Tag Archives: capabilities approach

Painting the future of Anam

8 Aug

a gathering

The children of Anam are talented and creative individuals. They are strong, smily and friendly. Most importantly, they are eager to learn and have an incredible potential to do so. As it could be derived from Aristotle’s thinking on “potentialities and actualities” and from Amartya Sen’s “capabilities approach”, children are a seed project par excellence. If the freedom to choose between a different set of alternatives is given at a sufficient level, they can embody the biggest force of change in society.  They therefore represent the future of  Anam City and the future of their community and culture.

Last weekend, I gathered a group of ten kids between four and fourteen years old coming from Mmiata, Iyora and Ebenebe to draw everyday life scenes in Anam. I will here underline several findings that came along this interesting activity by discussing a number of drawings. These will allow me to verify the initial statements of this post.

When children were given the opportunity to draw, they approached the paper with some fear. Initially, they copied my drawings with care. However, they quickly took their own initiative and uncovered their character, humor and savoir-faire. A multiplicity of colours and forms started spreading on the white sheet of paper.

Here one can observe some examples of the first attempts to draw a house. It was fascinating to notice how they quickly improved their creations, after understanding fully the shape they were dealing with and adapting it to the local standards.


The drawings were mostly separate objects floating on paper, scattered images without no real relationship between each other. The beautiful figures drawn by Oniebushi, as shown below, are isolated, independent and enclosed in thick lines, as if they were guarding a secret. However, as a group they do not tell a story, but rather many individual ones.

floating objects

Some of them where particularly fortunate when using colors and creating shapes, while others had a particular obsession with numbers and rather complicated calculations which reminds us on how diverse human abilities are.

numbers vs colors

It was interesting to see how they twisted and mirrored numbers in a row, letters in a word or  even full words. Notice, for example, how they write the word “cup” below. I took advantage of this moments to clarify the state of the art of our alphabet and our numbers. As an unexpected gift, the chilfren thought me how to count in Igbo! Indeed, interacting with Anam children is a shortcut to learn their language.


The most repeated objects in their drawings included: houses, churches, trees and coconut trees, men with machetes, women carrying buckets, shirts, chicken and roosters, fish, yams and other fruits, cars, vans, helicopters, canoes and canoe paddles, umbrellas, chairs, benches, cups and pots, football scenes and finally mobile phones and their power supplies as you can observe below.


The compilation of these random objects illuminates clearly the everyday life experiences of  children in Anam. On the one side, it tells us about their culture and their values. It makes one understand better their surrounding environment and one can even guess which are the sounds of this area, what are the main weather challenges and even which are their nutrition patterns. On the other side,  these drawings can also inform on how some ongoing seed projects that are growing Anam New City, such as the introduction of mobile money, can be nothing else than a success. In particular, by observing how mobile phones are already an important part of the everyday life of Anam children.

After playing with them for several hours I learned that these girls and these boys are exceptional. There is much potential in their little hands. All in all, this confirms how children can play an essential role in the social engineering of  Anam New City and Anam New City can, in return, offer them the necessary opportunities to fully develop their set of innate capabilities. As the Igbo proverb tells us, “ora na azu nwa”, it takes a village to raise a child.

Post by: Isabel Carreras-Baquer

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