News - April 6, 2010

'Authentic art and poetry is now on display'

Sharing the silence' and 'Colourful Life' are the titles of two of the poems composed by eleven international students at Van Hall Larenstein. They have created a poetry walk which will later adorn the walls during a UNESCO meeting.

International VHL students with their poems at the opening of the poetry walk 'It can be felt, not touched'.
'Dip your brush into the paint, relax and draw on the paper in front of you. Follow my curves.' About thirty international students use an imaginary brush to trace the silhouette of classmate Charles Kwame Sackey. Several students dressed in colourful African or stately Afghanistan costumes stand out from the rest.
'It can be felt', says Sackey. 'Repeat after me'.  The audience echoes: 'It can be felt', and Sackey adds: 'Not touched'. The title of the poetry walk 'It can be felt, not touched' is chorused by thirty voices as the walk is declared open on Thursday 1 April at the bottom of the stairs in the Wageningen Forum. Eleven giant posters display combinations of poems and paintings created by the students.
These are the results of three weeks of work in a melting pot of creativity by eleven MSc students at Van Hall Larenstein in Wageningen doing the course Training Rural Extension and Transformation (TREAT). Involved in rural development in Africa or Asia, these students are currently following the one-year professional MSc programme 'Management of Development'.
'Old agriculture advisory models are out-dated', says Loes Witteveen, lecturer and coordinator of TREAT. 'The students are often involved in conflicts and have to deal with complex processes. As such, they are taught to think in other ways.'
They received theory lessons about communication, target groups, media and semiotics. They visited art museums such as the Kröller Möller Museum. Witteveen says: 'While the material was very new to some of them, authentic art and poetry are now on display. They were surprised that they had it in them, that they can become more majestic when being confronted with other circumstances.
The student Thembi Ngotho, a trainer at an agricultural research council in South Africa, has never held a paint brush before. 'Usually, I'm very self conscious of what I do and say and how others react to me. This experience has taught me to let go and to trust the outcome', says Ngotho, who has composed a poem titled 'All shapes and sizes'.
The course has also provided new insight for her work. 'I used to be concerned about the story that I wanted to tell. But it should be about whether the farmers can relate to it. Most of the farmers we train are illiterate and we used to tell them to ask their children to do the reading and writing for them. It has never occurred to me before that this could harm an adult's confidence.'
Ngotho now wants to develop material with images so that farmers can use simple methods to make records, without depending on their children.
Zoundje Coovi Gerard, agriculture research assistant in Benin, is also full of enthusiasm. 'Expressing your feelings is very important. A new world opens itself.' His poem is called 'My painting is no art'.
Loes Witteveen has arranged for the poetry walk 'It can be felt, not touched' to be displayed in the next few months at, among other events, a UNESCO meeting in Geneva and a meeting of the International Association for Media and Communication Research in Portugal.