Gulliver Project 2011
Gulliver’s travels in Colombian schools
By Javier Naranjo
As in Jonathan Swift’s endearing novel, Gulliver is still living through other adventures in schools in Medellín and in the municipality of El Retiro, Antioquia. In February of this year we were able to begin a third stage of this project, under the sponsorship of the Alta Mane Foundation, a pedagogical entity with which we had already performed activities in the years 2006 and 2008, with children from the communes of the city of Medellín. Seven widely experienced workshop teachers are in charge of inviting and leading over three hundred children to dream and create on the basis of different writing exercises, of the reading of excellent books, and of the contribution of multiple arts – to create, we say, texts and illustrations brimming with imagination, as is natural in children who have not yet been instilled with a “correct” interpretation of “reality”. The vision of children undoubtedly reveals to our dim eyes aspects of the human condition we no longer remember, and which we must again evoke in order to cleanse our gaze and enrich our journey.
In ten communes of Medellín and in two rural schools of the El Retiro municipality, which have been damaged by violence and by age-old government neglect, a group of schoolchildren from the social groups less privileged in terms of opportunities and decent living conditions gather around the proposal funded by the Italian foundation Alta Mane and carried out by the Prometeo Art and Poetry Association.
In a classroom provided by the institutions, thanks to the support provided by the Education Secretariats of Medellín and of El Retiro, we workshop teachers met with boys and girls aged 9 to 12, in order, through shared affection, not just to provide tools for developing their skills, but also to seek (in the warm closeness that makes one offer one’s work with joy) liberating dialogue, children’s reading and writing where their dreams, doubts, fears, hopes and wishes for a life of opportunity appear in all their strength.
Gulliver goes to the schools with a backpack filled with pencils, colours, crayons, books, puppets, music and beautiful notebooks that are given to each child to draw the contours of his/her inner world on paper – an urgent and undeferrable exploration of the self, which is the most giving adventure of one’s being.
In their notebooks they speak of their inner world, their circumstances, the world surrounding them; and, diving in that well of imagination and reverie (as expressed by Bachelard), there occasionally appear expressions full of suggestive power, sometimes filled with elusive mystery and poetry. Ah, poetry (in the midst of so many definitions and non-definitions) is –in the words of Paz– a conch where the world’s music resonates, a forceful method for inner liberation. It is true that children often respond with phrases dulled with the weight of what they have been already told and “taught”. Poor narrative where the truth does not walk alongside what is written, or lies masked under layers that veil reality, because, as we know, we learn at a very early stage to hide in order not to be hurt. Those texts are lacking in expressive force, creative power, poetry, which is also the health of language. “The only time my education was interrupted was when I was in school”, Bernard Shaw used to say.
The Gulliver project points in different directions: it encourages reading and writing among students. And, besides generally supporting pedagogic activities, it becomes a working tool which enriches the comprehension of what is read and stimulates the different processes and subjects. It also develops the communication skills necessary for healthy and peaceful coexistence. It explores, through multiple artistic disciplines, each child’s inner world, seeking a sort of reflection and catharsis around his/her personal situation as regards emotional, mental and spiritual issues, and in his/her relationships with the environment and with others.
Introspection in the imagination makes the student a more complex being, and enlarges his/her scope of reality, sensitivity and reflection. It cleanses the senses, sharpens perception, and facilitates a more harmonious relationship with the surrounding universe. It thus establishes a healthier relationship between each person’s self and the world of life.
Gulliver’s visit to the schools also firmly contributes to reformulating the educational processes we keep mechanically repeating in our institutions. A stagnant education, poor in content, out of context with the outer and inner reality we live in. An education supporting the vices and stifling and criminal influence of the powers that be, whose aim is to perpetuate themselves and who need slaves for it – drowsy beings, distanced from the necessary contact with themselves, which would enable vivacity of thought, interrogation, will to change, freedom, the climbing of the tree that seeks light, telluric force... poetry.
The Gulliver Pproject in 2011 has support of
Alta Mane Foundation
Support Gulliver Proyect
March 17th, 2011