Togetherness through Painting


This workshop was an unusual one for me. I did not know who was going to come from the refugee centre. I expected Syrian refugees, Eritrean guys turned up. At the beginning it was hard to communicate and get the workshop going. But once I had given them some paint the atmosphere changed. Everybody was focused and the room became still. Soon the facial expressions turned into happy smiles. It was great to see these grown up men enjoy painting so much after their tiresome journey from Eritrea to Amsterdam.


Despite the language barrier we communicated surprisingly well. It was moving to hear that some participants attached an emotional value to their paintings.  Yemane’s painting was a tribute to his faith, note the Eritrean cross in the corner. Yemanespainting

Another young man, Bahlbi had seen  the town of Afabet, which was destroyed during the civil war, in his painting.

One of the non-refugee participants painting was very simple and stunning. It reminded me of “Two women on the Shore” by Edvard Munch.

Keiko’s work in progress

Marta has already been trained in art, and has painted a lot. She was very happy to learn how to make natural and toxin-free paint at our workshop. The intuitive way of working was also a pleasing discovery for Marta. She quickly got into the flow and created the “Snail”.

Marta’s “Snail”

After the painting session, we enjoyed the food that some of us brought. Keiko’s noodles, who’s originally from Japan, impressed the Africans. The Polish Marta on the other hand had chosen to bring hummus which tasted like home for them.

Keiko and Marta

The social aspect of this workshop was very strong. Despite the language barrier and the cultural differences, we were able to understand each other. After this workshop I am even more convinced that artistic expression brings us together. Art is probably more ancient and fundamental to human culture than language.


See when the next workshop with refugees is on the agenda. Thanks to Coffeemania for providing the location for this event!

1 thought on “Togetherness through Painting”

  1. I’m very happy I took part in the Wednesday workshop, it was so nice meeting you and a sparkle of inspiration for my creative process. I discovered a few things for myself, little jewels:
    – I enjoyed painting with fluid paint, it gives more flow to the movements
    – I enjoyed using the natural paint, which gave me opportunity to dip my fingers knowing it’s safe (unlike acrylic paint that feels toxic)
    – I enjoyed using one colour at the time, letting go of the need to choose (which colour/ which tool) I could just focus on what is (and not on the endless possibilities), great exercise in mindfulness 🙂
    – I enjoyed your calm and clear guidance which was inspiring and enhancing the natural intuitive creativity

    It was a bit of a surprise to me that the refugees that joined were not Syrian and probably not artists (meaning: not practicing :)), and I was surprised they were all boys, I was afraid they will not become interested in the process, but you handled the course so calmly and confidently they soon got into it and became really engaged in the activities. I think it was very helpful that you asked help in preparing the paint, explained the steps clearly, and approached everyone one by one, asked their impressions and gave guidance individually. I was very impressed how you created the sense of groupness and communication, it was a very enriching experience. And I loved how the boys called you “sister” :). Thank you for organizing that special event and sharing your energy with us.


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