In Our Children's Shoes: Event Circle Interview with Ashfaq Ishaq, Chairman, International Child Art Foundation by Willi Paul
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    In Our Children's Shoes: Event Circle Interview with Ashfaq Ishaq, Chairman, International Child Art Foundation by Willi Paul

    What can we learn from children and their art?

    The vision of the International Child Art Foundation is to create a world that nurtures children's innate creativity, fosters their intrinsic empathy, and includes children's voices in any deliberation on the future. ICAF is a pioneer in creating public awareness about children's creative and empathic development and an effective advocate for the rights of children to be creative and empathic. Towards this end, ICAF organizes the Arts Olympiad globally, hosts the World Children's Festival every four years, publishes the ChildArt magazine quarterly, launches Peace through Art Programs and Healing Arts Programs occasionally, and arranges art exhibitions internationally.

    Neuroscientific research has shown that creative process involves both sides of the brain. New research is furthering an understanding of how creativity and empathy are key attributes of successful learners and leaders. ICAF employs the power of children's art, both painting and digital, to nurture children's innate creativity and intrinsic empathy. Interrelationships between art + technology, art + sport, art + science, and art + peace are revealed to develop the whole child for the 21st century.

    ICAF is all about elevation of children's artistic expressions and their voices. ICAF advocates that every contemporary art museum dedicate one room to the living art of children; that at least one percent of available wall space in corporate offices be devoted to children's art; that every city must be a city of children where their concerns are mobilized and addressed; and that any deliberation on the future - be it a local, national or global platform - include the voices and concerns of children.

    As a result of its innovative global programs and dedication to the next generation, ICAF serves as a trusted intermediary between networks of creative professionals and the world of creative children.

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    How does International Child Art Foundation reflect your inner Child today?

    ICAF is now fourteen years old - energetic in its work, exploratory in its attitude, and explosive in its impact. But it still a little charity that needs nurturing and sustenance. At its birth ICAF was perhaps my inner child. Now it is the inner child of the children we work with and whom we have helped. This organization is meant to be for the next generation. We are only the gardeners.

    Do you have insights into how we can teach kids sustainability values?

    I don't like the word 'teach' anymore. We can co-create sustainability with children. The future belongs to them and they should protect it. They have to come up with creative ideas earlier generations have not imagined. I see them as leaders. It is not surprising that the environment, sustainability and health are the themes of the opening day of the 3-day World Children's Festival we host every four years on The National Mall in DC.

    What impacts do you see from social networks and smart gear on kids?
    • Social networks can be informative can inspire. But which one to trust?
    • We have learned the importance of shared experiences for children.
    • When they meet at the festival and have opportunity to co-learn and co-create, then they can virtually collaborate with each other for the remainder of their lives.
    • We also try to introduce smart gear to them at the festival.

    Do grandparents still play a vital role in children's lives?

    We have grandmothers bringing their grandchildren to the festival so they can play and learn together and have fun. Such shared experiences get etched into a child's neurons. Later when the child recalls this experience, she also remembers her grandmother and her guidance and advice. But if children live far away from their grandparents, they cannot benefit from the first hand and familial trans-generational transmission of knowledge.

    I must add that grandparents can also have harmful impact if they cannot resist poisoning their grandchildren's minds with prejudice and baseless beliefs. Our Peace through Art Programs aim to reduce the trans-generational transmission of trauma and hatred.

    Describe the new kids symbols and stories from the events you have sponsored?

    What we deal with, and what we belief is most powerful, is the art created by children. These works are symbols of childhood in our era. More importantly, these works foretell the imagination of the future.

    What children produce at the World Children's Festival for example are murals. Children from different socio-cultural, religious and national backgrounds work together to co-create art. Our underlying objective is that the art they co-create should be so amazing that each one of them realizes that he or she could never produce it on his or her own. To achieve this objective children must understand each other and develop empathy for each other.

    We train them for at least one full day with bonding exercises and other techniques. At their World Festivals the murals that the children have co-created are iconic and truly amazing. These include very large murals (16x24-foot) like the "America Mural" and the "World Mural" as well as smaller 3x4-foot masterpieces.

    Is there a strong global mythic base supporting change in the world today?

    I think there is a growing awareness, or so I hope. People realize that we don't only live in an imperfect world, we made it so. Some try to fix it, others despair because they cannot. Our experience working with children over the past 14 years and in nearly100 countries reveals that creativity and empathy may be the keys, not only in raising our consciousness but also our collective ability to address the critical issue we confront today.

    The children are the best examples. They are least afraid of change, far less cynical and seldom hypocritical. Change and new opportunities excite them and fuel their imagination. They need direction, but if the adults are themselves lost, the children can become misdirected.

    Is Earth Day now a mythic event? How?

    We have participated in the Earth Day celebrations which are interesting can be inspirational. In the least it is reaffirming to see hosts of individuals expressing their affection for Mother Earth. But Earth Day is not a mythic event, at least not in Washington, DC. A mythic event is magical like the Burning Man for adults and the World Children's Festival for families.