Today's blank canvas and tomorrow's work in progress was a beautiful big container, which on the front of it had a message that I agreed with, but it wasn't written very well so it was time to change it.
But first I had to make progress on yesterday's work with the little ones, so i drew some cartoons on smaller pieces of paper. Phone went then, and unsuspecting but enthusiastic help arrived in the form of Katie, Polly and Isi who are over from Edinburgh making their documentary about this whole fucked up situation in a hope of getting people to see how messy it is and to realise it could easily be us sitting in someone's old clothes. They mixed paint for me and helped make a colour key for painting by numbers. Today I had made the drawings on smaller pieces of paper i had cut and put out less paint. The main objective of leaving something for the little kids to do as a wee distraction while I drew a mural ended up with them arriving early and sort of working with them anyway. They seemed to take to the girls well and proceeded to do a decent enough job of keeping in the lines which was cool. However they also liked painting our faces which was fun but not knowing where the line is came back in to play a little, but today reinforcing that it was time to stop got there eventually and with no tantrums. I saw a little progress there, as although it took a lot longer than a kid in a classroom at home would take to get the need to behave well, we are not in a classroom, these kids are not students, they are children who as i've said before are living in limbo, but they got it and then painted the pictures again. The resulting work might not be ground breakingly well coloured, but they painted within the lines better, and better still they didn't paint the ground as much as yesterday.
Yesterday's chief rabblerouser arrived by my side, I think he is maybe five, has a face like butter wouldn't melt, and yesterday he was trying to nick my brushes, draw all over things, kicking paint palettes about and then painting the dog and trying to feed it brushes. Today with the girls helping out I was able to spend a little one to one time with the wee chap and he was ace, of course he was, because he is just a little boy who likes attention, and when he is able to have someone spend time to make him and what he does feel important he will behave wonderfully and his big winning smile will beam, and when he doesn't get the attention he needs then he kicks off, because then he will definitely get attention. Just because a little boy in a refugee camp doesn't come from a classroom in the West doesn't mean he won't behave like he might be ADHD. He just won't get the diagnosis or if he does then it won't matter you see because he is in a place just now where apparently the world thinks its okay because he isn't getting shot at. Sorry West and EU but you need to do better, safety is one thing, and you're not doing too well at all on that front with your internment camps, at least this little boy has some freedom here, because good people, volunteers and NGOS in humanitarian have made this, but the thing clearly missing in this picture so far is the prospect of a future. I want a good one for my daughter, I take for granted that will happen for her. I don't think that's something this little boy and millions of others like him have, and that is not good enough, this kid has the same rights as our kids, but because he comes from the wrong part of the globe apparently that doesn't apply here? What happened to the rights of the child or for that matter general human rights? The kids parents deserve the same opportunity as you and I as well? Tangent you say? Yes you're right, but these thoughts pour through my head here on a regular basis. I'm not in limbo with my thinking, I'm not confused easily generally, I am though every so often thrown by the fact that some people are sitting back in the UK thinking that these families aren't our concern, and that somehow their countries being unsafe for them to live in is somehow their fault. My response to those who are that stupid to think that way is simple; 'ehhhh naw'. If you think that the rule in animal farm that suggests that all animals are equal but some are more equal than others applies to you as being more equal, then you truly are a fud. Everyone deserves a future and if they can't live it in a country where they would have preferred to then the world is big enough and so is my country to help them and let them live it elsewhere. See the world doesn't actually really belong to us in a 'this bit is mine, and that over there is yours' way, because we just made that shit up and in my opinion it hasn't been a good invention because most shit starts when we don't share things. Ask a parent of several children about sharing and conflict resolution when someone drops and accidentally breaks their share, you might find a simple solution, maybe apply that thinking to a refugee families rights, because someone knocked their country out of their hands and now it's broken.
So better than yesterday with the kids, maybe a little consistency can go far too?
On to the mural, and the container, I took the girls over to the office to meet with Julia, the most wonderful woman who gave me a hug when I arrived yesterday as she had been my main source of correspondence, she told me she had thought I was older 😀 which I found a compliment of sorts. We talked of the container and what it could say, I mooted 'free pikpa' but as the camp may have to move then that wouldn't work. We then went to 'freedom', but I was against it for obvious reasons that it sounded a bit pish to me as I'm not a huge Mel Gibson fan, nor is my second name McGlashan. Then came 'stop the war', and finally 'no more war'
Katie and crew were here to do some work with me as part of their documentary so before lunch they came down with me to take some footage of me laying out the basics for the mural. I decided to keep it fairly simple with the mural so that the people of the camp could work on it without too much dependancy on translation; colour can coordinate instead of language. and to give it a decent level looks wise I have aimed it at the older kids and adults to work on as well as some of the adults also as a lot of activity can leave the older ones out, and with a sense of apathy as well it seemed like a plan to get older folk involved.
So i worked on a layout, then spoke to the girls for my interview after lunch, it was strange trying to articulate how I feel about being here and what my take is on what's happening as it changes constantly, but I think that's generally part of being here anyway? The main thing I think I got across to them was that I feel like I made the right choice coming here, and that each day I learn more, and fundamentally what I really feel from what I see is that good work by volunteers and NGO's can only work well if freedom of movement is a given for people so we can help them towards secure futures not futures in secure units.
After my interviewers left I went back to add a colour guide and some more characters to the design in prep for tomorrow, I had arranged with the interpreter who visits each day to bring people down at a certain time tomorrow so i was planning for that. While doing so, an American girl called Sofia who i had worked with yesterday came down for a chat, we talked of our reasons for being here and the general injustice of it all, a similar conversation I have had with good friends in the past, but never so close to the reality before. She sums up a lot of people here, people who care, and just want to see people given a chance to get out of limbo, a word I find myself repeating time and again, because that's what I'm watching, but the live action version.
Time was ticking on and I decided my last act for the day would be to fill a letter in with colour to test the look of the colour scheme. As I did so, some of the male campers were close by and i asked them if they wanted a go at painting or made gestures to that effect, they were happy to, and got stuck in for a good ten minutes.
Within that time a girl came down who mself and Sofia had worked with yesterday, her English is amazing for her age, she's about the same age as my daughter Katie I reckon, her dad was working on the mural, so she joined in with him for a bit. After a while longer, two of the guys left and it was me, the little girl and her dad, lots of smiling and nodding between us all. The little girl then left saying she would be back shortly, me and her dad continued to paint the basic colour scheme on the letters. The little girl came back this time with her mum, they watched us work, we chatted all of us briefly, in the broken way you do when language isn't there, they asked where I was from, 'Scotland' I responded, 'Germany?' They replied, 'no Scotland' to a blank, so i did what seemed the obvious thing which was to look up a picture of a kilted chap or a man wearing a kilt and showed them that, and saw (and heard) the recognition on their faces, even if the name of our country doesn't register, our national dress serves us with a clear identity, even if it is pure shortbread tin nonsense.
The little girl and her mother had a bike and the mother rode it around on the wide path next to the container, with the wee girl sitting behind her on the saddle, they laughed and joked with each other ocassionally calling out to the dad, who was still painting with me, and he shouted back and laughed and smiled, as we finished the first layers of colour. As we finished the family came around and I thanked dad and daughter for their help, and we arranged to do some more tomorrow, we smiled shook hands and they went back to their tents, as I went back to wash the brushes and plan for tomorrow.
It was a good day in Pikpa.
Glasgow Examined Exhibition at The Veneer Gallery: 6pm 09.10.15
September 29, 2015
Glasgow Examined (West end) Exhibition (music mapped the terrain)