Sunday, December 25, 2011

 As a new feature of this blog, we will be featuring reflections on social justice issues/programs/experiences of art therapists around the world. Our hope is to create a network of art therapists interested in  talking, collaborating and supporting one another in social justice efforts. Our first offering is by Johanna Czamanski-Cohen. I had the great pleasure of meeting Jo recently in Beersheva, Israel and invited her to share her thoughts.


"In 2007 I moved back to Israel after living in the States for 11 years. One of my reasons for returning home is that I felt unable to affect change in Israel from afar. I want peace in our region more than anything else. I felt that since I wasn’t “suffering” along with everyone else, I didn’t have the right to oppose what is happening here, or voice my opinion whatsoever.
This is my fourth Hanukkah (The holiday of Light) in Israel since our return, and while I wish I could say that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, I can say that I am involved in two projects that are working towards creating sparks.
One is “The Global Art Project for Peace” (http://www.globalartproject.org/), initiated by Katherine Josten in my previous hometown of Tucson, AZ. The second is the “Hagar Association: Jewish Arab education for equality” (http://hajar.org.il), where my kids go to school. This year, Hagar kids will be making art for the Global Art project. Art is often used in our school as a bridge, as a form of expression and as a way of creating community.  In the picture above you can see a neighborhood created from found objects by my daughter’s kindergarten in 2007.
Recently my six year old asked me, “Mommy, who is the genius who invented bi-lingual education?” I proceeded to cite the names of the parents of his good friends who initiated the creation of our school. “No”, he said, “I mean the whole idea of bilingualism, the bringing together of two nations”.
The sign in Hebrew and Arabic in the above picture reads: “Welcome to the Hagar neighborhood”.  And what a welcoming neighborhood it is. My son is right, the idea is genius, and simple like most genius things are. You put a group of kids (or willing adults) together and they find out that we are all human and have more in common than we initially thought. Alas, we can even be friends. Putting art and peace-making together is yet another act of genius and simplicity. I will continue to go to anti-war rallies and protest injustice where I see it, but social change is much better in the form of doing: Creating sparks, bringing people closer, creating community and using art: that is social justice art therapy for me.
Happy holidays to people of all faiths everywhere."
Johanna Czamanski-Cohen is an art therapist and Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of Arizona. She is a PhD student at the Center for Women’s Health Studies and Promotion, Social Work Department Ben Gurion University of the Negev. Jo can be contacted at:joletgo@gmail.com
If you have a story to share about work that is changing the world or a person we should highlight, or an issue you'd like to see us write about please send the info. along to: pat.allen6@gmail.com