Henan Project

From the epitome of urban life to the archetypal rural experience—from Hong Kong to Henan—the artists of ‘Art for All’ were immersed from June 2nd to June 10th. Eleven accomplished artists of whose professions comprised musicians, henan2007graphers, dancers, and interdisciplinary visual artistes collaborated with ---fifty-two nursing students from the Hong Kong Polytechnic School of Nursing and Xinyang Vocation and Technical College in bringing art and health to the Tzijiang primary school in Xinyang He Nan, China. The Polytechnic School birthed the program out of a desire to bring knowledge of health to the rural area. Aspiring to enhance the agenda, Polytechnic invited ‘Art for All’ to partner in an effort to create a more aesthetically pleasing experience.

 

The task set before the artists involved sharing an artistic education and experience with the approximately 200 children at the school. Preparations dictated that the experience incorporate a lesson on health that was set within the frame of a story. The story went as follows…

 

There once was a village that had within it a big, big lake. Surrounding the lake were villagers who threw their waste into the water, thinking that since they had ridden themselves of garbage, all would be well. Little did they know that such a method would ultimately lead to more harm than good. The people threw so much waste into the lake that the gradually rising water covered everything. Eventually, the powerful sun came out, shining on the big lake. Thus, all the water evaporated, becoming a cloud. As the amount of water had been great, the cloud was equally large. Casting a giant shadow over the village, the area became dark. Out of that darkness emerged germs of all kinds—a result of the waste that had been cast into the lake. The germs began attaching themselves to anything and everything within the village. In due course, the community was overrun by microbes and bacteria.

 

This aforementioned story was the foundation for all the artistic activities that took place. Dances were created to imitate the storyboard. The dance instructor cleverly incorporated vast movement into the activity, thus providing exercise alongside dance. In a hands-on visual art workshop, the children created puppets of wildly colorful germ fighting agents. Experiencing the thrill of working with glittering fabrics and bamboo sticks, the youth were able to materialize their vivid imaginations.

 

In a lesson on primitive henan2007graphy, the children learned the power of the sun through the art of sun-printing. By placing organic materials they gathered from home on UV sensitive paper, they were able to create deep blue patterns of leaves, sticks, and stones. The teachers from the school created silhouettes out of these homes images and created another mural the opposite wall, joining in the fun.

 

Music was explored through the creative genius of an artist who actively entertained the children with self-composed pieces. Whether it is a tambourine, triangle, small hand drum or cymbal, the scattered syncopation of our little musicians slowly became synchronized rhythm to the singing and dancing of other students.

 

Finally, the children were given the opportunity to participate in the painting of a 400m mural that replicated the story told. With the help of several artists, the children were able to make their mark on the wall surrounding the courtyard of their school. Using an assortment of vibrant acrylics, they painted their interpretations of bacteria, decided the shape of the lake by employing a connect-the-dot technique, and drew various objects that had been tossed into the water.

 

Although there had been no foreknowledge as to the circumstances of the school, it was ironic to discover that the story pertained absolutely to the villagers’ practices. External to the wall which the mural had been painted, was a lake. In that lake, the children threw their waste. And so, the story became reality. Yet however harsh, however disturbing was such a reality, the exactitude of the situation allowed for immense change.

 

That change can be found within the solution presented at the conclusion of the story. The story concludes with sanitation methods for eradicating germs. By washing their hands and using soap, the children’s lives would be ones of cleanliness and longevity. To help the students remember, the mural ended with a large hand motioning the extermination of bacteria. The children partook in its creation by leaving their own handprints within the larger hand. Succeeding the hands were painted playful figures that depicted the need for cleanliness.

 

On the final day, the story was once again retold through a dance performance, accompanied by an original song. The puppets were incorporated into the presentation through parade and dance, while the mural played backdrop to the momentous occasion. Thus the Henan project concluded. In summary, the trip was an experience—for both the children and the artists. From the artists, the children were gifted with technique and memorabilia. From the children, the artists left with memories and smiles of gratitude. In reflection, despite unexpected complications and an array of difficulties, original plans were executed effectively. In the face of opposition, the diverse group of artists pulled through and ultimately strengthened their bond of friendship, purpose, and unity.

Artists' words

God asked me to love the children—that is my first priority. In this trip, He showed me in a very difficult way to be humble. I realized that although art is important, it should not be placed above sharing God' s love with others. I love our team for all their support and hard work” –Evelyna Liang Kan

“This was my first attempt at sun-print henan2007graphy with over 200 primary school students. At first, the children were clueless as to what was happening. Although they were unable to foresee the results, they obediently followed the examples of their group leaders. When the children gathered around the water bins to wash their prints, I could see their excitement and anticipation. The joy in their eyes as their artwork was revealed reminded me of Jesus’ words: ‘Let the little children come to me’” –Tse Ming Chon

“Thank you, Lord, for giving me the chance to use dance to serve. That day, from a single person to a small group, from a small group to a big crowd—everyone was lost in the movement of their arms, the stomping of their feet. Their joyous laughter and truthful tears will continue forever” –Bon Kwong

“Despite the frustration of a language barrier, I discovered that the love of art is a universal sentiment. Whether a person’s mother tongue is Chinese or English, the desire to learn and the satisfaction in producing a work of art is understood by all” –Janet Tong

“One by one I asked the children to place a dot on the wall. As each dot was connected to form the big lake, so each child was an important part in the final mural. We all have significance in the large picture”—Tozer Pak

"A few images always appear in my mind when I think about the Qigang primary school: There was this little boy, quiet, mouth tightly pressed, and sad. Even though many of the big brother and big sisters around him tried so hard to talk to him and arouse his interests - he kept silent. Under the heated Sun, when everybody was totally immersed into painting the ‘germs’, he quietly squatted at the corner, dots by dots, with his paint brush, he painted yellow. " On the last day, he waved good-bye to me with a smile. I do not know if his life is going to be difficult or sad. However, I know of one thing, those days, when he had his paintbrush, he made friend with Art and the brushes his voice! —Jessica