Magazine article UN Chronicle

Celebrating the Human Spirit: Artists against Landmines

Magazine article UN Chronicle

Celebrating the Human Spirit: Artists against Landmines

Article excerpt

A decade ago, a small group of medical staff of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) changed the way the world viewed landmines. Overwhelmed by the ever-increasing number of civilian mine victims they had to treat, the group declared the global anti-personnel mine problem an "epidemic". Subsequent advocacy campaigns, led by the ICRC and the International Campaign to Ban Land Mines, culminated in the adoption of the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, also known as the Ottawa Convention, which was ratified by no less than 143 Governments. Since this international treaty was adopted, the use of landmines has dropped dramatically and the number of victims has decreased markedly.

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A group of artists in Nairobi, Kenya are changing the way the world views landmine victims. At the Nairobi Summit on a Mine-free World, held in November 2004 at the United Nations headquarters in the capital city, delegates were welcomed by a huge pile of orphaned shoes--one of each pair--symbolizing the dismembered limbs of landmine victims. In the green patch outside the lobby, Kenyan artist Kioko's one-legged metal sculptures stood defiantly, one with an imitation bomb strapped to its chest (see photo above), and inside Gakunju Kaigwa's stunningly beautiful resin, fibreglass and steel sculpture of a cripple on crutches, entitled "Shattered but Not Broken", welcomed all delegates (see photo on page 57). "Balancing precariously on his crutches, the young man moves forward with dignity, determination and sheer will to survive", says Kaigwa. "The sculpture shows that the human spirit is a resilient and powerful thing to behold, even when encased in a fragile, disabled form made of flesh and blood."

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The idea for the Artist Against Landmines exhibition was conceived in October 2004, barely a month before the Nairobi Summit, when Handicap International (co-founder of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines) facilitated a project aimed at raising awareness among Nairobi-based artists to sensitize the Kenyan public on the issue of landmines. …

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