Monday, 9 November 2009

Kids' eco superhero sculpture displayed in Russell Square

Kids rule. They really do.

Leave a bunch of refugee children between 5 and 12 to their own devices, and they will come up with the idea for an eco super hero sculpture made from reclaimed and re-cycled parts. Or, at least this is what was happened on one particular project this autumn. The kids were helped to make their imagined hero a reality by community artist Susan Swartzberg.

The sculpture was recently unveiled by the blinged-up Mayor of Camden in Russell Square Gardens and will be on display for the next two months.

The inspiration for the environmental super hero theme came from the children’s love for comic books and superheroes. This fascination with all things caped was discovered over a series of drama and storytelling workshops with Pan Intercultural Arts, a charity that uses arts and drama as a way to bring fun, confidence and sociableness to the children.

Laura MacPartlin, the director of refugee arts at Pan, says: "To have their work displayed publicly is an fantastic achievement for them, it's amazing."

The children drew the designs themselves, which were incorporated to create “Eco Thunder Kid”, a super hero with the power to harness lightning bolts to use as electricity and help animals in need. I don't know about you, but I LOVE the sound of Eco Thunder Kid.

It sounds like the children enjoyed making it too (they say it's neither male or female). Sara from Iran, 7, says: "Eco Thunder Kid helps other people when they are in danger. I made every part of it." Mariam, 10, from Sierra Leone says: "I liked doing the bottle tops and hammering and threading. The superhero was made of recycled stuff like plastic bags." What did she think people might learn from Eco Thunder Kid? "They will learn how you can re-use stuff."

"It took a week to make, but we've been working on it before that for about a year. The kids have put in a lot of hours," says Swartzberg. She tells me that she worked on the main structure of the sculpture, which is made of a chicken wire and for example parts of plastic bottle for the head, and that the children decorated it and even designed details such as the globe logo on the cape.

MacPartlin explains that: "The young refugees projects are funded by BBC Children in Need, and started off six years ago as a partnership with The Medical Foundation for the Care of the Victims of Torture, where a lot of families went to have psychotherapy treatment to deal with trauma they had suffered in their countries." Pan were invited to come in to help the children, and then took the arts and drama workshops for the refugees outside of the foundation.

Liz Fraser-Betts, education co-ordinator at the nearby October Gallery, says: "Because at the October Gallery's exhibitions are from around the world, and involve recycling and sustainability, we thought it would be a really nice combination to work together with Pan, who use art for social change.

A super hero is often on the outskirts but does stuff for the community to help and help the planet. It is showing the contributions that groups can make to their community, groups that are hidden or are secret. So a lot of the reason for this sculpture is to raise awareness of recycling but also to show incluson and real community spirit."