Art project with ACANE
Rachel Pain (Durham University), Kye Askins (Northumbria University), Gaby Kitoko (ACANE)
Young people, fear and hope in north east England is a research project based at Durham University since 2006 and funded by the British Academy and Leverhulme Trust. Studies in Newcastle/Middlesbrough, Devon and New Zealand are investigating the emotional geographies of risk - what matters to young people and causes them concern in everyday life and sites, and the relation this has to what are often viewed as 'global' issues. Refugee, asylum seeking, Muslim and British born white young people have taken part. The research is taking a participatory action research approach.
One of the starting points was the war on terror, which is widely believed to increase the fears of ordinary people. However young people are not very concerned about it - either in terms of becoming victims of terrorism themselves, or the impact of negative media images of British Muslims - because for them, racism has a much longer history and is already entrenched in the north east. The focus of the project shifted early on to other problems identified by young people in day to day life.
Young people documented many issues in Stage 1 of the project, but especially racism and bullying. In Stage 2, young people chose the methods they would like to use for further exploration and action on these issues. One is the ACANE art project:
A core group of 21 young people from black African and white British backgrounds, aged 5 - 16, met for four consecutive weeks at ACANE with the researchers. Using flipchart papers and pens, and pencil/felt-tip sketches, they expressed their feelings about bullying and common negative images of African countries. They developed these into images using acrylic paints. These focused first on African countries, and then Newcastle. We then discussed the connections between these places.
The paintings which have resulted largely depict the things the young people feel good about in African countries and in Newcastle. On some paintings it is not immediately obvious which place is being described, as the artists chose to focus on the commonalities. Some include slogans and messages which are intended to counter stereotypes and racism. Some emphasise the connections between these places.
The group also worked with a professional artist to create a digital photography montage which explored ideas about identity and belonging.The work has resulted in two public art exhibitions, a report for young people and policymakers and a website.