“Water Babies, Women & War”

“Water Babies, Women & War”

We’ve all seen the photos of the 3 year old child, whose 5 year old brother and their Mother from Syria drowned in the Mediterranean trying to reach safety on the European shore.  This has become the image and poster of only one of the many “WATER BABIES” floating face down and washing ashore.

Somewhere amidst them are the women—the Mothers, sisters, aunties, grandmothers with their lifeless bodies drift along the waves that crest and fall, the surf making curling lines along the shore, sometimes seeming like dancing and floating the women to and fro.  Their silenced bodies and long dresses, shoeless feet bobbing and rising to the top of those waves, until they too wash ashore as the tide gently leaves them in muddy puddles along the shoreline in jagged lines of death.  They remain there until someone pulls them from that shore or until the tides return again that may or may not drag them back out to the darkened waters, often carrying them far away and never to be seen again.

Somewhere along the drylands, the highlands, the world turns their faces away from these images working hard to erase the thought of such gruesome and inhumane deaths caused by people who used the war machines that burst into cities, towns and villages while people sleep, and while soldiers and so called freedom fighters, burn, rape and pillage, terrorizing those who somehow manage to survive the continuous marauding evilness of violence and war.

And SOMEHOW it is the WOMEN who do survive these endless wars, violence and persecution that make them refugees, not migrants forcing them to flee on foot crossing incomprehensible dangers caused by those war machines through deserts, landmine fields, snipers, grenades and all without food or water, carrying their children on their backs and having to leave all their belongings behind again and again.  There are over 43 million “refugees” in the world today and according to “CARE” almost 50% of the world’s forcibly displaced people are CHILDREN.

It isn’t just WATER BABIES near oceans and the seas, from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and African Nations—it’s also WATER BABIES from Haiti, the Philippines, Pakistan, Nepal, Cuba and Latin America.  And it isn’t just the war machines that have resulted in WATER BABIES whose young lives have been lost; in the past two decades they have become victims of floods, tsunamis, hurricanes, and typhoons that are unparalleled in our history of lives lost to the rages of Mother Nature.  These situations are a different kind of war, one where human rampages of waste and maltreatment of our earth has begun to take its toll of those we love and treasure the most—our children.

And yes, it is the predominately the survivors, the WOMEN of WAR that was the genesis of how the Art Miles Mural Project has evolved, based on centuries of suffering children of war and the River Drina in Bosnia Hercegovina.  Books have been written spanning about four centuries starting with the Ottoman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian rule and a socialist domination of the region riding herd on the lives, destinies and relations of the local populations of Muslims and Orthodox Christians living in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

It was there that I learned the history of the River Drina and a famous story of how the children were  taken to the banks of the river and separated from their Mothers who were left crying and wailing on the shore.  Throughout the tumultuous history ruled by royalty and conflict, that I arrived on the scene following the July 1995 genocide of more than 7,000+ men that disappeared in two days.  To Fouad and my dismay, the world is now filled with these millions of REFUGEES and displaced persons.

The Art Miles Story will describe the heroic, heartbreaking and horrific–sometimes fatal experiences of women’s challenges of surviving these wars and conflicts around the world, beginning in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Nearly twenty years of interactions with women who have crossed these oceans, seas, rivers and lakes, seeking asylum and safety at such great risks will not be just another documentary, but a riveting true accounting of survival and the anguish of losing their “water babies” throughout the world and how stretches of simple canvas fabric painted by hands of children and people of all ages throughout the world, by people of all ages from over 100 countries has managed to bring communities together.  Murals painted by victims and survivors have been able to express themselves in a creative and healing method serving as a “catharsis” that soothed their aching souls.  And painting murals by community members throughout the world to send messages of hope and cheer, sharing their grief in some way, has given this project HOPE—a HOPE that humanity is still populated by good people who crave peace, who together through collaboration, team building and building consensus have tried to support a Culture of Peace versus a Culture of War.

This collection of more than 4,000 murals and the people who witnessed the loss of their children, family members and friends to WAR and survived have transported their pain and memories onto canvas and the world community has responded by painting images of hope and cheer from the hearts of humanity that still exists no matter how dismal it seems.  This visual documentation of modern history, and the expressions of human emotion represents a living hope that will carry humanity forward.

Joanne Tawfilis

September 4, 2015