Academic journal article PSYART

The Depiction of the House in the Free Drawings of Haitian Street Children: Dreaming of and Recreating a Habitat

Academic journal article PSYART

The Depiction of the House in the Free Drawings of Haitian Street Children: Dreaming of and Recreating a Habitat

Article excerpt

This paper focuses on children and teenagers from the streets of Haiti, in the post-earthquake context, through the mediation of free drawing. While the issue of street children is not a new phenomenon, it has become a greater preoccupation since the earthquake of 12 January 2010, with the increase in numbers of street children, and the growing challenges of living on the streets. These children both inhabit and occupy the streets. They live in groups, moving around, surviving and frequently changing places... From time to time, as a result of random meetings and movements, they are taken in or accommodated in children's homes, before returning - more often than not - onto the streets.

Through the drawings of houses, freely produced by children and teenagers encountered in the context of the research project Résilience et Processus Créateur chez les Enfants et Adolescents Haïtiens Victimes de Catastrophes Naturelles[1] (RECREAHVI, ANR-10-HAIT-002), we examine the concerns of these young people and their ways of depicting their traumatic lives as well as inhabiting both their bodies and - for want of a home - the streets. We also investigate the creative capacities of these children in terms of the construction of a house - a home of their own that they have lost but continue to seek.

In this paper we attempt to analyse the drawings of houses by street children as a representations/projections of an inhabited or potentially inhabited place, of a sought-after house and its symbolic role (Eiguer, 2004). The house drawing is also considered in its projective capacity as a projection of the child's own body as well as that of the family (Cuynet, 2010). Moreover, the house drawings also help shed light on the dynamic between the indoor and outdoor worlds, in which the characteristics of the walls of each house offer an insight into the quality of the subjects' psychic envelopes (Anzieu, 1984). More broadly, the drawing of a house - in particular when it is produced without specific instructions as a form of free drawing - offers us a way of understanding the emotions, (Picard & Baldy, 2012) and apprehending the markings made by the child himself and addressed to others (Vinay, 2014).

Drawing gives the child a means of expressing and setting down their concerns and offers a glimpse in the case of street children of traces of the traumatic past (individual and collective trauma as well as the possibility of psychological and intersubjective healing, support and construction. The drawing paper thus becomes an intermediary space (Winnicott, 1965, 1971) where the child projects and transforms aspects of their inner world and outer environment. Drawing thus becomes a means, a mediator, for relating to the outer world, while engaging a number of internal psychological processes (Vinay, 2014). It is, therefore, a creative act.

Creative processes lie at the heart of child development, whether emotional or cognitive. They emerge in any activity where a playspace becomes possible (Winnicott, 1971). It is this playspace that becomes, for the child, a place of bonding and identification of the successive losses inherent to development. This playspace and the processes it involves requires a sound and secure environment. In situations of deprivation, deficiency, or trauma, this environment is often missing - at least for a time - thus hampering the possibility of playing/bonding and creativity (Winnicott, 1984). However, paradoxically in these situations, creativity offers an ideal and feasible path towards repair and access to pleasurable experiences (Nicholson, Irwin & Dwivedi, 2010).

This paper examines the creative process in Haitian street children through their drawings of houses. This subject can potentially show both what the children are missing while living on the streets and express the desires and defence and creative mechanisms they deploy in order to compensate for these deficiencies and dream of another environment. …

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