Self portraits, sandwiches, and a mini-history lesson

Rosa Druker

Pintando La Parva: Afterschool art classes at La Parva school. Viña del Mar, Chile.

Week Three

The bad news: the teachers are still on strike with no easy solution in sight. The good news: twelve students came to my class and we shared food and made art. Me and Belén, the art teacher at La Parva, had aggressively launched a campaign to spread the word: calling students, messaging them on watsapp (apparently I am shockingly out of date for not using the online-messaging app), and telling everybody to invite their friends. Plus the added incentive of free food. I looked around at twelve young faces gathered around the table, and launched into my earth-shatteringly inspired speech. “Can anyone tell me what a mural is?” Murals are for everybody. Murals send a message. “What themes can a mural have?” Anti-bullying, friendship, protecting the environment.

Getting ready before class.

Getting ready before class.

Our first activity was to draw self-portrait caricatures on big sheets of paper, to represent our unique characteristics. I walked around the room offering encouragement and admiring their handiwork. I kept having the same exchange again and again:

Me: Wow, that looks great.

Student: It’s ugly/bad. I don’t know how to draw hands/eyes/hair.

Me: You know it doesn’t have to be realistic, right?
Student: *looks at me suspiciously*

Finished products!

Finished products!

Seeing this attitude made me realize why I am here in Chile, doing this project. The students have a timidness with their creativity and self-expression, and there is value in whatever small my workshops change that, or open up their confidence.


In 2006, high school students went on strike for approximately two months, culminating in some of the largest political demonstrations in the past 30 years in Chile. Students in schools all over the country were occupied by students. They were demanding, in short, a more equal education system with better accessibility.
The catalyst of the wide-spread dissatisfaction? Under the Pinochet dictatorship, the legal framework for education was laid into place, and has remain relatively intact, despite the public condemnation of the regime. This neo-liberal policy minimizes the state’s responsibility for education, and puts it into the hands of private corporations and local government. As I explained in my previous post, education had become commodified. These protests set the precedence for social activism and strikes in the schools. However, many of the demands made by students where not met, and continue incite frustration and tension.

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