Working in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya was an experience that is etched into my spirit for life. In the camp I worked with refugees doing mural work and training team leaders within the camp to run art therapy groups. Life was very hectic and I learnt about many things, part of this was the injustice of some cultural habits especially those imposed on women.
Daily, guns were going off and the army was marching through the camp, holy warriors and young tribal boys were rioting, tearing down tukels which provided shelter. I saw food, meant for refugee families being taken out in army trucks and sold, I saw people being left with wheat chaff for food because of this.
The one thing I will forever remember is smuggling eggs in my pocket out through the camp gates to give to one man I was working with - he was starving, he had H.I.V. and he was dying, but he found joy in life by sitting and watching the sunrise and the sunset.
The first time I went to Nigeria I worked mainly in painting and etching and I visited the adult Art Institutes. In my work I did a lot of investigation of patterns, rituals and religions. One of my key art learning’s was about, how and why traditionally, sculptures were made and the activation of “spirit” into the pieces.
I plan to return to Nigeria in 2012, this time it will be to do a village mural and work with local artists and village women in indigenous art making. I will be living in a village somewhere out in the jungle area and so I will be the only white woman, and out of my comfort zone.
What I keep learning is that people are people regardless of environmental changes thrust on them, their dress or culture. It is the cumulative effect of all of the emotional impressions from my times in Africa that forever stay with me. I experienced the lowest of humanity and I met the noblest of humanity, and this is what I aim to express through my art.
This work is part of the 2013 Queensland Regional Galleries touring exhibition: We Are All One Under The Skin.
For all Artwork enquiries, please Contact Chris Harrison