Katrina’s Children: Stories Out of Age

Analyzing children’s drawings and paintings is a renowned technique widely used by psychologists. Art is rightfully considered as a means through which children can express themselves to the fullest, portraying all their feelings and emotions – those lying on the surface as well as those hiding in the subconscious deep. The documentary Katrina’s Children utilizes the same approach for the benefit of showing the tragic even and its aftermath through children’s eyes, and what the viewer sees is the picture of physical and moral devastation.

Hurricane Katrina divided the children’s lives into “before” and “after,” making them turn from children into adults literally overnight. The film shows the children as conscious and conscientious beyond their biological age. They speak of the notions – such as death, loss, or justice – that under normal circumstance should lie within the realm of adult expertise, yet do so in a comprehended, self-conscious manner not all adults can demonstrate. Naturally, they also use concepts from their own realm of expertise, such as fairytale characters, sketchy human figures, and intuitive drawing techniques and colors. Inter alia, some children equalize Katrina with evil and portray it in the form of a vortex or a spiral with jaws that swallows and tears down everything around it, engulfing people and houses. In terms of colors, the children use predominantly dark ones (mostly black or colors that some children describe as “nasty”) to draw the hurricane and bright colors (happy, sunny colors of red and yellow) to portray their houses as they were before the tragedy. Also, they portray themselves and other victims of Katrina as crying human figures and add words, such as “help” or “save us,” to complement their drawings and give them voice. In the interviews, the children recall that they found support in one another and not in the authorities from whom they expected salvation. They also speak of recurring nightmares or, in contrast, happy dreams of the times before destruction. Many have moral traumas and disorders. All of them cognized the ultimate meaning of the word “devastation,” in every sense of the word, both moral and physical, yet did not give up.

In sum, perhaps the most striking detail about all the children in the documentary is their ability to comprehend their irreparable, irreversible loss, to understand that there is no coming back, as well as to cope with this loss. They demonstrate praiseworthy self-motivation and perspective even adults often lack, i.e. the determination to stay strong.