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Aiding Africa with art

Posted on October 30, 2013 by Lethbridge Sun Times

Photo by Judy Westcott

Judy Scott of the Harambee Grandmas displays some of the artwork being auctioned on Saturday to raise money to assist grandmothers in Africa in raising grandchildren orphaned by AIDS.

An international exhibit of 40 art works currently touring 15 cities in western Canada is coming to Lethbridge on Saturday as part of a local fundraising event in support of African grandmothers.

The event is being organized by the Harambee Grandmas, which is the Lethbridge chapter of the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign. This campaign was launched in 2006 in response to the emerging crisis faced by African grandmothers as they struggled to care for millions of children orphaned by AIDS.

Across Canada, there are about 250 grandmother groups that have raised $19 million since 2006. In Alberta, $1.7 million has been raised, with the Lethbridge group contributing more than $100,000.

“Our group name — Harambee — means ‘working together to ease the burden’ in Swahili,” says Judy Scott of the Harambee Grandmas.

The group has 25 members that meet monthly, with new members encouraged to join, she says. While having a passion to help is a prerequisite, being a grandmother or even a female is not. Grand “others” are more than welcome to join, she says.

This event is the main fundraiser for the year, replacing an annual Good Words for Africa Scrabble event that was previously held in the fall months.

“When we were offered the chance to host this exhibit, we felt it would be a wonderful way of raising awareness and funds in support of the grandmother campaign,” she says.

The exhibit, which consists of a variety of mediums ranging from textiles to oil paintings, is the third annual exhibit put together by a fellow grandmother group based in New Westminster, B.C., but the first one being hosted by the Lethbridge group.

The 40 artworks tell a story of hope and small triumphs that light the way to victory over the AIDS pandemic in Africa. The pieces will be installed in an order to represent the categories of loss and despair, compassion, resilience, heroes of the continent, strength in the community, hope at the grassroots, advocacy in Africa and ending with pieces representing the turning of the tide of AIDS in Africa.

Each piece is featured in an online auction with bids being accepted through to the show’s return to its New Westminster home. The final chance to bid will be in March 2014 during a closing Gala event.

In addition to the touring exhibit, local artists have contributed works available through a silent auction during the one-day show, says Scott. These works represent a variety of techniques including painting, fibre art and photography.

“The local artists and artisans have really gotten behind the cause,” says Scott. “We’ve also been fortunate with all the local businesses who have contributed to helping our event be a success.”

Also on display and for sale will be unique and beautiful Kazuri Jewellery, handcrafted by women in Kenya.  The ceramic bead jewellery is made at a factory located on the estate of Karen Blixen, who was featured in the film Out of Africa.

Started in 1975, Kazuri Jewellery has been on a mission to provide sustainable employment opportunities for disadvantaged members of Kenyan society. It pays above average wages and provides safe working conditions.

Scott says that members of the Harambee Grandmas will also be selling some of their own handicrafts during the fundraising event.

One of these items is called the African Angels.

The small cloth angels are suitable for holiday décor and come with a printed card featuring a child’s name in both English and an African dialect, each one representing a child who has died as a result of the AIDS epidemic.

Other items available during the event include a companion book for the Heroes of the Continent art exhibit, sets of cards designed by one of the show’s artists’, Jan Sinclair of Coquitlam, B.C., and a companion book for last year’s travelling art show of textiles, which will be sold at a reduced price.

The art show and sale is being held at the University of Lethbridge’s Dr. James Foster Penny Building located at 324 5 St. S. from 1 – 6 p.m. Admission is free.

Scott says all money raised through the silent auction and jewellery sale will be donated to the Stephen Lewis Foundation to support the African grandmother campaign.

The support will help children attend school, access proper nutrition and receive counseling to cope with the loss of their parents. In addition, it will help train community health workers who travel from house to house to distribute medication and nurse those who are too sick to leave home. Women who are victims of sexual violence will receive emergency treatment, HIV testing and care, and counselling support.

To view the artwork exhibit online or to place and monitor the bids, visit http://www.royalcitygogos.org/art-exhibit-tour.html

Information about the Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign can be found online at the Stephen Lewis Foundation website at: http://www.stephenlewisfoundation.org/get-involved/grandmothers-campaign

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