In September 2011, International Alert invited the famous Ossetian artist and humanist Magrez Kelekhsaev to conduct art master classes for schoolchildren in three districts of South Ossetia, as part of Alert’s post-war psychosocial rehabilitation programme.
The children were encouraged to free their imagination and express their feelings on canvas using techniques learnt from the Art Master. In their drawings, the children depicted themselves and their loved ones, but also scenes from war, evidently reflecting their recent experience and trauma.
The purpose of the master classes was not only to teach children how to paint or draw, but to give them an opportunity to get to know the artist himself and to learn from a remarkable man who hasn’t always had it easy, but who through his art has successfully built his life and has shared his talent and insights with his students for several decades. In Magrez Kelekhsaev’s work, one can trace the formation and development of his own humanistic world view expressed through the canvases.
The method of the master classes was to get the children to wield the paintbrush more boldly, using different colour schemes and exploring a wider variety of themes. The classes coincided with a wonderful “Indian Summer” and mostly took place outdoors, against the brilliant backdrop of the mountains blazing their autumnal colours in the sun – though the choice of an outdoor location for the classes was not only due to a love of nature at this time of year, but also because of the lack of suitable buildings which are intact and structurally safe for such an activity.
Kelekhsaev commented on how the children’s initial sketches lacked spatial perspective and were dominated by sombre tones and themes, indicative of their repressed emotions. Yet the final products of the master classes demonstrate a wealth of creative potential amongst the children, with strong splashes of colour and scenes depicting hope for a brighter future. One can see in the paintings an almost instantaneous transformation of the children’s outlook, resulting from a single positive experience.
Journalist Alan Tskhurbaev, Alert’s partner, made a short film about Kelekhsaev's visit and the master classes which is available on his blog. The local press also responded very positively to the initiative (read article in Russian here), despite the general lack of trust often displayed towards any kind of Western contribution since the 2008 war. Finally, a selection of the best paintings will be made into a 2012 calendar for display in schools and homes in the region – a lasting memory of a beautiful day.
This initiative is funded by COBERM, financed by the EU and administered by UNDP.
Watch the video (in Russian) here: http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/blogs/posts/9320
Read some more and see Alan Tskhurbaev’s photographs here: http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/blogs/posts/9323
Read an article (in Russian) here: http://cominf.org/en/node/1166489308
You can read more about Alert’s psychosocial training seminars here:
South Ossetian Teachers’ Study Visit (April 2011)