Global Music Mayday youthmagazine – January 2008 - edition 1 The Music Mayday Foundation, P.O. Box 266, 1000 AG Amsterdam, the Netherlands www.musicmayday.org
THE POWER OF ARTS The meaning of arts for kids on the streets by Anneke Raven
It has been three years since I have last visited the sporting complex Camp Joy. A shelter for children and youth who have been living on the streets of Cape Town, South Africa. On my return, I find the complex filled with beautiful paintings, structures, heart-breaking drawings but only happy smiling kids. A big, grey hall of emptiness. That was what the entrance and central hall of Camp Joy used to be. For years the only and major concern for the social workers at this shelter, has been the struggle for food, clothing and education for ‘their’ children. As Camp Joy is not receiving much funding, these were the only things they were able to offer them. Nowadays there is a bit more money available, which makes Beverley Petersen, founder and director of the shelter, able to buy art materials. The walls of the formerly empty hall are now filled with paintings. All made by the boys living at and visiting this shelter. For Beverley, arts have become an important part of the counselling she offers the boys: ‘Once we have confessed or expressed our emotions, we are no longer controlled by the traumas from experiences of our past.’ Arts are an important way to express worries, anxieties or feelings of guilt. ‘Most of these children have experienced horrible things, things of which it is not hard to imagine they won’t easily talk about’, Beverley Petersen says. ‘Most of them have never even experienced love in a proper way; the boys have no clue of how to voice such positive feelings’. For these young people, arts are an excellent way to break through negative ideas they have about themselves. But also the ideas people have about today’s youth, especially about those who have been living on the streets. Athenkosi, one of the boys, puts it this way: ‘People think we can’t do any good, they can only see us as criminals. But when I paint or when I sing, I talk about my life. I show the people that I am good at something and that I am trying. I want to be positive and share my happiness with the people.’ Need I say more?