When you think of rabies education, murals may not be the first thing that springs to mind. But here at Mission Rabies, we've used the skills of a local artist and some of our international volunteers to harness the power of murals for the purpose of educating more children and communities about rabies.
Graphic art in the form of murals is one of the oldest representations of art married with story-telling; it can be found everywhere in the world, from urban city centres to small rural villages. Per definition, a mural is a work of art, an image which is painted directly on a wall. The grand nature of them means that many aspects and attributes can be added to their purpose.
Murals have a deep historical relevance, with some of the oldest dating back to around 30,000 BC. They have been widely used to preserve cultural identity since a time in human history before the written word. In modern times they have been an invaluable tool for social, ethnic, or political groups as an avenue for expression that otherwise could not exist. The advantage of having your art and message in public for all to see makes murals an incomparable tool for many people trying to communicate a point of view and reach the masses.
Mission Rabies recognises the ability of murals to showcase creativity and increase artistic skills while creating a better understanding of our life-saving message of rabies awareness. In the past three years we have created seven murals at six different locations linked to our project in Blantyre, Malawi.
"It was very important to me to create an activity with high educational impact that also helps us distribute rabies knowledge. These beautiful murals are an effective teaching tool that captivate both students and teachers alike!", says Deborah M. Rodríguez García, Mission Rabies’ Africa Education Programme Coordinator.
In 2016 we had an artist, Louis Masai, create three wonderful murals to promote positive attitudes towards dogs. The following year we asked school children to create murals that would help other children learn how to avoid rabies by taking part in a drawing contest after our education team had visited their classes. Two of the best drawings were then painted onto a wall at their school by a team of local staff and international volunteers. This activity allowed the children an opportunity to reinforce important messages in their own artistic way. Since our education teams can only visit schools once a year, the mural left a permanent reminder of the message for learners to see on a daily basis. Our latest endeavor came to life last month when international volunteers did an amazing job creating two big murals at a local school in Blantyre.
The locations of our murals are always incredibly important; we select places where they can be seen by as many people as possible. One of our murals is displayed on the wall of the biggest primary school in southern Africa and is viewed by as many as 10,000 learners every year. There are still pockets of illiteracy in Malawi, but our murals are able to speak to everyone. We look for opportunities to display them on the outside walls of schools, near busy and well used paths in rural areas, such as the location of our first mural for this year. Thus, the colourful image is not only of educational value for the learners, but also for bypassing pedestrians and commuters. The second mural was painted outside of one of the main classroom buildings. Once it was done, the children came outside, curiously looking at the images of a sleeping dog, an eating dog and a dog with puppies. The mural teaches children not to disturb a dog busy with one of these activities to avoid potential dog bites and to live in harmony with their canine friends.
Mission Rabies’ murals are beneficial for the local community and at the same time help us to promote our work on ground. The illustrations are long-lasting and allow us to leave a permanent teaching tool for future generations. Raising awareness about rabies and educating community members about the disease goes hand-in-hand with our vaccination efforts to eliminate rabies in Malawi.
For more information on our project in Malawi and how our rabies elimination projects have progressed, click here.