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Students illustrate human dignity


A student displays her snowflake art at the Invisible Dignity Project student exhibition in Winnipeg.

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February 15, 2008
- by Aaron Epp, with files from Deborah Froese

Winnipeg, Man. — In Matthew 18, Jesus demonstrates how adults can learn about faith from children. Ray Dirks, curator at the Mennonite Heritage Centre Gallery believes adults can also learn about dignity from them. The Gallery is a ministry of Mennonite Church Canada.

As part of the gallery’s ongoing Invisible Dignity Project, an exhibition of art by middle- and senior-year students from River East Transcona School Division debuted. Begun last year, the project consists of a series of exhibitions, concerts and other events on the theme of human dignity.

When Dirks was asked to join the project’s organizing committee, he suggested getting schools involved. “Teachers and, so importantly, students have reacted with great enthusiasm,” he said.

The work exhibited ranged from black and white photography to silk art snowflakes to portraits students created of people they believe have dignity.

“I learned that everyone has dignity inside them,” said Belle, a Grade 8 student. “Sometimes they just hide it, so you have to bring it out in them.”

Taking part in the exhibit “meant a lot to me,” said Lisa, a Grade 12 student. She is sensitive to the plight of people neglected by society and has volunteered at a soup kitchen in Winnipeg’s inner city to help.

These sentiments were echoed by a student named Alexa who, in the write-up accompanying her piece, wrote, “You can’t understand human dignity without action.”

Dirks is not surprised by the students’ insights. “You look at pop culture and it fills you with despair, because it’s largely about material things and celebrities who are doing nothing important,” he said, adding, though, that “if you go to schools and let kids wrestle with issues, you’ll find they’re eager to get involved.