A collaborative project with a fellow MFA cohort and Subject Lead Ms. Nicola Ashton at The Oxford Academy School, and exhibited at OVADA Gallery, Oxford. ‘Duende’ is derived from Spanish meaning ‘the mysterious power of art to deeply move a person’. We worked with 16 girls (aged 11 to 17 years), whose parents have moved to the UK from countries like Nepal, Pakistan, Syria, Ukraine, Poland, India, etc., and have settled here as immigrants. The main aim has been to use art to boost teenage girls’ confidence, something that studies and our observations as teachers have shown they lack when compared to boys of the same age. 

We conducted sessions on oral histories, music and poetry, food and festivals, and fashion and textiles. They created artwork using different mediums such as clay, collage, drawing and painting highlighting these topics of culture, identity, similarities and differences, family histories, etc. Over the months, the students have gradually become more confident in expressing their ideas without feeling shy, and are open to sharing their personal stories, and even realising that they don’t know much about their families, prompting them to initiate conversations with their parents to learn more about their heritage and country’s history. Their communication, creativity, leadership, and teamwork abilities have steadily improved. 

We were awarded a Small and Medium Grant by the Oxford Community Impact Fund to cover gallery charges, supplies, transportation, and artist fees. This project, which arose from a small need, has the potential to empower more girls, create more opportunities, boost representation, and make communities more inclusive in the future. It has reaffirmed my desire to help students to realise their full potential, and assure them that there are huge opportunities if only they have the confidence to pursue them. I see art as a tool for achieving bigger dreams.

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