I am a mother, a sister, a survivor

A story of female empowerment moodboards

Pinning fancy pictures on our virtual mood boards on Pinterest is an undeniable trend – and a luxury of few. Scrolling down “inspiring” pictures is not an option for everyone, because they either lack motivation, means or even struggle with survival. What if we change this pastime into an introspective process of female self-empowerment? In April and May, The Language Project team travelled to Amsterdam and Verona, to meet 12 brave women, beneficiaries of the program CRISALIS. Our goal was to design and co-create along with the beneficiaries a 2-day multimodal creative expression workshop.

The Multimodal Creative Expression sessions use language, art and mindfulness so as to strengthen the women who have experienced trauma. The sessions aimed to sharpen the skills that the beneficiaries need to become more productive, efficient and sociable in their working environment and also become aware of their femininity, overcoming possible obstacles such as self-hatred, fear and gender-shame due to their previous bad experiences. Thus, the sessions were participatory and inclusive, taking into account the feedback of the beneficiaries, focusing on areas they need and easing triggering points of accumulated trauma through creative expressions.

Throughout the workshop, we implemented several activities aiming at “translating” our imagination into positive and inclusive visual representations of the female nature and women in general.

We started by setting the values of our workshop and the norms of team-work. At the beginning, our co-creation workshops were a bare tree craving for Spring. Each participant was encouraged to give life and meaning to the branches by adding green leaves, where they wrote the values that mattered to them, or  put any yellow leaves on the ground below the tree, where they wrote what they wanted to exclude from our gathering.

The Creative Expression Tree of Values

Our safe space also had a corner we called “The Cloud”, where any of the participants had the chance to take a break, calm down, reflect, draw and when ready to come back and rejoin our group. Near the cloud, we had “trapped” all of our distracting thoughts inside a transparent fishbowl. Any distractions we wanted to leave outside of our safe place would be waiting there for us until the workshop was over and with this symbolic act of creating a comfortable distance between them and our bodies,  we managed to be more present and focused on the creative process.

The Cloud

Empowerment is about considering knowledge as an asset for your life. However, being knowledgeable is not enough. Empowering is about sharing the knowledge to produce a bigger impact. Women were asked to brainstorm all together, to come up with pieces of advice from their personal experience, that they would share with all the women in this world. Then, they shared their future goals about what they want to achieve in their lives, and finally, they completed the phrase “I am…” with inspiring words that can represent each and every woman in this world.

Being asked to draw your self portrait can be quite shocking! We usually belittle our ability to draw, all the more so our own faces! But happens when a self-portrait is drawn by the whole team? Each one contributed to everyone’s self portrait. The result was breathtaking – then we practiced our storytelling techniques, by creating a story about the person depicted on the drawing. Strong and meaningful words came up, giving the women the courage to embrace positive denominations about themselves.

Since all women are currently working in ethical and sustainable fashion organizations, we spotted the need to better understand the use of a professional Mood Board for designers. Two young and promising Designers from Makers Unite and Progetto Quid, joined our workshops to share their knowledge, answer questions and inspire the beneficiaries with examples of designers’ mood boards and the different techniques behind them.

The final outcome of this 2-day workshop couldn’t be anything else but their own “Personal Mood boards”.With the help of the Feelings Board from the Emotions Museum, each woman identified the 3 main feelings about her past, present and future. Then, they “translated” them into 3 different colours. After mixing and preparing the paints, we went outside determined to “Make a Mess”! The backgrounds of the moodboards were painted with abstract patterns, by using from brushes and sponges, to.. leaves, grass, and their own hands! Then, all the crafts made during the workshops, were glued on the moodboard, creating a meaningful collage, depicting each beneficiary’s self: words, pictures, drawings, and fabric, everything that does represent or is indeed important about herself.

 

The activities that we focused on, during the first session of the Creative Expression workshops, aimed at promoting teamwork, encouraging self-expression,  discovering new talents and the joy of creativity. The energizers helped the team generate trust as well as activate their bodies and minds. Brainstorming advice, future goals and empowering messages for women around the world, enabled the women to practice positive reflection, discover common grounds as well as understand diversity and feel empowered to express themselves. Exploring different art techniques in a safe space enabled the women to experiment, express their feelings in alternative ways and in the end ,create their own unique entity that reflects their inner world. Last but not least by gathering in a circle of trust in the beginning and at the end of each session we were able to foster attentive listening, authentic expression, build positive relationships and neutralise hierarchical dynamics.

Being aware that possible changes in any of the participant’s mood would affect the group’s dynamics and mood and thus disrupt the group’s affective experience, we tried to plan the workshop’s flow thoroughly and consider alternative ways to deal with potential risks. Finally, the outcome of the first session in Amsterdam and Verona was rewarding, inspiring and at times pleasantly unexpected. We feel nothing but wholehearted appreciation to these women who trusted each other, expressed themselves, created small masterpieces without having held a coloured pencil before in their lives and made a real effort  to speak their minds in a creative way.We left them looking forward to rediscovering our creativity together in July, during the second session of the Creative Expression Workshops.

Photographs: Solomon and Sylvia Kouveli Photography

By Maria Tetradi and Violetta Tsitsiliani