The ability of a person to leave a mark on the world around them brings a certain amount of pride and ownership. It is no longer the world they live in, but a world that they belong to. One of mankind’s earliest forms of personal expression is murals.
From caves and pyramids to palaces, murals have been an important staple in human society. They are a means for people to weave and tell their stories, from everyday life to mighty deeds. It is not mere art but a form in which expression, emotion and intent are key, not only to the artist but to those in his or her society that view them. This historical art form has been taken up by Palestinian students in the Gaza strip as part of a programme for “School Beautification.” In this program 145 schools are given the opportunity for teachers and students to reanimate their educational world with life and personality that reflects their hopes, dreams and values, through murals.
This initiative has been made possible through a partnership between UNICEF and the Ministry of Education and the General Union of Cultural Centers (GUCC), with funding from Qatar Development Fund through Al Fakhoora (a programme of Education Above All foundation). This cooperative project highlights arts in public schools by utilizing recycled materials in painting murals using various designs, visions, and techniques, along with providing training for 300 teachers.
The project has been extremely well received in the halls of education in Gaza, with hundreds of murals painted. The tone and variety of murals are as diverse as the student bodies that have created them, with subjects ranging from the desire for peace to themes of health, education and strength. This programme has given students the opportunity to have their voices heard in a very profound, physical way.
The school beautification project makes an important statement to, and for, all of those involved, as it mirrors the renewal of the world around them. Many of the participating schools have been damaged due to ongoing violence in the region and are being repaired or rebuilt, in essence offering the academic world and society at large a chance to move forward. What better way for students and teachers to begin their new lives than by leaving their own personal marks on the walls of their schools, as a concrete representation of their new beginning.