Colors of Cairo

Julie Norman

Kindergarten children in the Imbaba neighborhood of Cairo, Egypt, participate in a two-week drawing exercise facilitated by Hine Fellow Julie Norman.  Photograph by Julie Norman
Kindergarten children in the Imbaba neighborhood of Cairo, Egypt, participate in a two-week drawing exercise facilitated by Hine Fellow Julie Norman. Photograph by Julie Norman

Introduction by Julie Norman

From September 2002 through June 2003, I served as a Lewis Hine Documentary Fellow with Children of the Nile, a non-governmental organization (NGO) in Cairo, Egypt. As a Hine Fellow, my primary responsibility was to work as a documentary assistant with the NGO, helping them use photography, writing, video, and other mediums to document their work with children.

Children of the Nile focuses on early childhood development in needy communities in Egypt. The organization works with local communities to set up preschools, kindergartens, and childcare facilities for poor, working families. Children of the Nile also develops lesson plans for the schools, publishes a newsletter, and provides trainings and workshops for teachers, childcare providers, and community leaders.

As part of my work for Children of the Nile, I prepared and taught a lesson each day for the students in one of the kindergartens in Imbaba, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Cairo. In February 2003, I developed a two-week drawing unit with the children. Each day I brought crayons and fresh paper, and I asked the children to draw on a different topic for ten consecutive days. We started with person-focused topics like “Myself,” “My Friends,” and “My Family”; then expanded to larger setting-focused topics including “My Kindergarten,” “My Neighborhood,” and “My Country”; and concluded with more abstract subjects like “My Traditions,” “My Future,” “My Wishes,” and “My Dreams.”

I approached the project with two main goals. Primarily, I wanted to engage the children in the creative process of artistic expression. They were seldom encouraged to use their imaginations and draw freely, and I wanted them to experience that process. To be sure, the following drawings illustrate how the children’s work developed from the first day to the last, as they gradually embraced the creative process and became increasingly free and expressive.

My second goal was to engage the children in documenting themselves and their surroundings. While my photographs and writings provided documentation from my point of view, I wanted to capture Imbaba through the children’s eyes and allow them to share their unique perspectives. Indeed, the ways in which the children portrayed their school, neighborhood, and environment differed significantly from the images that I created. In this way, the drawing project evokes the perspectives and voices of the Children of the Nile.

Julie Norman

Julie Norman

Lewis Hine Documentary Fellow 2002-2003

Julie Norman graduated from Duke in 2002 with a self-designed major on media in education and social activism. Julie is a photographer and videographer with a background in media studies. Julie has coordinated and produced two collaborative documentary video projects with adolescents.