The first day of mural class for the women of Women in Warzones (WAMU) began with a ritual that we implemented as a big group every day, before splitting up into the classes. We gathered in a big circle in the forest just beside Panzi Hospital and sung a few Swahili gospel songs, and asked the women to recite the BuildaBridge Motto. Afterwards we gathered the groups of women that had signed up for the classes of photography, dance, and mural and walked to our designated locations. Mine was to meet at the WAMU resource center.I felt excited to be able to teach these women who have suffered do much horror and eager to connect personally with each woman during the project, since the class was to only have 10 women in it.
My lesson plan, which I had worked very hard to have ready, involved panels that the women would paint pictures of what happened in the past, what is happening in their lives now and what is their hope and vision for the future. Each panel would have been divided into 3 sections for each to paint and they would paint the images mono-chromatically so that the final mural would look just like the traditional kanga fabric that Africa is so well known for. We would decide on a phrase of hope to write at the bottom of the painting to relfect the theme of finding hope within your journey.
However, once I actually arrived to the WAMU center, I crumpled up all thoughts of accomplishing this very detailed description I described above. In front of me were 50 women sitting on the floor of the main room in WAMU, waiting expectantly for their first lesson to begin. I sent women to each of the 4 rooms in the Wamu center so as to divide them into groups and then travled around with a french/swahili translator, telling the women about the drawing we were to do that day on the topic of what is the story of their past. They were given colored pencils and the only other requirement was that they use the entire page to fill it with images of what life used to be like for them.
With the help of the translator, I encouraged the women to share in their small groups about what they had drawn before finishing class for the day.