“To me art means creation, anyone can be a creator and anyone can be an artist” says Salam Al Bandak founder of Fann wa Salam.
Salam Al Bandak is the founder of Fann wa Salam which was established in early 2017. Fann wa Salam is a welcoming and inclusive space where children and youth come together to discuss, learn and build life and communication skills through art. Salam is dedicated to providing a family oriented experience where all participants share in the explorations of the world around them, “What is special about Fann wa Salam is that the environment we create is an inspiring one, it allows not only children, but parents and volunteers to enjoy a space where it feels like family.”
While developing Fann wa Salam was rooted in Salam’s journey to share her experiences learning how to reach out and connect with the world around her on her own terms, she credits her mother as one of the major inspirations motivating her to start this one of a kind experience, she fondly recalls, “My mother always had activities ready for us (her children) to make music, create art, and even cook, these memories have stayed with me throughout the years.” She continues, “I take everything I have learned and everything I am learning and inspired by, and I share it with the children at Fann wa Salam.”
While Salam also talks about her friends who were more artistically inclined in the traditional sense, like being able to draw, Salam felt the need to explore her own relationship with art. Salam began to seek the different expressions of art in the world around her wherever she could and to appreciate the aesthetics of art as a form of communication. However, the most remarkable of these stories is that of Shams a potty-trained bunny. Salam recounts how sharing a space and learning to communicate non-verbally with Shams required a sense of sensitivity which opened her up to the world of Children.
Not your traditional art class, Fann wa Salam is pushing the boundaries of how we use art to develop our sense of self, how we relate to others and the world around us, which is rooted in Salam’s personal journey. The message shared by Fann wa Salam, is to strike a balance to discover ourselves and learn by doing, experiencing and interacting with the world around us, rather than relying on technology to dictate our lives and how we define ourselves.
Fann wa Salam’s crew is made up of Salam, workshop developer and leader, as well as a diverse group of dedicated volunteers, and parents. Workshops are immersive and incorporates a multitude of skill learning including, cutting, shaping, coloring, molding and detail work. Workshops do not follow traditional art techniques as children are provided with a variety of tools to develop unique art pieces, which they then take home to enliven their own spaces.
Fann wa Salam offers two programs which are limited to 15-20 children. The purpose of this is to ensure that all participating children receive equal attention and that workshops remain focused. The first program consists of early - childhood workshops designed for children between the ages of two to four. This program is developed to motivate children to integrate their senses into their artistic creations. The overall purpose of this workshop is to create the conditions conducive for the development of the child’s cognitive, motor and artistic skills. Parents are present in these workshops which allows them to observe and learn about the skills their child is learning and how they not only act, but communicate in an artistic environment.
The second program consists of workshops geared towards school-aged children and youth between the ages of five to fourteen. This program is aimed at providing children with the space to be themselves and challenge pre-set norms which links age to capabilities and know-how. More importantly, this programs provides participants with an inclusive space to be themselves, to use art to explore their surrounding and break communication boundaries between age and sex.
Salam has since been busy developing new programs to continue to reach out and expand the scope of Fann wa Salam. The most recently added program consists of an art camp oriented towards school-aged children. Campers meet for four consecutive days and spend six hours together learning about art and culture, Salam explains, “The children will delve into what creates our Palestinian culture, like cooking, gardening, dance, music, arts and crafts projects, and exploring our natural surroundings.”
Programs are designed to develop communication skills, self-esteem, and know-how. In addition, to ensure that participating children are always learning something new, challenging their understanding of the world and learning something new about themselves, each workshop revolves around a theme such as the seasons, nature, identity, language, engineering and the meaning of identity . These themes are then discussed and expressed through art.
In the spirit of exploration and discovery, Fann wa Salam is constantly on the move, with workshops organizes at various libraries, cultural centers, book stories and public parks in both Bethlehem and Ramallah, “We are like a bird moving everywhere,” says Salam. However, Salam is determined to expand the scope of her work to organize workshops in additional Palestinian cities and refugee camps.
“I think of myself as someone who loves to research art, to explore the different ways art can be used as a tool for self-expression and growth, there are no limitations when it comes to art.” Salam Al Bandak
Fann wa Salam is active on social media and regularly announces workshops to spread the word. However, the inclusive, fun and unique environment and activities which Salam has created has kept families coming back. Due to popularity, new activities and workshops have been added and notably, the Fann wa Salam family has continued to grow, with more families and volunteers becoming dedicated participants.
The children experiencing Fann wa Salam are provided the tools to become explorers of the world around them, to let their inner confidence grow and develop the capacity for self-expression, to learn more about themselves and to develop relationships with those around them.
The “holistic” impact of Fann wa Salam is undeniable, positively affecting participating children, parents and volunteers. Parents are part of the Fann wa Salam family, proudly recall to Salam the patience and persistence shown by their children as well as general improvement in school performance. Salam elaborates, “There is growth in their communication skills and confidence which has really allowed children to express their opinions, build friendships, and learn to share with others.” She sums it best by adding, “It really is inspiring how art opens up all communication skills and how it has given these children energy and confidence in such a powerful way!”
To learn more, visit https://www.facebook.com/FannwaSalam/
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