Tuesday 27 November 2012

Comics from Inside the Prisons (US)

American activist Lois Ahrens is our long-time pen-pal who has tirelessly worked for the Real Cost of Prisons Project in the U.S.A. We admire her work, and strongly recommend a visit to the project’s website http://www.realcostofprisons.org/ See how comics can be used in mobilizing opinion against an unjust prison system and also how prisoners themselves make comics about their lives.

The Real Cost of Prisons Project seeks to broaden and deepen the organizing capacity of prison/justice activists working to end mass incarceration. The Real Cost of Prisons Project brings together justice activists, artists, justice policy researchers and people directly experiencing the impact of mass incarceration to create popular education materials and other resources which explore the immediate and long-term costs of incarceration on the individual, her/his family, community and the nation.

Artist: Carnell Hunnicutt
Two comic books are available from Real Cost of Prisons Project. The stories and statistical information in each comic book is thoroughly researched and documented. As of February 2010, 125,000 copies of the comic books have been printed and more than 115,000 have been sent to families of people who are incarcerated, people who are incarcerated and to organizers and activists throughout the country. The demand for them is constant and the ways in which they are being used is inspiring.

The books are free to prisoners, organizers against mass incarceration and educators in the U.S., but they cannot be sent free of charge outside the country. However, they are available on-line at http://www.realcostofprisons.org/comics.html

Lois Ahrens has also started something she calls ”Comix from Inside”  http://www.realcostofprisons.org/comix/  These comics are made by women and men who are incarcerated, some of them for life.
Artist: Marcus J. Bedford Jr.

Thursday 22 November 2012

Estonia: Comics trainers for global education

The workshop was held at Mondo’s office in Tallinn. To the right Heidi Leino and Johanna Helin.
Mondo (www.mondo.org.ee) is one of the few NGOs in Estonia that is active in development cooperation. Mondo has project work in Afghanistan, Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda. Mondo is also in charge of several development education projects in Estonia. 

Mondo wanted to replicate in Estonia the successful Finnish global education project run by Nuorten akatemia (Youth Academy) since 2009 in schools. In the project, school visitors run 3-hour comics workshops on such global themes as climate change, fair trade, justice issues, and development advocacy. World Comics Finland has trained the Finnish school visitors in how to conduct workshops in schools, and now we were requested to train their Estonian colleagues.

The two-day workshop was held in early November and was facilitated by Heidi Leino and Leif Packalen from World Comics Finland. For the training, our basic grassroots comics manual was translated into Estonian. It will later be made available on our website.

As always, the participants in the workshop were delighted to learn the method of grassroots comics and they were eager to put their new skills into practice in their own projects. Johanna Helin, Manager for Mondo’s Global Education Centre, described its activities as ”very alternative” in the Estonian society.

A detail from Ivi Sutt’s comic on Estonian migrant labour below: A husband must go to Finland to find work and his children call him "uncle" when he visits Estonia on vacations. At the end of the story he decides to remain home, whatever it takes.

The comics of the workshop were put up in the corridor outside Mondo's office. 
Here the participants prepare themselves for the review session.

Comics to engage youth in society

Grassroots comics workshop at City Hall in Helsinki. Photograph: Hanna Arvela.
Helsinki City Hall was invaded by 2600 youngsters on UN Day (24.10). The "RuutiExpo"-event was arranged by the Youth Department of the City to promote different ways for the youth to get involved in matters of society. City authorities, political youth organisations, and NGOs participated. There were political discussions, rap workshops, drama studios, info stands etc., and also a grassroots comics workshop, which was led by Hanna Arvela of World Comics Finland. The workshop was arranged jointly with CIMO (the European Youth Exchange organisation).

The comics took up mainly school issues, such as the battle between study time and fun time, pressure to achieve good grades, etc.

Below Heidi Heiskanen’s comic ”When sleep doesn’t come...”, in which a young girl thinks about her home work, friends, money, pet, sisters and school tests, so that she is wide awake. She writes an entry in her diary, which calms her down and she goes to sleep.

Wednesday 31 October 2012

Genuine life-stories drawn by mentally handicapped in the Open Minds -program.

The comics are pasted up for the review session

Open Minds is a cooperation program between Karkulla, an organization working for the welfare of Swedish-language mentally handicapped in Finland, and VNF Folk High School in Karis, Finland.

About a dozen participants from the program attended a two-day grassroots comics workshop at the VNF School in October. They described in their comics events in their daily lives, and told about their dreams for the future. The medium of comics was familiar to them but they had never attempted to make comics themselves. 

All participants made great comics and were happy to take copies to show at home and in their group accommodations. A set of the comics was also pasted up at the school, which has about 200 students.

The comics tell very vividly, and often with humour, about how the group members look at their own lives. There are stories about love and marriage, hobbies and leisure time, the routines of the group accommodations, and some philosophical stories. Below are a few details from some of the comics.

Again, grassroots comics proved to be a great tool for communication. The method is easy and it helps people to express themselves in a way that gives them great satisfaction.

Leif Packalen was facilitator at the workshop.

- Now I am ready to get married!  from a love story by J.

- One has to think of how to move on, in order to have the best life possible… 
detail from a story on diagnosis by S.

- You are now declared man and wife! from a love story by A.

 -Strike!  from a bowling hall story by M. who uses a wheelchair.

Monday 29 October 2012

Comics workshop at the Megapolis festival in Helsinki

Grassroots comics workshop in the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki.

The Finnish NGO Dodo organised an urban environmental festival ”Megapolis” in the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma in October 2012 in Helsinki. As a part of the program, two grassroots comics workshops were held where comics were introduced as a medium for advocacy and communication.

The participants were inspired by videos and photos showing the use of grassroots comics around the world. After this, they made comics on climate change, on renewable energy, on immigration, and on global and local justice issues.

The festival also displayed grassroots comics posters made in Mali by Dodo’s partner organisation MFC Nyetaa. The facilitators of the workshop were Hilkka Jokinen and Heidi Leino who conduct grassroots comics workshops in Finnish schools in a global education project ”Maailman kuvat” (Images of the World), implemented by Nuorten akatemia (Academy of the Youth) and partner NGOs, of which World Comics Finland is one.

Thursday 18 October 2012

AMWCY making comics in Senegal

From the comics workshop in Thies, Senegal
The African Movement of Working Children and Youth (AMWCY) held an international meeting of its commission group from 08 to 18 October, 2012, in Thies (Senegal).

After the meeting, communicators of the Movement met to work on the AMWCY’s annual newsletter and to produce Comics on violence against children. The comics will be published in a separate publication. The participants in the workshop came from several West and Central African countries and the main languages used were French, English and Portuguese.

Ayenu Edoh Komlan (Togo), worked as a facilitator at the comics workshop and sent us some pictures and samples of comics. Ayenu had recently ran a comics workshop in Baguida, Togo on the theme of flood risks.

We were very happy to receive these news and to see that AMWCY are actively using grassroots comics in their campaigning activities. Comics power to them all!

If you would like to see more of AMWCY's comics go to their website: 

http://www.maejt.org/Page_activite_Dessins_animees.htm (in French), and http://www.maejt.org/page%20anglais/PAGE_ACTIVITIES_CARTOON_DRAWINGS.htm (in English)

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The workshop Hall in Thies.

Tuesday 9 October 2012

Grassroots comics workshop in Nhamatanda, Mozambique

The comics were pasted up on the walls of the college for the critique session.

Jamisse Ofisse, a teacher in Nhamatanda Escuela de Profesores por Futuro (a teacher training college near Beira in Mozambique), has been active with grassroots comics for some years now. We asked him if he could arrange a comics workshop at his college, which he agreed to eagerly, and so we sent to the school a small grant to cover the immediate expenses, such as pencils, pens, paper, copying, etc.

Ms. Alice Elias Madondo showing her wallposter comic.
The three-day workshop was held in August and fifteen EPF students (8 men and 7 women) participated and produced about fifty wallposter comics. The themes of the comics were cholera prevention, hiv/aids, malaria control, and education for girls.

Jamisse told us the students were very positive about their workshop experience and he would be happy to continue to arrange grassroots comics workshops if there would be a partner organisation that could support the EPF, like World Comics Finland did. There would be no shortage of interested participants for comics workshops, Jamisse concludes. Below one of the comics made at the workshop, with a summary of the story: 

A community with malaria. Dona Ana goes to the Health Centre and gets nets to prevent her from  mosquito attacks. In the last frame, the author exclaims: Follow the example of Dona Ana! Story and artwork by Ms. Rosete da Graca Titosse.

Wednesday 8 August 2012

Police brutality in graphics (USA)

The design team at Criminology.com in USA has made a graphic illustrating case-by-case examinations of police brutality towards members of the general public.

This is one way of informing people about their rights – more straightforward than what is usually done by comics. Chilling reading for somebody who has grown up in a country where children are taught that police are their friends!

Maybe somebody could try his hand at making grassroots comics based on the graphic?

For more see: http://www.criminology.com/know-your-rights/

Monday 6 August 2012

"How to" on comics

Lissu Lehtimaja, comics artist and teacher, made this wonderfully compact, yet sophisticated guide for making comics. It was published in the Kiasma magazine in connection with the exhibition "Eyeballing! The new forms of comics", which is on until September 9 in The Museum for Contemporary Art Kiasma, in Helsinki. 

(click the image to enlarge)

Thursday 26 July 2012

Grassroots comics workshop in Sign language, in Tanzania 2011

Petra Juva, Art teacher and Deaf Culture activist, sent us this report:

The Finnish Association of the Deaf has arranged four cultural exchange projects in Africa during 2007-2012: i.e. in Namibia, Ethiopia, and Tanzania, and most recently in Uganda. The Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs funded these projects. The purpose of the exchange has been to acquaint the Deaf in Africa with different areas of culture, to promote their Deaf cultural identity, and improve their skills in social interaction and self-expression, this way also strengthening their self-esteem. Five instructors from Finland were in charge of the different workshops. In addition to myself, the other participants were Maija Koivisto (drama), Marita Saunamäki-Barber (theatre and poetry), Juho Saarinen (dance), and Marko Vuoriheimo aka Signmark (rap). Graphic artist Oscar Lönnholm instructed the comics workshop in Uganda in my place. Here I will tell about the comics workshop in Tanzania.

The workshops in Tanzania were arranged at the Russian Cultural Centre in Dar es Salaam on January 22-31, 2011. Approximately fifty Deaf persons from Tanzania participated. They were divided into five different workshops. The language used for the instruction was Tanzanian Sign language and International Sign, and there were also some participants who knew American Sign Language (ASL).

The first day of the comics workshop in Dar es Salaam.
Seven persons between the ages of 22 and 40 participated in the comics workshop, six men and one woman. Some were skilled in drawing and some were quite inexperienced, but comics were a new thing to them all. Many were concerned that they had not drawn anything since they went to school. Their worries were unwarranted; they were quick to learn and understand the idea of comics. They also clearly enjoyed drawing. It was wonderful to see their development and the joy of the experience.

The method used in the workshop was the grassroots comics -method. The participants practiced drawing, created a story, planned the script, and learned to compact the story into four frames. New comic strips were produced all the time. The group was hard-working and interested in drawing comics; nobody wanted a break when I suggested it, they all wanted to continue drawing and working.

The workshop was conducted in Sign language.
In the beginning of the workshop many participants thought that the most important thing was producing an ”excellent picture”. The content, message and story were left without much focus or were forgotten altogether. During the workshop we discussed the importance and meaning of the story, and the participants gave comments and feedback to one another. We also discussed the situation and status of the Deaf in Tanzania as well as their own experiences. Right from the start it became clear that the participants had a very low level of Deaf awareness. With higher Deaf awareness they would be able to produce information bulletins and transmit information about issues concerning the Deaf to the general public and other Deaf.

Apollo Nsenga, who has moved from Uganda to Tanzania, produced a joke about interpreters: A Deaf man is dating a hearing woman and decides to ask an interpreter to interpret in order to get to know the woman better. But instead the interpreter snatches the woman and walks away with her. Apparently in Uganda it is not uncommon for the male interpreters to snatch the hearing girlfriends of their Deaf clients.  

Many participants began to think about what they would like to improve and which things in their society were upsetting them. The status of the Deaf is weak in Tanzania, just as it is in many countries in Africa. There are almost no Sign language interpreters available, and many Deaf live secluded in the countryside with no skills in Sign language, without being aware or their rights, not being allowed to drive, etc. But even if there are many things that can be improved in the developing countries when it comes to the status of the Deaf, the participants were optimistic and proud of what they are and eager to advocate for their rights. During the course we also shared a lot of Deaf jokes.

A detail from Evaristo Mlelwan's comic strip about a Deaf boy attending school with hearing children. He doesn’t understand what the teacher is saying and is generally confused about almost everything. In the comic ”Shule ya msingi viziwi”,the boy is allowed to change schools and is happy about how well he can understand and learn new things in the Deaf school in sign language. Delighted he tells his mother about it. This story relays the message of the importance of the Deaf schools and sign language. 

After these discussions the participants began producing a good number of stories about and with messages regarding Deafness. Many used humour in the comics and many also dealt with unpleasant experiences.

The workshop of one week was short, but much was accomplished. The workshop went well in spite of small problems here and there. We had to haul our papers and other equipment with us, and change rooms many times, because there was no permanent working space assigned to us. The centre had no copying machine, the machine at CHAVITA (Tanzania Association of the Deaf) did not work and the one at the hotel was overly expensive. In spite of that, we managed to copy the comic strips and put together the comic books! They will be distributed via CHAVITA for people to read, for instance in Deaf schools and Deaf clubs.
A detail from John Mpenda’s strip ”Kuelekea makanisani”. People are praying in church, kneeling, with their eyes closed. When the minister asks everyone to rise, everyone else does so, except the Deaf person. He remains kneeling until he notices everyone else has gotten up, and then he gets up feeling embarrassed.

All comic strips were exhibited on the wall at the closing ceremony of the cultural exchange for the participants of the other workshops to see. The artists had a chance to present and explain their comics in Sign language. I was so proud of each and every one of them! They were also planning to arrange comics-meetings in the future and CHAVITA promised to try to support them. I hope that the meetings take place and the seed for comics-enthusiasm grows so that this activity can spread via the workshop participants!

Petra Juva

The workshop participants with Petra Juva.

Sunday 22 July 2012

Grassroots comics in mother tongue promotion in Azerbaijan

Grassroots comics made in the children's  mother tongue

We received an e-mail from Elsa Sysser, who works for the SIL International in a mother-tongue language program in Azerbaijan. She arranged a five-day grassroots comics workshop for youngsters in a mountain village.  The number of participants varied from day to day (7 – 15 participants) as especially the boys also had to tend to the livestock of their families.

The children made comics about the winter and about the rain. A detail below:

A detail from a comic that celebrates the rain. 
Grassroots comics is an attractive component in programs that promote the use of language and reading. This has been evident in many of our workshops where the participants have always been happy to use the local language.

Elsa Sysser has not received any training for running comics workshops, and used the book “Grassroots Comics – a development communication tool” to guide her through the process. This is possible, you too can give it a try!

Karkuteillä (comics album about street children in Mwanza)

Kansikuva -  cover
Jäsenemme Sunday Ngakama ja Sanna Hukkanen ovat julkaisseet jo pitkään työn alla olleen sarjakuva-albumin "Karkuteillä". Albumi vie lukijan Viktoria-järvelle Tansaniaan. 12-vuotias Shida karkaa kotoaan ja suuntaa toteuttamaan unelmiaan suureen Mwanzan kaupunkiin, mutta päätyy lopulta monien muiden tavoin kadulle.

Albumin taustalla on Mwanzassa vuonna 2006 tehdyt katulasten haastattelut ja monien vuosien työstäminen. On hienoa, että tämä kunnianhimoinen hanke on nyt toteutunut. Albumia saa hyvinvarustetuista kirjakaupoista tai tilaamalla: irja.aro-heinila@artboxirja.net  tai puh 040 8611311 (Hinta: 20 euroa)

Sunday Ngakama and Sanna Hukkanen, who are both also comics trainers, have made a 100-page comic book about Shida, a young boy taking up street life in Mwanza. It is based on thorough research and interviews by the couple while they lived and worked in Tanzania. The book is in Finnish. Publisher: Artbox Irja in Joensuu (www.artboxirja.net). 

World Village Festival in Helsinki

Maippi Tapanainen at the World Comics Finland stand.
Each year in May, activists meet at the World Village Festival in Helsinki. This multi-cultural  event gives an opportunity for people to meet and interact in a friendly atmosphere.

Our stand was as usual very popular.  We told about our work, presented  grassroots comics, sold pins, post cards and comics for fundraising.

Some of our members had prepared new cards on the Comics Power!-theme for sale at the festival, a few examples below:

From left: Ville Tietäväinen, Matti Hagelberg, and Leif Packalen

Sunday 15 July 2012

More comics from Kenya (Batch II)

Some of our partner organisations in Kenya have arranged grassroots comics workshops this year and we are pleased to show a few of them below. The organisations are Youth Alive! Kenya, KCBO-net, INUKA and Gay Kenya Trust.

The story is about a young boy who lost his parents and had to live with his aunt. However, the aunt denied him an opportunity to go to school. The boy is forced to herd livestock in the homestead. The authorities learn about this and the aunt is arrested.
Story and Art by Blind Artist, Youth Alive!Kenya

A young girl is sexually abused on her way to school. She tells her parents who report the matter to the police. The man is arrested by the authorities.
Story and Art by Lydia Wambui, Youth Alive!Kenya

A politician makes inflammatory remarks while addressing citizens at a public rally. Two of the citizens are concerned by the possible effects of the remarks on the peace and stability of the country and report him to the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC). The Commission takes action by disqualifying the candidate from taking part in the elections.
Story and Art by James Okoth, KCBO-NET
This comic is about a boy who tells his parents that he is gay. His parents ostracize him and kick him out of the house. The boy then seeks support and comfort from his friends who accept him, even with his sexuality. The comic ends with an illustration showing that even gay people have rights just like other human beings.
Story and Art by Kevin Mutua, Gay Kenya

The story in this comic is about a woman who is physically abused by her husband, who justifies his behavior as a way of showing love to this wife. The wife, upon advice from a friend, returns the favor by beating up her husband. The police intervene and she tells them she also decided to show her husband that she loves him.
Story and Art by Willy, INUKA

Thursday 3 May 2012

Research on grassroots comics (South Africa)

Wallposter comics outside a store in Platfontein.  Picture from the dissertation.

Health Promotion in Ink: Grassroots Comics as a Medium for Participatory Communication in the Khwe community.  by Andrew Dicks

This dissertation engages in a longitudinal study of the method of grassroots comics (Packalen & Sharma, 2007) amongst the Khwe people in the community of Platfontein, which is situated outside of Kimberley, South Africa. The study is largely informed by contemporary shifts in development theory, particularly that of participatory communication, which values individuals who live in the community as active participants in the research process.

The use of grassroots comics (Packalen & Sharma, 2007) is largely based on theoretical concepts surfacing in current literature regarding the field development communication, which is somewhat critical of older, more dominant theories of development. Instead of applying a predetermined, uniform model of communication to multiple different settings in which varying development issues exist, this study is driven by the active involvement of community stakeholders throughout every stage of the research process. This includes the identification of community issues, the utilization of grassroots comics in the context of adapting and communicating about those issues on a community-wide scale, and the overall analysis of the process once research has been carried out.

This particular study focuses on general health issues and how these might affect the Khwe community from a development perspective. However, what is of central importance is how the comics created by certain stakeholders in the community might serve as a means of promoting participatory communication amongst the local population, for the sake of alleviating certain health issues prevalent in the community itself. The practical nature of grassroots comics as a forum for health communication is what is of particular interest in this study.

Purposive sampling techniques are employed in order to identify key participants and informants in the research process, to present a case-specific analysis of grassroots comics in use, and for purposes of limiting this study. Data collection methods applied to the research setting and research findings are conducted using various qualitative research techniques including participant observation, interviews, discussions and a participatory grassroots comics workshop.

Link to the dissertation (200 pages):

A quote from the study: “What I was astounded to observe, however, was the tenacity with which they worked. If I can explain it in laymen's terms, it was like they were 'on fire' when working on their respective comics.”

Indeed, this is also our experience, wherever in the world we have been running workshops.