The Offscreen Education Programme is run by artists and teachers, and aims to encourage cultural understanding through creative experiences, particularly between the UK, Middle East and the wider Islamic world. Offscreen's vision is 'to enable creative contact across borders, that so often lead us to conflict' and this vision is at the heart of its programme and range of resources on offer.
In this project, Offscreen and Highgate Wood School in London worked with all of Year 9 as part of a Discover the Arab World day initiated by the British Museum. The project began with a small group of teachers and students who prepared a mural template by selecting, arranging and discussing motifs from the Offscreen resources (see weblink below). Whole classes then worked on the mural as part of a carousel of activities enabling all 250 students to contribute towards its completion. Students sat together around the mural whilst an Offscreen PowerPoint presentation helped explain imagery and prompt discussion. All students had opportunity to develop a section of the mural using the resources available, and to discuss the images and content with visiting artists who had direct experience of the Arab and Islamic world.
The aims of the project were to raise teacher and pupil awareness of Arab and Islamic creative media, to counter misleading impressions of Arab and Islamic achievement and to enrich and extend pupils' experience and skills.
Through both individual and collective engagement in the process of making, through discussions about form and content, imagery and symbolism, students can contextualise and deconstruct the range of imagery they are employing. The collaborative processes encourage both teacher and students to explore their own and others' perceptions of Islamic and Middle Eastern culture and foster cross-cultural understanding. The completed mural is now hung in the school assembly hall.