ÉCOLE D’ART AU VILLAGE
Pablo Picasso once said, “When I was their age I drew like Raphael, but it took an entire lifetime to learn to draw like a child again.” For Sébastien Cailleux, these words resonate in every project from École d’Art au Village (EDAAV).
As an international reporter and photographer, Cailleux spends months immersed in the lifestyle and culture of the people he encounters. During a trip to Ethiopia in 2008, he met Leikun Nahusenay, an artist who taught workshops on the fundamentals of drawing to children in remote villages. EDAAV grew out of that meeting.
Cailleux and Nahusenay traveled extensively throughout Ethiopia with fellow artist Eyerusalem Abera, searching for a way to serve the culturally rich country’s people. “We were interested in sharing and exchanging, not just taking photographs,” Cailleux said.
“We noticed that in the southern villages of Ethiopia, many of the people painted their bodies from a very early age to express their social status and spiritual beliefs; children were already versed in some form of artistic expression. We thought we could take this one step further and teach them to use materials they never used before, like pastel crayons and paper, and see where this could take them.”
When he returned to France with the children’s drawings, Cailleux created EDAAV, an association devoted to projects that enable children to celebrate their heritage and environment through artistic expression. Since then, EDAAV has conducted projects in 22 countries, including 15 in Africa.
“Many (children) walk to school without noticing the plants, buildings or animals along the way,” Cailleux said. “We, as artists, encourage them to express what they feel about that building, event or living being. We want to awaken children’s power of observation and encourage them to capture what they see and feel on paper.”
Cailleux takes pictures of the children’s artwork and uses a technique called multi-exposure to superimpose a photo of each child-artist over their drawing. “It’s a way of reflecting the child’s personality in his artwork,” he said. “The contours of the face and those of the drawing coincide, establishing a dialogue between the two.”
The artists who participate in EDAAV continue to introduce new technologies and techniques to help children express their creativity. “Today’s children are born into the digital era,” Cailleux said. “After teaching children the basics of drawing using traditional materials, we provide them with access to a tablet or laptop so they can complete their drawings using 3D digital tools.”
One such project is a digital reconstruction of Gondar, the Queen of Sheba’s palace in Ethiopia, which has almost disappeared. “The children will ‘digitally reconstruct’ each structure, completing their scanned hand drawings with 3D digital objects to bring back to life a part of their cultural heritage,” Cailleux said.
“Providing children with the opportunity to freely express themselves and their dreams is an important lesson in humility and optimism,” Cailleux said. “Regardless of where they come from and what their living conditions are, their vision of the world is not grim and gray; it is full of color. Through our work with children from all walks of life, I have learned to once again become a child myself.”
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