Nothing in our modern world prepares you for the traumas of war; the violence and suffering challenge hope and trust in humanity. The exposure bruises the soul. Travelling to Sierra Leone shortly after its long and brutal civil war shocked me, but what I experienced there also inspired me to try to penetrate this darkness and reveal the remarkable and enduring light of rebirth and resiliency.
In our contemporary sound-bite-and-social-media-saturated lives, it is easy to forget that the conflict stories in the news are actually about ordinary people, so much like us, trying to survive in the face of unimaginable odds. They face real consequences and must endure immense personal sacrifices simply to exist.
In these installations I have attempted to share their reality visually and without adornment; let their bearing, eyes and voice tell their stories.
The Innocent installation includes children and youth that I met and interviewed while working in Sierra Leone. All had to work long hours to survive. Some were fruit sellers, diamond mineworkers, labourers, apprentices. Some were former child soldiers or young bush wives (sex and labour slaves). The children here stand alone, but joined together by guns and a chain, each conveys a different level of engagement.
The 4 Doors: Kadeer, Mohamed, Kamara, Cecilia installation invites engagement, or at the least the conscious acknowledgment of the individual and their existence. You can chose to observe the artwork, to watch the silent videos or to engage the artwork and open a door that will release the voice of Kadeer, Mohamed, Kamara or Cecilia to tell of their life experiences. I have chosen to not translate their stories as it was important to sustain and honour the individuals as they are.
Sierra Leone has returned to relative peace, yet its people must now cope with the massive need to piece together traumatized lives and rebuild the most basic infrastructure. Sierra Leone is not unique … the effects of any war are a long and tragic legacy. It is easy to forget that wars do not disappear as they are replaced by new media events. They have a lasting and ongoing effect on ordinary people and their cultures. These artworks reflect, honour and attempt to activate the lessons learned of the world wars, “Lest We Forget.”
The “Gun Panels” were created with deactivated weapons left out of the making of the Gun Sculpture, a five-ton touring exhibit. The intent of the “Gun Panels” and the Gun Sculpture is to provoke discussions on violence.
–Sandra Bromley, artist
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