Yesterday, I was angry. So angry, in fact, that I used the words “PISSED OFF” in my Facebook status. That’s rare for this careful communicator and polite Canadian.
I was angry because very few people are paying attention to the women who were gunned down at a peaceful protest in Ivory Coast. The media gave it only a cursory notice, and there has been no public outcry.
WHERE IS THE PUBLIC OUTCRY?!
I wanted women protesting in the streets. I wanted outraged media commentators taking a stand. I wanted public figures taking this on as their cause. (I later learned that Hillary Clinton spoke out against it.)
I wanted to see the public outrage, and yet I didn’t know where to start to be a catalyst for it. I made a feeble attempt (I expressed my rage to some public media figures, imploring them to talk about it), but I really didn’t know how to raise my voice for the cause.
Steeped in that rage and frustration, I went to my art class. (Yes, I know how bourgeois that sounds – the privileged white North American woman goes to art class while less privileged black women die in the streets trying to impact change. The irony is not lost on me.)
I went to art class with those women in my heart and I knew I needed to at least do something to honour them, even if I couldn’t spread my rage around the world like a wild fire.
And so I painted. A mandala is what emerged. Six trees for six women (I later found out there were seven). Six trees growing from entangled roots. Growing up through their blood. Growing and providing hope and shelter. Growing into something new and fertile and good. Growing the way I hope their stories grow – into positive forces for change.
I don’t entirely know what the mandala means, but I let the art emerge that needed to emerge.
This afternoon, I walked past the neighbours’ house to find that they had cut down two big, beautiful (and old) trees. It rattled me. Deeply. I wanted to sit on the stumps and cry.
I don’t know how the two things are related, but it feels like they are. Both made my rage flare up. Life was cut short and I feel powerless. After seeing the raw tree stumps I read this in an article about the murdered women:
Mariam Bamba, 32, picked up a tree branch next to one of the blood stains on the pavement where the women were felled by gunfire.
“This leaf is all that they were carrying when they were killed,” she said.
I’d already painted my mandala when I read that. I was struck with the poignancy of it – I was moved to paint trees, and the hopeful women who lost their lives trying to impact change were carrying tree branches.
This rage is not over, though it has settled some. I will look for other ways to remember and honour the women who died. Those women are our sisters, our mothers, and our daughters. Their death matters to us all.
What ideas do you have to honour them and help their stories grow into strong trees?