Capability of Art

Kienhorst, Mette Clementine (2014). 'Capability of Art' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, 2-5 September 2014, Athens, Greece.

Awareness and Prevention through Art for Syria

The capability of Syrian youth is demonstrated through AptART's exhibition 'Colours of Resilience' in the main market street of Za'atari refugee camp in Jordan, symbolically on the 15th of March 2014. As part of a larger street art project with displaced Syrian youth, this particular event voices free expression of the youth of Syria, reminding the international community on the same voice that helped to kindle the Syrian uprising three years ago. One of the sparks of the Syrian uprising was the sole act of a group of boys in the southern town of Daraa, spraying graffiti on the wall of their school the Arab Spring text of 'The people want to topple the regime'. The arrest and torture of these fifteen boys kindled protests throughout the entire country deteriorating into a violent civil war ongoing humanitarian crisis with extremists and foreign powers vying for influence. Nine million Syrians have been forced to leave their homes, more than 130.000 have been killed, and 2.5 million people have fled to neighbouring nations; half are children. Since its inception one and a half year ago Za'atari Camp became the largest refugee camp in the entire Middle East, and the second largest in the world, hosting up to 100.000 Syrians, most of its inhabitants originating from the town where 'The Children of Freedom' once used their capability to of free expression minds through street art.


Capability of Art

The development debate left 'the age of development planning' long ago for an 'age of globalization'; the lasting financial and emerging ecological crisis can no longer be separated from a social and human crisis. New times require new demands, to which the Human Development Approach responded with an integrated analysis acknowledging the interdependent impacts of economic, social and political activities of people. Its concept of freedom as the end ánd means for development through resources and possibilities (Sen, 1999), is deepened by the Capability Approach towards values, centralizing 'What is each person able to do and to be?' and 'What does a life worthy of dignity require?'. Qualitative human achievements are distinguished from quantitative, stressing not all impacts can be reduced to a single numeric scale (Nussbaum, 2011).


The acts of 'The Children of Daraa' as the exhibition 'Colours of Resilience' operate exactly in the two-edged field where capability and freedom mutually reinforce each other. Where a governmental body fails to provide substantial freedoms and/or a minimum level of human dignity and social justice, people may find a way to enter the corridors of power through the universal human language of artistic expression. The graffiti and the murals, both created by the social becomings of Syrian's future generation, direct right to the causes and consequences of the Syrian humanitarian crisis: the freedom and unfreedoms of its people and children. Through the creative method of painting, the artists, activists, and educators of AptART transcend the cultural, political, and social boundaries, and stimulates Syrian's future generation's imagination for a different society and reality than they are accustomed to. Appealing to each person's capability through the interactive workshops for participatory public murals, presented in local and international exhibitions, the development of the individual – the micro level – meets development of a society – the macro level. The controversial exhibition in Za'atari's streets claims and creates space (Gaventa, 2006), which counter-voices hegemonic power dynamics, and reminds human kind on the importance of a basic social justice by freedom of speech and thought. Knowledge to empower, creativity to voice, and expression to cope, enhance capabilities for prevention, resilience, and relief.

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