“When you teach kids to cartoon, you provoke critical thinking in addition to art skill” — Mohammad Saba’aneh
CRNI regional representative Mohammad Saba’aneh recently organized and taught a five-week cartoon workshop to students at the Islamic School for the Deaf in Ramallah, Palestine.
Saba’aneh explains why he believes such workshops are important: The cartoon is not just an art — it is a language anyone can use to express their opinion . . . A cartoon depends on two items: art work and the idea. When you teach kids to cartoon, you provoke critical thinking in addition to art skill.
You can use cartooning as a therapy . . . At a small center in a village close to the city of Jenin, I was teaching cartoon art workshops for a group of kids. One of the kids was aggressive and I thought she hated me, so I asked her to draw a cartoon about me, to express her opinion through the cartoon. She criticized me by drawing a funny cartoon and I tried to give her a positive reaction, showing that I accepted her cartoon and her opinion about me — so that my reaction would give her an idea that there is another way to express her opinion about anyone.
After three months her mother came to the center to thank me, and told me how the workshop changed her daughter’s behavior. The cartoon became her way to criticize anyone and to express her opinion about anything.
I think my visit to United States in 2010 — as part of the International Visitor Leadership Program funded by the U.S State Department — was the reason I looked seriously into this. When I was there I visited an institution called P:EAR (creatively mentoring homeless youth). Artists and volunteers work with homeless kids and help them through art. It was a great idea, and it got me thinking seriously about working with this idea in my homeland.
In 2011 I held my first workshop for deaf children with support and funding from the American Counsulate General in Jerusalem. I have been teaching such workshops ever since.
I think we have to give these kinds of kids and people a way to melt and mix with society. I think one of the most important ways for that is through art. If we give attention to this experiment and develop a cooperation between artists, sociologists and psychiatrists we will have a great result.
The cartoon can be a cure, a weapon, a language, a business, a joke . . . I tried to improve my ability not just to be a cartoonist, but also to explore how this art can be a partner for the teacher.
The public exhibition of the students’ work at the end of the course was not only a way to celebrate their accomplishments, Saba’aneh says. It was also a way for the students to give the greater community a sense of what it is like to be deaf.
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