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Sankofa Mural Painting

The idea for the mural painting germinated from one of the Sankofa youth saying, ‘These walls are so boring?’ So, we painted one!

The youth along with an artist facilitator, Gillian Mapp, embarked on the journey of crossing the bridge from reflecting on themes of self and community to presenting them in visual shapes. In 10 Sankofa Program Sessions, there was a ‘coming together’ to make decisions; themes to select out of the brainstorming list, drawings to choose from a stack of individual representation of themes, ‘what will go where’ questions to resolve hunched over a draft and colours to choose etc.

One thing that was not decided was who would paint what on the wall. We did it together. I do not know the number of hands holding brushes that have painted on the wall. Some youth were there throughout, like Fatomata, who was our sun painter. Some new ones joined Sankofa with the eagerness to learn how to paint, like Nagalaxmi and Monica and were with us till the end. Youth from Adam Refugee House came for a visit and stayed to paint. There was always a spot on the wall waiting to be filled in and you could carry on where the previous brush had stopped its strokes.

Gillian had replied to a youth’s anxiety of messing up by saying ‘you do not make mistakes in painting. I think there are only beautiful accidents. And if it is not what you want, you can paint over.’ We did that too. Sometimes, drops of blue paint dripped on the red part while painting, we dabbed it with tissue and sponge. Sometimes, there were patches in a colour and someone else evened it out by applying the second coat. Sometimes we sat, stood on a ladder or hunched down to paint.


In case you are wondering what the mural means; the rose is for love, the crown on an African girl for empowerment, Earth for everyone sharing a planet, the sun for positive energy and the drip, well that is just there because it is cool!

In the beginning, one of the youth had said I can’t paint a mural painting. And she was one of those that did.

Saher Shaikh
Sankofa Program

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