Geração SOMA, Vo’Arte (Portugal)

Sometimes the only way to understand art is to become part of it. A novel reveals itself to a reader. The book is merely a suitcase in which to carry the story, its cover no more than a hint of what is inside.Vo’Arte is Portugal’s leading inclusive art organisation, with a 20 year history of creating work with disabled and non-disabled people. The organisation’s vision welcomes visual and performing art, established and new artists, children and adults, conferences and play, always in the spirit of inclusion. Between 2016 and 2018, Vo’Arte produced one of its most ambitious projects, with 1,700 children and young people in Lisbon’s public schools. 

Working with a team of 12 artist/teachers, ‘Geração SOMA’ invited children to explore the idea of super-powers that might lie in each of them. Through dance, music and performance, integrated classes applied their imaginations to discover, process, understand, organize and share their personal and collective strength. Together they created art that revealed the inner capacity of each person to transform apparent weakness into potential. The work was developed into a formal performance called ‘Eu Maior’ (‘A Bigger Self’), and presented to full houses at the São Luiz Theater and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

But the most profound moments may have taken place in school gymnasiums, as young people explored their own and each other’s ideas in simple movements, transcending conventional ideas of ability. Watching a group play with a simple cardboard box that has become a mysterious carrier of meanings it is impossible not to be struck by the concentration on every face. The participants are captivated by an experience that they can share only because they are creating it. In such moments art, seemingly so light, can transform how we see ourselves and each other. That is indeed a super-power. 

Photos of Geração Soma by João Pedro Rodrigues, by courtesy of Vo’Arte