Artistic Talents Discovered and Nurtured Among Young Refugees in Jakarta

CWS Indonesia | October 2, 2019

    Mustafa looks at one of his paintings that was displayed at the UN World Refugee Day event. Photo: CWS

    Mustafa puts finishing touches on their on-the-spot drawing corner during UNHCR’s world refugee event. Photo: CWS

    Mustafa (not his real name) was born the oldest of 6 children in a remote village in a Hazara ethnic village in Afghanistan. Because Hazara people are largely Shia Muslims and a minority in Afghanistan, they are under constant threat from those who identify as Taliban and follow Sunni Islam.

    One day some years ago, when Mustafa’s father did not return home from work his mother understood that he was next in line for persecution. To protect him, she found a way to connect to a well-known escape route from Afghanistan to India and on to Malaysia then to Medan in northern Indonesia and, finally, Jakarta. Mustafa was accompanied by a male adult, who was well-paid for his service, and he saw that Mustafa got to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office, where he registered for asylum. Once in United Nations care, Mustafa was accompanied to a CWS supported group home … and safety.

    As he settled into his group home, Mustafa joined classes offered there: Indonesian and English language, computer skills development and, to his delight, drawing. The drawing class was offered in partnerships with a local organization, Kampus Diakonia Modern. And, on noticing the talents of many of their students, Kampus Diakonia Modern staff decided to host a drawing competition. The prizes would be for the three best artists to join a year-long advanced drawing course.

    Again, to his delight, Mustafa was thrilled to win a place in the advanced class. After, they were named the top drawing students, Mustafa and two other youth, Taman and Laila, joined their new class twice a week. They had a long commute of about two-and-a-half hours to get to class, but it didn’t bother Mustafa or the others, either. As he improved his sketching, started using colored pencils, plus watercolor and oil paints, his talent awed the CWS care team when they saw some of this smaller piece that he brought home to share. “When I asked if I could bring my bigger pieces home, my teacher told me I shouldn’t because he thought I could sell them!” In fact, Mustafa yet to sell a drawing or painting, but the studio isn’t the only place his work is showcased. For example, when the UNHCR hosted a youth are exhibit, Mustafa’s work was included. And now, because of his clear talent, the art classes will be extended for another year. Mustafa is excited to have more time to learn and continue perfecting his art. And, maybe one day, to sell one of his pieces.

    Art, language, computer and other classes, and sports, are fundamental to the physical, emotional and intellectual protection and care that CWS offers to unaccompanied refugee and asylum-seeking children who are on their own in Jakarta. With support from the UNHCR; the US State Department Bureau for Population, Migration and Refugees, and the Australian government’s Office of Home Affairs, about 100 young people are now protected in several group homes in Jakarta as part of CWS commitment to ensuring a safe place to call home.

    (For more information please contact mkoeniger@cwsglobal.org )

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