Art is a courageous medium to express one's sense of self. Art is also universal; it is a platform to share stories, emotions, and ideas with a global audience. Many young changemakers integrate art into their changemaking initiatives to bring people together. Lita and her friends embrace the power of art by activating young people in their community to be changemakers through embracing their artistic talents. Lita’s story illustrates how young people can express their authentic voice, talents, and imagination through creativity and collaborative play for the good of all.
Maria Angelita, or Lita, learned how to draw from her dad at a young age. Quickly, she discovered a personal passion for drawing while noticing that she was capable of channeling and communicating her feelings by illustrating and sharing her stories with her friends. Through rendered pictures and colors, Lita was able to capture on paper what she was feeling inside.
In elementary school, Lita regularly experienced bullying and a lack of support from her school to address the problem. In response, Lita transferred to a more inclusive, diverse school in 3rd grade. Hesitant to start over, Lita realized her ability to adapt to change and increased motivation to learn once she was in a positive school environment. She quickly made new friends and together they would get together to paint, draw, and dance.
Lita saw that her friends were also energized by the power of art, including music and dance, and continued to co-create and play. However, across her community in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Lita and her friends noticed the lack of time and opportunity for young people to express their interests, talents, and voices. In both home and school environments, many young people were not encouraged to explore their artistic interests or engage in creative play because of economic and cultural barriers surrounding “free time.”
As the friends continued to develop and share their artistic passions, more and more young people became intrigued by their group dynamic and were invited to join. Together with her friends, Lita founded Melukis dan Bermain Bersama, or “Painting and Playing Together” in English. They wanted to create a space for young people to engage in creative play and tell their stories with others.
Today, at the age of 14, Lita co-manages an organization with chapters in five schools. Her team encourages young people to find their authentic voice through all art forms, such as writing, drawing, crafting, painting, making music, or dancing. This creative dynamic enables personal exploration and self-expression while fostering an environment that promotes cross-cultural learning, communication, and understanding.
Innovative and inclusive, Lita and her team employ art as a universal language to tell stories. For example, they work with deaf students, who are able to express themselves through drawing and sign language.
This collaborative space encourages teens to engage in discussions about social issues and identify their collective interests, such as the environment. Recently, the team developed an anti-smoking and tobacco-free campaign in their community.
Lita is inspired by other young changemakers, such as Faye Simanjuntak, a teenager who established Rumah Faye, an organization that fights against human trafficking in Indonesia. Lita confidently believes that “If she can do it, I can do it too.”
Along with looking toward like-minded peers, Lita finds inspiration and support from her parents, who teach her the importance of hard work and kindness. Lita also emphasizes that her venture would not be possible without the collaboration and leadership of her peers who are equally dedicated to the organization's mission.
Through her initiative, Lita is not only trying to invoke young people to discover their talents, but also become well-rounded changemakers who actively participate in their nation’s development. Lita envisions a world where every young people feels brave and confident in voicing their opinions and owning their changemaking power. She encourages young people to develop that bravery and confidence to speak up through art.
Lita’s message to young people is “You have something in yourself, you have to explore it. Every young person has their own potential...all young people are gifted. All young people have something that they can share, something that they can use, something good, something potential that is very cool. And you have to find it in yourself".