Peacepainting is an organisation that exists to remind the adult world what it means to think like a child. Using the same format, same frames and same canvas's children across the world are taking part in painting workshops to express themselves.
"Children think what they say from their heart may be able help someone. Children and youth want to give to others," said Peacepainting's founder Catrine Gangstø.
Paintings from the project have been exhibited all across the world in schools, airport, underground, shops and places where political decisions are likely to take place. In Norway alone they have been hosted on the walls of the prime-minister offices, foreign departments, defence departments, embassies.
Gangstø, based in Norway, was born with synesthesia. This means she sees colours on everything including sound. Her natural attraction to art and colours along with her interest in peace-building led her to create the project.
"Every child likes to paint. Not all have had the chance to paint with good quality equipment and colours but they can in the workshops" she says. She explained how she'd like paintings to be used as a way for the children to connect with their feelings when they are older.
After the workshop, the child can decide which of their three paintings they wish to take home and which they would like to be exhibited. Gangstø said it is important the children put their paintings on the walls of their home: "We need peace in the family and we need peace in the heart". Because the paintings are created in the same format, they can be exchanged like letters from one part of the world to another.
Before 2007 when Peacepainting became Gangstø's full time job, she worked as a teacher and an artist. She grew up in Finnmark at the top of Norway. Gangstø said "In Norway there are different minorities living side by side."
The project took 20 years to set up. Gangstø says this is also because she spent time looking after her seven children. Since 2007, 80 percent of the children in her local town have taken part in the project. In 2009 Peacepainting became international, the first workshop taking place in Tunisia. Gangstø is building networks in many countries including, North Korea, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, France, Norway, Russia.
In a world that plays witness to conflict, aggression and intolerance of minorities, the Peacepainting initiative offers a more simplistic, humanistic way of thinking. Gangstø said: "I really want the children and the youth to have a feeling to reach out with their voice because small children are so wise. They are naïve but wise. They say things very clearly and original. And I think the adult world need to be reminded of what it's like to be a child."
Gangstø said she will soon be working in Oslo with children from different religions. Mosques, Synagogues and Churches will all be involved with the exhibition. She said she would like to come to the United Kingdom and start Peacepainting here. Her daughter Dagrun Gangstø hopes to start Peacepainting at City University London. To learn more about Peacepainting, visit:
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