“It made me feel like I could do something about an important issue rather than just sit and watch it happen,” said Year 6 La Grande Boissière student Aanya about her class’ art unit on political cartoons. In line with Ecolint’s mission to prepare students for engagement with the political, ethical and environmental challenges of their times, this is exactly what Year 6 students did: take a stand on an issue important to them, but through an artistic lens. The artistic lens in question was the cartoon. More specifically, editorial cartoons, or drawings that combine artistic skill, hyperbole and satire in order to question and denounce social ills.
For some, inspiration came from those tragedies and world events which are spattered across our newspapers every day: the war in Syria, drowning refugees, terrorism, global trends towards populism and the looming threat of conflict. For others, it came from those issues which have, regrettably, lost their sense of urgency: rainforest and habitat destruction, global warming, air pollution, animal testing. Lastly, some keen-eyed students looked at those ills which surround us, but which many of us no longer see: homelessness or child obesity. For Lauren, this unit was vital for drawing people’s attention back to the things that matter: “I was able to express what I thought and felt about an important issue and let other people know.”
Cartooning for Peace
Another source of inspiration for Year 6 students was none other than the celebrated Syrian-Palestinian cartoonist Hani Abbas who visited them in the framework of their unit of enquiry. Born in 1977 in the large Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk in Syria, he had to flee following threats from the Syrian Secret Service for his politically sensitive cartoons. Seeking asylum in Switzerland, he is now settled in Geneva and continues to denounce the atrocities of war through his drawings.
Hani is also part of the international network Cartooning for Peace, founded by twelve international cartoonists in October 2006 brought together by Nobel Peace Prize winner and then Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, and Le Monde editorial cartoonist Plantu. As such, he is committed to defending fundamental freedoms, namely freedom of expression as defined in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Lending their pens to bring about change
As part of their unit of enquiry, students also explored ways of taking their finished work to a wider audience. Sharing their creations with fellow classmates, many, as Year 6 student Emre pointed out, became “more aware of what is happening in the world” through the issues that their friends chose to depict. In the process, they realised that their own voices and opinions counted just as much in bringing about change as those of today’s leaders, which is why they decided to have their designs published and printed on T-shirts. Made from sustainable materials in Rapanui Clothing’s ethically accredited, wind powered factory, these T-shirts are also available for sale. All proceeds will go directly to the Year 6 student-picked Atlantic Pacific International Rescue Boat Project, which provides rescue boats, mobile lifeboat stations and a highly trained volunteer crew to places that lack a provision for water rescue.
Sharing the project’s vision of a world where everyone is entitled to be rescued at sea, Year 6 students have come full circle in their unit of enquiry. Starting with former refugee Hani Abbas’ inspiring guidance, students have assimilated his teachings and drawn up their own cartoons which have been printed on T-shirts to be sold online, the proceeds of which will all go to a charity that, among its various missions, has and continues to rescue refugees who take to the sea. As Year 6 students Sofia and Julian conclude: “if there is a big problem [we] can make a small change, and we should not just let bad things happen, but instead do something positive.”
Hani Abbas will be the on-campus resident artist from 26 April to 20 May 2017. His workshop is located on the second floor of the Centre des arts at La Grande Boissière.
Discover class 6C's creations here.
Discover class 6D's creations here.