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'I painted the War'

exhibition of children’s war-drawings

Traenengas in meinen Augen - Bild von Sahar MansourTear Gas in my Eyes is the title of the picture by Sahar Mansour an eight- year-old Palestinian girl. This self-portrait was created during the first Intifada, the uprising of the Palestinian children against the Israeli occupation. The picture comes from the Françoise and Alfred Brauner collection in Paris. The couple collected drawings by children in crisis areas and war zones throughout the world for a number of decades. Using parts of this collection, CulturCooperation created an exhibition, which has received a widespread public response and been presented since 1993 in over 150 cities throughout the world, for example at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris and at the Goethe Institute in Johannesburg

The Exhibition

kriegskinderbild1The exhibition presents children ’s drawings that come from the Spanish Civil war, the Nazi concentration camps, Hiroshima, Vietnam, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, the West Sahara, El Salvador, Guatemala, Bosnia, Croatia, Chechnya and Sierra Leone. These drawings in which children and adolescents depicted their experiences during the war or while fleeing were not created in a therapeutic context, they were painted by the children spontaneously.

kinderzeichnungThe drawings originate from F. and A. Brauner’s> exceptional collection, which includes approximately 2000 drawings from all over the world. Apart from the drawings that belonged to children whom the couple had looked after, the other drawings are mainly taken from the collections of other children’s funds.

The Brauner’s received copies of some of these drawings from these organizations in order to compare the drawings from the various war areas and as such expound the meaning of the horrors of war for children worldwide. Even in the cases in which they were offered the original drawings, they refused to take them because they felt that should remain the children’s property. As often as possible, F. and A. Brauner always tried to collect the drawings of both warring factions, for example from Palestine and Israeli children.

kinderzeichnungThis exhibition presents the drawings not only according to countries but also drawings that come from various sectors and depict comparative themes such as fear, search of safety, houses and ruins, the enemy, the dead and wounded, drawings of atomic warfare and drawings of peace are put side by side. The captions written by F. and A. Brauner provide background information regarding the interpretation of the drawings.

It is important to examine these drawings carefully in order to recognize the details especially because they express the fear or draw attention to a particular experience. Despite all the differences there are also common factors such as the desire to be in harmony: the straight lines in the Warsaw ruins, the neat rows of corpses in front of the tents in the Sahara- attempts to put order into a world that has gone out of joint.

Why this exhibition?

kinderzeichnung 2In all the wars and military conflicts in the last decades, 90% of the victims were civilians. The most helpless group are the children. Over 20 Million children live in war regions at the present, 10 million are traumatized by war according to a UNICEF estimate, and every second refugee in the world is a child. The drawings highlight the horrors that are concealed behind these figures. Parts of the Brauner’s collection were presented to CulturCooperation for exhibition purposes in order to assure that these documents remain available to the public.

The Collectors: Françoise und Alfred Brauner

Dr. Françoise E. Brauner, born 1911 in Vienna, died 2000 in Paris.

She studied medicine in Vienna and Paris. In 1936, she joined the International Brigade in Spain where she spent two years working in various surgical departments in Benicasim as well as looking after refugee children. Her biography “A doctor in Spain” was published in 1991 in “Äsculap oder Mars? Ärzte gegen den Krieg“.

kinderzeichnungDr. Alfred Brauner, born 1910 in Saint-Mandé/ France, died 2002 in Paris. He moved to Vienna with his parents in 1918 where he later studied remedial education and German. After the Nazis came to power in Germany he returned to France and completed his military service there. In 1937, he joined his wife in Spain and was put in charge of the Committee for the Refugee Children of the International Brigade.

In 1939, at the end of the Spanish Civil War, the couple took care of Jewish children who had been able to flee from Germany to France with one of the last children’s transports. In 1940, they joined the Résistance in Paris, and were often only a stone’s throw away from being arrested by the Gestapo. As soon as World War II was over, they took care of 440 children who had survived the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Buchenwald and had been brought to France; this was the most distressing experience of their entire life. A few years later, in 1950, they fulfilled their common vision and founded the first day clinic for multiply disabled children in France, in Saint- Mandè just outside of Paris, of which Francoise was in charge until her retirement.

kinderzeichnungFor their research concerning the effects of war and persecution on children and about autism, which was translated into many different languages, F. and A. Brauner received many awards as well as the Prinzhorn medal. Their research on children’s drawings in times of war began during the Spanish Civil War. But they were also engaged in the theme after the war had ended; whenever they went abroad, for example when they were invited to visit Hiroshima as founding members of the French section of “Doctors against Atomic War”, they always asked to be shown children’s drawings of which they made copies. This is how, over a period of 50 years, the collection of approximately 2000 children’s drawings from war zones all over the world emerged. They presented and analysed over 200 drawings taken from their extensive collection in their book “J’ai dessiné la guerre/ Le dessin de l’enfant dans la guerre ».

The fact that children’s drawings dating back to the Spanish Civil War can still be seen is due to the Brauner’s commitment; they photographed many of the children’s drawings and made printing plates of 60 drawings to prevent these documents about the war from disappearing. After the defeat of the Spanish Republic, they took the photographs and printing plates to France with them. They had to hide the material during the German occupation. In 1966, a house was torn down in Paris and a heavy suitcase that contained the printing plates and was mistakenly taken for a bomb, reappeared. In 1976, the children in Saint-Mandé printed these drawings dating back to the Spanish Civil War some of which can be seen in this exhibition.

more information

pdf-logoloan conditions for the exhibition
loan conditions.pdf