Category Archives: Social Justice

Gallery

I Fly

This gallery contains 2 photos.

I fly for the lost
And disappeared… Continue reading

Gallery

These Tears

This gallery contains 1 photos.

…These tears lie hard as diamonds on my cheeks
Fire within and ice without… Continue reading

The Politics of Autumn

Grigoriy Myasoedov, Autumn Morning

Grigoriy Myasoyedov, Autumn Morning

It does not look like a political or social statement.

It’s a beautiful autumn morning in the countryside.  The scene looks so real you feel that you could step into it.  Sunlight sifts down through the trees, and already-fallen leaves lie on the autumn-tinted grass beside a small stream, waiting to be crunched underfoot.  Tree trunks rise darkly toward the sky, saplings reaching up beside them.  On the branches, green leaves mingle with the reds and golds of those that have already taken on their fall tints.

The realism of the painting is a very deliberate choice.  Grigoriy Myasoyedov believed paintings like this would build people’s knowledge of and pride in their country, Russia.  Painting the beauties of an Autumn morning in Crimea was as much a part of this as his other work, work which included truthful depictions of peasant life and showed the disparity between their lives and those of the wealthy.  It was a disparity he was all too aware of.

Born into the landed gentry, Myasoedov, unlike the vast majority of the people he hoped to educate, was able to graduate from school, to train as an artist, and to travel through Europe as a young man to in search of more knowledge.  One of the interesting things he saw on his travels was artists using traveling exhibitions to sell their work.  In Russia art exhibitions were confined to Moscow and St. Petersburg and attended by the elite; creating traveling exhibits meant that they – and he – could reach and build a much wider audience.

So Myasoedov helped found a group which we call, in English, the Association of the Wanderers.  The group included many famous Russian artists of his time. In a society ruled by a privileged elite, they saw their art as a way to develop social consciousness and help create a national awareness among other groups.  Their aim was to use their art to help the less privileged gain more rights and power.  They focused on educating them by using themes that their audience would understand and that would appeal to them, and on presenting those themes in a realistic style.  Realism was essential; it made their art more easily accepted and understood.

Which is why, in this context, in Myasoyedov’s hands, a beautiful painting of an Autumn scene is a tool for building awareness, a political and social statement.

As much as the painting below.

Grigoriy Myasoyedov, Reading of the 1861 Manifesto, 1873

Grigoriy Myasoyedov, Reading of the 1861 Manifesto, 1873

(If you are curious about the 1861 Manifesto, the reason for it, and what it stood for you can learn more here.)

Good News: Rebuilding Haiti, One Sale at a Time « Repeating Islands

Every now and then a company does something that I didn’t expect.  In this post on Repeating Islands I found something encouraging and heartening.  Macey’s, working with the non-profit group Fair Winds Trading, has found a way to help artists and craftspeople in Haiti.  They placed an order for goods to be sold at Christmas, to be supplied by artists and craftspeople in Haiti.  Then they took delivery of the articles produced, and paid those who produced them right away.

Simply by buying their goods and paying them up-front before the goods are sold Macey’s have done something very important for the Haitians whose work they have bought.  They have acknowledged the quality of those people’s work and the dignity of their lives as well as giving them a way to earn money now to meet their own needs.  This is a kind of help that benefits everyone involved.

You can read more about it on Repeating Islands:

Heart of Haiti: Rebuilding the Country, One Sale at a Time « Repeating Islands.

Thank you, Macey’s and Fair Winds Trading.

Water and Button Soup – a Passionate Plea

 

MMair, Bowls of Life

Reflections: Life

 

Our bodies, like our planet, are made up mostly of water.  We are able to live where we live because of the water this planet provides.  Historically, we have followed water, seeking it out to build our farms and cities and trade around.  The water that sustains us flows over and under the earth, moves between land and sea and sky, rises up as fogs and mist and clouds and spray, evaporates from the land and sea and falls to earth again gently or in torrents.  It knows no boundaries, has no nationality, and carries with it whatever falls into it, or is picked up by it as it flows or falls.

For much of my life I’ve been aware of the ebbs and flows of water, of the cycles of droughts and floods that are part of life in many places.  In Jamaica I remember my family listening to reports of the state of the reservoirs in drought years, hoping for rain before the water went down too far, and became dirty and scarce.  Later, my father, working at the time in South East Asia, would talk passionately about the need for clean drinking water and the difference it would make to the lives and health of many of the people there.   Back in Jamaica, years later, boiling the water that flowed from the taps for eight hours each day to make sure it was safe to drink was part of the morning routine in my parents’ house.

I’ve seen that access to water is a struggle for many – as a child growing up in Jamaica I used to see people gathered around standpipes as we drove through country villages, and women and girls carrying heavy containers of water home to cook and wash with.  Other times we would pass women beating clothes on the rocks of a river, or groups of adults being baptised in the same stream.  I lived in a house where water flowed from taps and through toilets, but I knew that others were not so lucky.

Now I live in a province where farming and fishing are still very important, and where the awareness of weather and water are part of the fabric of life.  It is a province with many lakes and rivers, where water flows abundantly.  Here, the problem with water is us, how we use it, and the waste and chemicals that flow into that water because of the things we do.  Or maybe the problem is that we assume that water, which gives us life, has a magical life of its own that protects it from the things we do.

Most of us know the story of Button Soup, or some very similar tale.  In it, a traveler convinces the people in a village to fill the pot of boiling water in which his stone button lies with all kinds of good food.  In the end, between them all, they make a wonderful soup which they share with each other, rejoicing in their good fortune.

It is a wonderful story, but if the villagers had thrown into their pot the kinds of things we are putting into our water today, they would have ended up with a chemical soup that left them ill, weak and dying.  Even if they had had enough water to make soup, they would have found that water poisoned.

There are two kinds of water scarcity.  An absolute, physical absence of water, which we cannot change except by bringing water in from other places.  And a scarcity of clean water – sometimes because floods overwhelm us and leave us with a mess of debris and waste that poison the water, at other times because we ourselves do not think about what we are putting into it.  Like the villagers who had to be shown that they were the ones who, together, had made that wonderful soup, we have difficulty understanding that we, together, can make the water we depend on nourishing – or dangerous.

But, like the villagers, we have the ability to change the things we do, so that we can live better.  Like them, we can work together to make our lives and our water much healthier, much better, much more nourishing.  Like them, we can find ways to share.

If we do not treat our water as lovingly as those villagers made their stone button soup, we risk losing the clean water we need to sustain life – our own lives and the lives of the plants and creatures we depend on.  And if we do not find good ways to share clean water, then those who need it will either die or find their own way to it.

Clean water equals life; let’s work toward clean, life-sustaining water for all.  However and wherever we can.

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Some of the things we can do:

  • keep garbage out of our waterways
  • work to prevent them from becoming polluted with chemical, human and farm waste, including taking care of how we dispose of our own waste
  • take care to avoid using poisons that spread into them
  • use our water wisely and not too wastefully
  • learn about the ebbs and flows of our local waterways, so that we do not build or develop where floods are likely to destroy our work, or our work is likely to destroy the water and the life that depends on it – which includes our own.

Today is Blog Action Day.  I learned about it from Cory Huff of Abundant Artist, who invited the Abundant Artist community to write about the theme this year – water (read what he proposed by clicking here).  Read what other people have written about water by clicking here.

Thank You, Claudia Bernardi!

I set out to write a quite different post.  I was looking at an article about Claudia Bernardi, one member of that remarkable band of artists who give generously of their talents to help others work through pain and come to terms with difficult and dangerous lives.  I was thinking about her work, and what I wanted to say about it.

Then it occurred to me that what I was really thinking about as I read about her work was how thankful I was that she was there in El Salvador, using her Walls of Hope project to give what help she could.

So today I want to say thank you to Claudia Bernardi and all the others like her, to those whose love and compassion pushes them find a way to use their skills to help others find a voice, find hope, find a way forward.

Thank you.

*****

And here is the article I was reading:

Crista Cloutier: Walls of Hope.

To find out more about Walls of Hope, click here.  The website will open in a new window.

What I was reading about:  Claudia Bernardi uses art, compassion and wisdom to help people who have been victims of violence and discrimination reveal their stories and start on the road to healing.