When I was pregnant with my daughter Saba, I started working on a mural for her room. What began as a project to decorate her space, evolved into an extensive visual history depicting the many journeys her ancestors took that steered them together and led to her birth. Six months after Saba was born, I finally completed the mural which now encircles her room. It has been amazing to watch her small hands trace the brushstrokes and watch her eyes light up in reaction to the colors, shapes and images. As she has grown, the mural has evolved with her. She can now point out the "fish," her grandparents "dancing," and blows the air when she sees the wind. As she continues to grow up and begins to ask questions about the images, these stories will become a part of her everyday experience. Despite what happens in the outside world, I believe these stories will help ground her in knowing what her family has overcome, and give her perspective in navigating through her own challenges.
According to Bruce Feiler in his New York Times article, The Stories that Bind Us, "The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative." Research done by Dr. Duke and Dr. Fivush at Emory University also concludes that, "The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned." Children who know a significant amount about the details of the family history such as how their parents met, how they were born, or a challenge the family had experienced or overcome, are much more likely to be happy and emotionally healthy. Some studies have indicated that this is the biggest indicator of a child's emotional health and happiness.
Before the communication-flooded modern world, we relied on oral histories that were passed down from generation to generation. Amidst the fast pace of our current reality, the importance of telling these family stories is often overlooked. But I hope to change that. I'm now creating story murals for other families who would like to visually represent their family stories and partnering with community organizations to help others' tell their stories. The murals are painted on masonite board in my home studio so murals can be shipped all over the country (and easily moved to a new house or apartment). I work closely with families to come up with ideas for the story or stories they want told in the murals. I also include an option of creating a children's book out of the mural once it is completed. Please contact me with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.