TeenStreet Egypt: Art Zone

13 Aug, 2015 | Egypt
Nicole James
Art zone provides space for Egyptian teens to experience God through creativity.
The first time Jeanette flew into Cairo to facilitate Art Zone at the inaugural TeenStreet Egypt, she looked out the plane window at the sprawling desert and wondered, “What have I done?”

Hot and dry, the landscape stretching below reminded her of the seven years she’d spent with OM in Central Asia. But then she remembered another lesson she’d learned during her time on the field: it’s the people that matter.

Although Egypt was new to Jeanette, TeenStreet wasn’t. She’d first begun attending TeenStreet Germany as a coach when her daughters became teenagers. Later, she continued contributing to the European event as one of the home office representatives for OM Sweden.

“I was impressed by the organisation of everything,” she remembered, describing the juxtaposition of “big and fancy” elements against the simplicity of small groups. She also liked the wholeness of the teachings. “I quickly saw that this kind of teaching structure…makes it difficult to be indifferent, to let it go in one ear and out the other. You have to process it in your small groups and when you have time by yourself.”

Watching the teens from her home church change over the course of the week, Jeanette realised that TeenStreet was a positive experience—worth replicating around the world.

Before leaving for Central Asia, Jeanette had earned a two-year art degree. Despite her interest in creativity and her artistic background, she spent most of her subsequent time on the field raising her family and working in church planting.

Facilitating the Art Zone at TeenStreet Egypt the last two years has been a new adventure for Jeanette, one that fits her creativity. “When [the director] asked me to come and join TeenStreet Egypt, my art and my mission came together,” Jeanette explained. “In one way, I felt happy, because it felt like pieces are coming together, but on the other hand, I felt scared because I don’t speak Arabic.”

She knew it would be a challenge, not only to communicate with the teens but also to impart the theory behind the creative space to them. “It’s a place where people can have fun and relax and use another type of expression for their feelings or their faith or their questions or their doubts,” she said. “It’s not meant to be an art class, it’s meant to be an oasis.”

On a basic level, Art Zone may challenge teens to reevaluate their personal interest in creativity. One of the teenage boys, for example, held up the paper he’d created with Jeanette’s homemade mottling paint – waves of bright blue and green interspersed with subtle circles stamped into the color – and announced that he didn’t like art. Or, at least, he didn’t used to. “When I was at home, I didn’t think I could do art, but now I believe I could do a little more,” he said.

Two other teens, Christy and Rafik, said they liked the freedom Art Zone offered, the chance to draw whatever they wanted to express their feelings. That’s exactly what Jeanette wants. “For me, it’s important that they can trust their own creativity,” she noted.

Digging deeper, Art Zone is also a place where teens can experience God. “It has a bigger meaning…in their view of God because we are trying to communicate that He enjoys even this part,” Jeanette said. “Art Zone is a tool to try and help these teens to understand that God laughs with them when they are happy…It’s important to know that this is pleasing to God. If I create, I’m also being in the image of Him.”

Like other parts of the schedule, Art Zone has its own Arab flavor at TeenStreet Egypt. “The love of glitter and everything that is…gold and silver,” Jeanette said, laughing. Most of her materials can be sourced locally, including colors and papers of different sizes and weights.

However, according to Jeanette, there is still one Egyptian part missing from Art Zone: a local leader. “I think it’s a joy to work here,” she said. “I love the teens and their spontaneity and love.” But she wants to work herself out of a job.

“Pray for an Egyptian who will take over…or some Egyptian young people who see the purpose of Art Zone and want to run it,” she asked. “It’s not that you have to be a great artist to be in Art Zone, it’s more important to enjoy art.”

Nicole James is a freelance journalist, ESL teacher, and adventurer. A communications intern for OM MENA, she’s passionate about publishing the stories of God’s works among the nations, telling people about the wonderful things He is doing in the world.

Credit: Nicole James · © 2015 OM International This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


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