Palanca is an endangered species of the Angolan wildlife but it is more than just that. It’s a national symbol that represents – Peace, Tolerance, Unity, Self-esteem and preservation of biodiversity.
About a year ago, the foundation brought together 10 known artists who gave a blank wooden palanca their expression of these values. The exhibition, called ‘Being Palanca’ ( ‘ser Palanca’ in Portuguese), served to raise awareness among the Angolan people about the importance of the values at hand: peace, unity, tolerance and self-esteem, and to the significance of the Palanca as an endangered species and as the national symbol of Angola.
Going through some of the old material, I found files of the “ser Palanca” or “Being Palanca” project and together Ana and I thought of doing this with our kids at the foundation. We imagined it would be a great way to engage the children towards thinking about these values and give them an expression.
We started the day with a discussion on each of the five values — what it means, is it important and why? can we live with one without the other? The discussion went into talks of how somewhere lack of tolerance for the other is the cause of current conflicts all over the world. The children were also quick to explain by themselves how peace is the blanket under which each of the other values thrives and vice versa — that without unity, tolerance or self-esteem and a respect for our biodiversity, we cannot have peace.
I was intrigued by that. All the children were born in peace time but 30 years of civil war meant that each family had stories of loss and tragedy passed on from parents to children and it was clear how they valued peace more than anything.
After the discussions, each child chose one value that they most identified with and started to give expressions to their thoughts on paper. Each value was depicted by a single colour so each painting was only in one colour. In the end we brought them all together to create one big Palanca. The idea was that the density of each colour in the collage will clearly reflect which of the values the children most identified with.
Does it mean something that most works were on Peace and Unity?
I felt the collage was saying, together we are peace, together we are unity.