost as it becomes an icon. People stop asking questions while the less popular images remain those we ponder.

We ended with the question can an image create change? Photography and art has become an important part of our world, not only of our history but of our future. It can influence world politics, it can inspire and add courage to a revolution. Photography has become a tool for the masses, it no longer is left to the artist in the dark room with money and education to produce. The students themselves are now included in this evolution of the image as they are doing their first internship as photojournalist. They began within our organization’s classrooms but have started to venture out into their own neighborhood streets. This Thursday they will cover their first real story, traveling to the Old City of Nablus to not only to take pictures but to find images with stories from their own community.

It will be up to you, will their images hold power? Will they speak to you?

-Abi is the Triple Exposure Coordinator

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Girls who run the world…

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Thanks Beyoncé, but unfortunately we do not. Or maybe we do, just from behind closed doors. We do have power, we just need to take it, to express it and use it for the good of our world.

If half of the world is female why does it feel like we have less space? What would happen if half of the world could step out from behind the door and go to school, get an education and eventually a job? When the female half of the world runs out the door and can feel safe in the sunlight, it will be a better day. Despite the right to vote, the Feminist Revolution, Title 9 and the rise of educated girls of the west many are still stuck behind several doors.

Everyday I hear stories of girl’s being confided to these small spaces, of feeling trapped because of their gender. I believe that if we can just offer this space, girls will take it. They will run for it, fight for it and rejoice in happiness as they take up the space they deserve. I know one thing; it’s only going to help our world.

My third week into the beginning of TYO’s first all girl soccer practice, I see this. I see screaming, shouting young girls excited to bring all of their sisters and cousins to this new space just for them. In the first class I remember Sahar asked me if her brother could come. Her big brown eye’s looked at me in shock when I responded that it was just for girls, only for someone like her. The next practice we ventured outside onto the soccer field where the shababs (guys) are always playing. As usual, several were hanging around waiting for others to come so that they could play. When the girls saw this they immediately began complaining, “oh no we cannot play, the boys are here… where are we going to play?” No one thought we could just ask the boys to leave and that they would. But they left and the field became ours. The girls began to jump for joy, skipping around shouting that it was there field now.

They found some space. What happens next? The girls begin to get used to it, they like having their own space. They begin to expect it and to fight for it realizing that they deserve it just as much as the shababs.

It’s not just soccer. In creating all female spaces more girls are willing to stand up. In facing a society, a world that might look at you differently because of taking of your space it helps to have support.  As in many developing regions of the world, there is a lack of space for the girls of Nablus. When they band together they can face the world with confidence. Rawiya (she who tells a story) is one example of this in the Middle East, it is a female photography collective founded by five women that combine their work. Sharing the story of the girl, is critical to the first steps of her confidence and realization.

The girls of Nablus cannot be more ready to take their space, with the camera, on the soccer field and in the classroom.


-Abi is the Triple Exposure Coordinator and a TYO Girls soccer coach.  

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It’s just photography…

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Is it just a photography class? This question comes up after we dive into week three. Can it ever just be about photography?

A family tree.

A blurry Barcelona picture.

A blue sky, three rusted blue pipes

A purple fuzzy blanket

A smile, that makes you smile.

It’s about these images that appear in class, after the students take home the cameras for the first time. Its about learning responsibility, you get to take home a camera. Something special that is just for you to use, no one else. It is your responsibly to make sure that your sisters and brothers don’t break it, don’t spill something on it or steal it. It is your responsibility to do the assignment. To return the camera, to sign it in and download the pictures.

 Then, you have to talk about it.

You have to allow others to see your photograph; you must name it and share it. You must own that photograph as your own. Because no one else could of seen what you saw, or how you saw it.

Now, tell me is it just about photography?

It is about the story.

The story of one image, one photograph that can tell us so much. With light, color, line and composition a photograph can express emotion and meaning into something beautiful. This one image captures a moment that that begins a story, like a ball of thread it unravels and captivates us with curiousity. The story begins with this visual image of the actual photograph. This flat image is only the first page.

Then there is the story behind the image, the middle layer of creation. The story of who took the photograph. What they choose to see and how they choose to see it. Every photograph can tell us something about it’s maker. Every photograph is autobiographical as the photographer is subjective in what they see and how they choose to capture it.

The last layer leaves the background. The context into which the image is presented is the last page, when we as the view take over. It can change the entire meaning of what the actual photograph is. The culture that the image is received in, the time period, the spectator viewing the image all make up the context. The power of the image and what it means to us changes with who we are. The final page leaves it up to us.

These three layers make up the story of an image. They are three aspects of our class, that directly connect to our goals of identity development(confidence in who we are) and our ability to make change with our story in it’s larger context(community and change). Can you un-layer the images bellow from our first couple of weeks in class. Does it matter who took the photograph, does that add more meaning? Does it matter where it was taken and who is looking at it?

Unraveal pictures from our class and see that it can never just be about photography.

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Identity: Who are you?

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Who are you? What makes up your identity?

This question we are forever trying to discover. As humans we are constantly changing due to our surroundings, the passage of time, our experiences and more.  Identity is a fluid concept that puts us in a constant process of self-determination. At certain times in our lives this process is more evident, when it takes larger leaps and bounds. We discover what it means to realize who we are, what we want to become and what that means to the world. Often in Middle school(pre-teenage years) this intense, often daunting time begins. When your own identity is discovered and challenged. At this age it seems you test your identity with boundary pushing, confidence issues and a “crazy” sway of emotions. It is this age that is the most precious time as a teacher, in my experience for identity development. The mind is ready for more abstract thought but still a baby as it tries out the new waters. It is also a hard age to teach, as the attitude shifts back and forth. In my opinion this means work is being done, as the students figure out who they are.

We begin class with Identity, as our first theme. The major theme that covers the entire session as the other two (Community and Change) fit inside of this broad concept. As week two begins the classes start to form, trust slowly evolves and the creative process of self-determination begins. After name games, class agreements and basic camera concepts; the real identity work starts. They begin by drawing silhouettes, tracing each other’s outline against the black wall of our classroom. In pairs, they count all the things that they have in common.

Outlined silhouettes form physical boundaries of identity. The border between who we are and the other person becomes visual. The self and the other, what we identify against or with is the partner. Thus the students overlap their silhouettes and write something they have in common while also including something just about them. The silhouettes come to life as each takes a picture of the other against their outline.

 What is identity? A majority in each class answered this question with, what is on their identification card: name, where they were born, their parents names, where they live etc. I ask them if that’s all they are, just a card?

We are what we want to become, what we want to change. These are the other two themes of our course, community and change. We explore this more, by making frames. On each side the students write something, in the Basic classes they come up with three things that tell us who they are. In Advanced where most of my students are at that special pre-teen age, I challenge them. One side for your name, one for something that explains your identity, one for something about your community and last something you want to change.

Emotions inside of your frame

It takes them at least 15 minutes to decide what to write.  One girl, Doha surprises me. She does not want me to photograph her frame with words because, “My handwriting is so bad.”  When I read her frame, I am impressed by the profoundness of her sentences they are anything but messy. Three examples are bellow.

 

“I like to smile.” -Bar’ha                                                           – Identity

“Our community is not complete.” –Doha                                - Community

“I want there to be peace.” -Mujahed.                                     -   Change

 

 

Who are you? What three sentences would you choose to write on your frame? Identity begins to take form, as the layers uncover and we discover that we are more than just an identification card.

 

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