Revd. Rosheen Browning, curate and artist, reports on the making of a mural at the festival for children and young people.
Children and young people from across the Diocese of Rochester gathered for a Festival in July called ‘Make Your Mark’. It intended to explore how Christians make a difference to the communities where they live, work and play. The challenge for the organisers was to actively involve all ages from 0 to 17 years and my job was to organise a mural – a visual legacy that would connect with the theme.
My mind went off in two directions. First, to Christian character. Christians of all ages can make a difference to the people around them simply by being loving, patient, kind, tolerant and honest. This makes more of an impact than we often realise. The result of a faith in Christ means that the Holy Spirit is at work within us producing fruit, (as detailed in Galatians 5: 22-23). We often don’t even recognise it in ourselves — it is what others see in us. I hoped that the children and young people could start to identify this fruit in themselves, or that their peers and family members could recognise the qualities in them. Too often young people know what their faults are rather than their gifts and skills which leads them to undervalue themselves. This artistic expression had the potential to help them see their worth, in Gods eyes.
Secondly, I wanted to explore the idea of a literal and visual expression of the phrase ‘making your mark’. Mark-making is an intrinsic desire within humanity. It has been a way of communicating and a form of artistic expression since the dawn of creation. We are made in the image of God and have an in-built desire to create. These expressions are found all over the world but the earliest known examples are in Australia. The tradition has been kept alive by the aboriginal people. The caves there have been covered in hands silhouetted with colours in contrast to the bare rock. This led me to the idea that all ages can contribute to this mural with their hand-print which is unique to them. It is quite literally a ‘hands-on’ way of getting involved.
Inspired by contemporary Aboriginal paintings, I recognised that hand-prints could be further personalised by surrounding them with coloured dot patterns. This effect could be produced successfully using dowelling, the wrong end of a paintbrush or even fingerprinting with acrylic paint. Ear-buds were also recommended to me and these proved very effective when I experimented at home.
I then combined the two ideas by identifying twelve characteristics of the gifts or fruits of the Spirit and chose a different colour for each one. Realising that not all children and young people might be familiar with words such as ‘humble’ or ‘wise’, I tackled the jargon by producing word clouds for each one. This was an interesting exercise in itself. Choosing three colours each the mural quickly became very colourful and patterned and even the older children got engrossed in it.
It was a privilege to chat with the children and young people about their giftings in such an affirming way. Producing art can be an act of worship. It can be a response to God for what he has done for you and a way of praising him for how he has made you a unique and wonderful person (Psalm 139). My hope and prayer is that those who participated in the mural, not only enjoyed it, but found something of God in the experience.
If you would like to view the mural, which is made up of five panels, then please contact Cheryl Trice at the Diocesan Office or firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like ideas to produce something similar then please do not hesitate to contact me at email@example.com.