Little Wlebo

Participants work together to create the Education Mural, Little Wlebo Refugee Camp, Southeastern Liberia, August 2012. Refugee youth are interested in watching the sessions held in a tent in the child friendly space, Little Wlebo Refugee Camp, Southeastern Liberia, July 2012. (From left) translator Luke, and Carlos, age 20, watch while Project Director Christina Mallie guides participant Jocilin, age 14, in the process of enlarging an image using the grid technique, Little Wlebo Refugee Camp, Southeastern Liberia August 2012. Serge, age 15, primes the Education Mural wall, Little Wlebo Refugee Camp, Southeastern Liberia, July 2012. Ivorian Refugees celebrate Ivorian Independence Day with the beginnings of the Education Mural visible in the background, Little Wlebo Refugee Camp, Southeastern Liberia, August 2012. (From left) Junior H., Mohammed and Junior G., Little Wlebo Refugee Camp, Southeastern Liberia, August 2012. The Peace Mural is completed on the distribution center in Little Wlebo Refugee Camp.  It expresses the way the Ivorian community believes peace is achieved and how it is celebrated.  The Peace Mural was created by 13 out of school youth, Little Wlebo Refugee Camp, Southeastern Liberia, September 5, 2012. Sandrine, age 15, working on the Education Mural, Little Wlebo Refugee Camp, Southeastern Liberia, July 2012. A section of the Education Mural that depicts the right and wrong choices parents make:  a women takes her child to a school and a man forces his child to work instead of going to school, Little Wlebo Refugee Camp, Southeastern Liberia, September 2012. Nathaniel, age 18, in front of an area of the Peace Mural he painted, Little Wlebo Refugee Camp, Southeastern Liberia, September 2012. Participants and Project Director Christina Mallie on graduation day in front of the completed Education Mural, Little Wlebo Refugee Camp, Southeastern Liberia, September 5, 2012. Junior H., age 12, comes to watch the other group work on the Education Mural as his group has the day off from working on the Peace Mural, Little Wlebo Refugee Camp, Southeastern Liberia, August 2012.

  • About This Project

    Revitalizing a Refugee Community Through Art took place at Little Wlebo Refugee Camp in southeastern Liberia, a camp established in 2011 to assist thousands of refugees fleeing from civil unrest in Cote d’Ivoire. At the time of the project, the camp hosted approximately 8,500 refugees.

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    Revitalizing a Refugee Community Through Art
    Little Wlebo Refugee Camp, Southeastern Liberia
    A project commissioned by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC)
    July – September 2012

    This project worked with marginalized youth in the camp to create a sense of place, culture, and self-representation for refugees of Little Wlebo. While the goal of this project was the creation of two murals, the process of building these pieces of community art entailed many steps involving the entire community’s input and vision, and in the process facilitated community building that can be applied to other aspects of their lives.

    Colors of Connection created one of the first projects in the camp focusing specifically on the needs of youth aged 10-20, a vulnerable and marginalized group. Studies have shown that youth above the age of 10 or 12 in refugee camps tend to have less opportunity to engage in recreational and educational opportunities than younger youth. The youth we worked with had no school to go to, and while they were at an age in which peer and adult support is needed to guide them through age appropriate concerns, they had no recreational opportunities or alternative spaces to give voice to their experiences or have an outlet for their emotions. The refugee camp environment itself also contributed to a difficult experience for all members of the community, causing feelings of displacement, multiple levels of bereavement, and the disruption of community and social support networks. As is the case in other refugee camps, refugees at Little Wlebo have no role in the governance, design and organization of the space and activities in their community, and few venues or forms of media for self-expression. Humanitarian workers usually are their only source of representation outside the camp, making for a mostly unseen and muted presence. Facilitating the creation of a community mural project symbolically and in actuality creates a vehicle to be seen and heard.

    Over the course of six weeks, Colors of Connection mobilized 30 out-of-school youth (15 males and 15 females) in this age group to transform two walls of their distribution center into expressions of their hopes and dreams through murals. Thirty prominent leaders in the community formed a community arts council to advise and guide the project. They chose themes for the murals that would encourage their community and oversaw the design and painting. One mural expressed the importance of education in giving Ivorian refugee youth a brighter future and a platform from which to help develop Côte d’Ivoire. The second mural exhibited symbols and images that expressed the importance of peace within the refugee community and in Côte d’Ivoire.

    For many of the out-of-school, marginalized youth this was the first time since their arrival in the camp that they were given the opportunity to engage in an organized project where they could take on transformative roles and be recognized and admired by their community for their powerful contribution. Twenty-seven youth finished the project. As phrased by one 16-year-old female participant, “Before no one knew who we were, but now we are loved by the crowd.”

  • Multimedia

    Ivorian Participant Artwork
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    Ivorian Project Photos
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    Ivorian Project Video
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