Zana dipped her finger into a pot of red paint. Cautiously, she pressed it down onto the blank piece of paper in front of her .
Jean tried to concentrate on the needle she was threading for another troubled girl, but almost pricked her finger as she stared at the waif like teenager attempting to finger paint. Zana had visited the recreation area of the refugee camp every day since she had arrived. Yet until today, she had simply gazed at a white page, as though wanting to touch it, but too afraid.
She mustn’t see me watching. Jean gave the needle back, and admired the girl’s embroidery. She had always been fascinated by Zana. Somehow, she was different from the others. Yes, she still suffered from the occasional nightmare, and rarely spoke to anyone, but she seemed to have such a peaceful expression, and a kind heart in the way she helped others around her.
She approached the young girl slowly and carefully. The painting was one that had been depicted many times on this very table, unfortunately. Jean took in the familiar sight of dead bodies strewn across a dirt track, and families hurrying with small bundles and bags. Their faces reminded her of a painting she had studied at university, ‘The Scream’. Hollow cheeks and pale skin emphasised the large frightened eyes.
“This looks interesting, Zana.” She spoke softly.
Zana smiled serenely, then continued to dab the red paint over a lady lying on the ground in her picture.
“Are you one of these people?” Jean pointed to the family carrying their bags.
“N-No” Zana struggled to say. She began to draw two figures along the brown, dusty track. One was a tall man. The other was a girl, who unmistakably resembled Zana. She gave the girl a sad, tear streaked face, though painted a smile for the man. “That’s me.” She pointed to the girl.
“And who’s this?” Jean studied the man, whose arm was around Zana in the picture.
“My protector.” Zana smiled again, and spoke with ease. Jean figured that he was perhaps a boyfriend or a father. She wondered why he smiled, but didn’t want to distract Zana with too many questions. The young girl was now painting a beautiful blue stream, with flowers growing near it. The stream ran alongside Zana and her ‘protector’.
Jean watched in amazement. This was a phenomenon she had never seen in all her years as an art therapist. Usually the paintings of traumatised victims fell under two categories. There were those who displayed the horrors of what they had witnessed, and been part of, and then the ones who worried Jean most. They painted butterflies, houses, flowers and fields, as though in some denial about their tragic situation. But never had Jean observed a painting which combined the two - atrocity and beauty.
Zana dipped her finger into the red paint again. She ran it along the skyline over the dusty track, in a sweeping movement. With the same finger drenched in red paint, she scooped up some yellow, and traced it underneath the red. The colours blended to make orange.
As she worked calmly, Jean seized the only opportunity she had had with Zana to enquire about her past.
“So, this protector,” she mused. “I wonder where he came from, or what he’s doing now.”
Zana continued to make a yellow line under the orange, then finally looked up. “He’s always been around.” she answered articulately. “In fact, He’s even here now.”
She added a final stroke of black to her picture. “All finished.” she said, in a childlike manner.
Jean studied the painting again, as Zana took her apron off, and joined the other girls. The last item painted was the one which stood out above the others. It wasn’t the sorrow, death or destruction which one could see at a first glance, but the beautiful rainbow which now decorated the sky. A rainbow. Jean shook her head, and smiled. The symbol of hope.
‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me………’ Psalm 23 v 4
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