Peace through my lens: Davis project winner designs fine arts camp for young girls in Jordan

October 14, 2016

The Davis Projects for Peace program awards a $10,000 grant that enables undergraduates around the country to design grassroots “projects for peace” that use a summer to address global social issues. The program is run through the University of California-Davis. At Northwestern, the Buffett Institute and the Office of Fellowships work together to facilitate the grant process. Applications are due in January each year.

In the summer of 2016, Davis Project for Peace winner Lena Elmeligy (SoC 2018, Radio/TV/Film and MENA Studies; pictured below, second from left) designed a grassroots project to help promote peace in Amman, Jordan. Read about her project, titled “Peace Through My Lens,” in her own words:

Camp Eaish group in AmmanThis summer I created a camp in partnership with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) center in Jabal Hussein, Amman, Jordan. Camp Eaish included eight girls between the ages of 10-16 years old and focused on utilizing creative media to inspire leadership, creative and critical thinking, and personal empowerment. In addition to exploring media, the girls experienced the local Jordanian art scene, engaging with members of Jordan’s creative community, and introduced them to available resources. The camp concluded with a community event where the girls presented their final films and discussed their experience creating them.

The camp was a success thanks to local community members: the owner of a local café and a photography and visual arts production center, offered courtesy workshops in photography. A writer from a local creative writing and content company offered a writing workshop, in which she worked with the girls on their scripts and instructed them in the basic concepts of fiction, primarily script, writing. Another offered a day of dance instruction, where the girls learned choreography from different styles of dance.

Several young adults from Jordan also helped facilitate camp activities. These partners of Camp Eaish provided linguistic assistance, developed relationships with the girls, and integrated their respective experiences and knowledge into the existing curriculum. One used his past experience in filmmaking and visual production to inform the girls on specifics in camera, lighting, sound, and editing techniques that they would utilize in their final films. A typical class day might include one and a half to two hours of learning, discussing, and viewing examples of various camera angles and framing, followed by an hour to and hour and a half of practicing these techniques and viewing these exercises together for feedback. The girls felt comfortable bringing in sisters and cousins to sit in on classes as well, as the program was embedded in and inclusive of the surrounding community.

Camp attendees were often instructed to take their cameras home and work together on executing the techniques and putting into practice creative theories discussed in class. Many girls independently began consuming more media, looking for how styles and techniques they had recently learned were being applied in professional work. In addition to class, each week Camp Eaish took private transportation into Jabal L’Webdeh or Wast Al Ballad for either a workshop or arts activity. These included mosaic painting on clay cups, workshops on documentary photography with Linda, and visiting a local art and tea café. Upon learning of Camp Eaish and its goals, members of the community in Amman were consistently eager to help and offer their time, energy, and insight.

Camp Eaish paintingThe camp concluded in a final event on September 6 at the Jordanian Art Treasury in Jabal L’Webdeh. The audience included many individuals involved in Amman’s art scene, friend’s and former volunteers of the camp, and the girls’ families. The event featured a slideshow of the girls’ photography from throughout the program. The girls presented in their respective film groups, discussing their ideas, intentions, and messages behind their films, the films’ production, and their experience working with media. Their final work left a large community in Amman astounded and deeply moved.

Throughout the camp, the girls received information on how to continue studies in film and art. The cameras and tripods purchased for the camp remain with them, and will be used in their efforts to construct a film club in UNRWA. I will be present for the months following the camp and will continue artistic expeditions in Amman with them and guide them in the process of establishing their film club.

Despite some obstacles, Camp Eaish was able to demonstrate the tremendous impact of providing creative spaces, proper materials, and dedicated mentorship to individuals and most particularly, young females. The lessons I learned from this summer have equipped and inspired me to create more sustainable programs like this on a larger scale in the future.

Interested in learning more about the program or how to apply to the Davis Projects for Peace? Visit the program website or email Emory Erker-Lynch.

Middle East, Peace/Conflict, Undergraduate Students