The Invisible Children: Breaking the Silence

April 25, 2011 at 2:50 pm (Art Unravelled, Uncategorized)

In April of 2006, I saw this photograph on The Oprah Winfrey Show that haunted me. The photo was of a group of children in Uganda who on a nightly basis were being locked in cages for their own safety. Known as the “nightwalkers,” they walk—some for as long as two hours a night—to camps run by the Ugandan government and non-governmental organizations. Once there, the children agree to be locked in a cage and guarded from the marauding LRA. In the morning, the children return to their homes and work in the fields.

Aside from the humanitarian crisis pictured in this photograph,  I made the connection to the fact that this photo was reminiscent of so many pictures I had seen of children during the Holocaust. The Germans and their collaborators killed as many as 1.5 million children, including over a million Jewish children.

Two years later, still haunted by the photo I had seen on television, I decided to contact the organization behind the photo called Invisible Children. The organization was founded by three young college students who, in the spring of 2003, traveled to Africa in search of a story. What started as a documentary about the nightwalkers, ended up being a global movement. 

The Nightwalkers brooch, suspended by a "chain" of fibers stamped with the names of all The Concentration Camps.

The organization sent me over 70 photographs, as well as information about the invisible children of Uganda to use in a piece inspired by the nightwalkers story. The “Nightwalkers” brooch was part of my 2008 Out of the Box exhxibition at Artspace. The intention of the piece was to inform and educate the public about the Invisible Children movement.

 
Last week, the three founders of Invisible Children were on The Oprah Winfrey Show again to give an update on the children of Uganda and to promote The 25 Campaign, which started yesterday and runs through tonight with concerts to “break the silence” in various cities around the United States.
 
“There’s so much noise in the world,” Invisible Children’s Jason Russell told Oprah. “We thought, ‘What if we all stayed silent for 25 hours?’ So, on April 24, we’re going silent for 25 hours, and we’re asking people for their time, talent and money.”
 
For more information, on Invisible Children, or to make a $25 donation to The 25 Campaign, visit  www.invisiblechildren.com. To hear what the co-founders of Invisible Children told Oprah about nightwalkers in Uganda today, click here. For first hand account of a child soldier, read Stephen’s Story.

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Not Your Ordinary Day in Studio 109A

April 17, 2011 at 6:56 pm (From Studio 109A)

Ten years ago this month, my husband and I moved to Raleigh from Florida. In that time, my husband and I bought a house, had our daughter, and I launched my career as a professional artist at Artspace.

So, yesterday was just another ordinary Saturday. I woke up and had breakfast with my family and headed down to Artspace to work on a new, circus inspired piece. There were Earth Day celebrations planned in and around the NC Museum of Science  and the SPCA of Wake County’s  K9-3K Dog Walk in Moore Square. It was just an ordinary day.

Around 3:00 p.m., the skies over Artspace turned black and artists started gathering between Studio 109A and the downstairs bathroom. One artist brought her pillow. Another brought snacks and a radio. Ten of us huddled in a circle in Studio 109A, while many others stood in the hallway and others filled the bathrooms to wait out the storm. The power went out, and there in the dark, Studio 109A, my personal art space, became a safe place.

When the storm passed, reports started coming in that a tornado had damaged businesses just two miles away. On my way home, having to dodge downed trees along Blount Street near Shaw University, just blocks from Studio 109A,  I was reminded of the first time I returned home days after Hurricane Andrew (1992) destroyed my family’s home. I realized the tornado had come close, too close for comfort, and that this was not your ordinary day.

This morning, many downtown Raleigh businesses, including Artspace, remain without power. Many homes around Studio 109A were damaged or destroyed. Shaw University has cancelled classes for the rest of the semester, and The American Red Cross has opened shelters providing warm meals and a shoulder to lean on for those with immediate, disaster-caused needs.

After Hurricane Andrew, I started working for The American Red Cross and know first hand that they need monetary donations and volunteers to continue serving the victims of this and other disasters.  To make a donation, or for more information, visit The Triangle Red Cross. For a time lapse video of the tornado coming towards Downtown Raleigh, click below.

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