The Dun Laoghaire Festival of World Culture Public Education Project was initiated by Dundrum Rathdown Youth Service as a youth led public education project focused on the theme of interculturalism to be coordinated by Zambian artist Stary Mwaba who was visiting Ireland in 2008 with 80:20 Educating and Acting for a Better World.
The project revolved around a group of young people from the Dundrum/Dun Laoghaire area designing and delivering an art platform with which to interact with the public and the festival of World Cultures.
The project involved extensive individual, small and large group activity; the design and delivery of a wall mural incorporating interactivity with the public and engagement with intercultural and human rights issues.
The project involved a range of development education (DE) activities including group discussion and debate; research and documentation; public relations and communication and most importantly public presentation and debate.
Initially, the project was conceived and designed by 20 young people and youth leaders from the Castle Youth Project, Ballyogan Youth Project, Shanganagh Youth Project, Dundrum Rathdown Youth Service, Presentation College, Bray, the Arts Office of Dun Laoghaire Council and 80:20 Educating and Acting for a Better World.
The project (an interactive mural on the project theme) was then displayed and ‘completed’ with input from over 1,500 people at the festival.
The project was co-ordinated by Stary Mwaba, one of Zambia’s best known artists.
The initial design and preliminary development of the mural and its agreed theme – ‘Cultures Colliding’ took place over a full week in the lead up to the Festival. The participants worked to deliver phase 1 of the project for approximately 6 hours per day for 4 days.
The mural was then erected at the festival and completed over two additional days.
3 Big Ideas
- Art is a highly productive and attractive medium through which to engage with DE issues, especially when delivered in a partnership with an African artist and Irish youth
- Festival opportunities such as those provided by the Festival of Cultures are ‘must’ in planning and delivering DE
- Developing an interactive approach where the public are invited to engage makes DE more accessible and relevant
The main platform for the project was the 8 panel mural on the theme; design and delivery materials – paint, brushes, overhead projectors, drawing materials and a solid stand for displaying the mural.
The core components of the project included:
- The identification of potential participating organisations and individuals
- Negotiation of the project with the Council Arts Office
- Building rapport and trust between artist and participants
- Agreeing and negotiating the focus of the mural itself and its visualisation
- Development of the necessary skills amongst participants for designing the work itself, for engaging with the public (there was initial lack of confidence on this component) and promotional skills during the Festival
- The necessary photography for the project
- The development of the project video (see below).
The main learning included the following:
- having a fully professional and skilled Zambian artists such as Stary added hugely to the ‘value’ of the project – he captured much public interest and attention and comment
- the visibility of such an artist co-ordinating the project with Irish youth generated considerable feedback and highlighted a key dimensions of the overall project
- young people require considerable support and encouragement at the outset of such a project if they are to develop the necessary skills base and confidence to ‘perform’ in public
- the increase in the different levels and diversity of confidence and skills within the group clearly visible as the project progressed
Added value for the festival according to the organisers
- an African artist supporting local youth with a focus on our challenges vis-a-vis interculturalism
- involving young people from areas that didn’t normally ‘relate’ to the Festival
- contributing to inputs from the public rather than passive consumption of the Festival
On public education
- very positive public response especially as regards being invited to express their views directly on the mural
- art attracts the public more immediately than words
- very enthusiastic take up from a broad range of partners not previously involved in DE per se
- needed to do preliminary work with youth leaders to ensure they were ‘up to speed’
- young people respond best if their peers remain involved.
The central evaluation of the project was provided by the public through their input as highlighted on the video below. The level of interaction was considerable.
The assessment completed by the youth leaders from the participating organisations was very positive in that some of those participating would never have done so in a similar fashion prior to the project.
There were some participants remained reluctant to engage with the public lacking the necessary confidence and skills.
Links to Project Activities
The learning from the project and other mural based projects have been presented in a development education resource for educators titled Thinking Art Making Art in Development and Human Rights Education (2009) by John Johnston, Stary Mwaba and Colm Regan, 80:20 Educating and Acting for a Better World.
The project was supported by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, Festival of World Cultures, National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI), Concern Worldwide and Irish Aid.