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Inspiring change with art

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MULUNEH — Together, we can call on governments to take urgent action to address this injustices

Sports and art are critical in terms of disseminating important messages to the world. The two elements have played a crucial role to the world as regards bringing about change.

While at times art has not been given the necessary attention and support in some countries such as Malawi, the discipline has earned respect and been supported fully in other countries.

For a long time art has only been looked at as a form of entertainment and yet it has more to offer particulary as a channel with which to sensitise people about different issues.

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In these times of Covid-19 pandemic which continues to claim a lot of lives globally, art just like sports has taken a lead role in bringing awareness to the masses about the pandemic.

It is in this vein that some organisations have not sidelined art in its programmes, having seen its potential especially in reaching out to the masses.

WaterAid is one of the organisations which has seen the power of art in terms of communicating messages and inspiring change.

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It is because of this that the organisation recently launched a competition for artists, creative and campaigners to add their support and inspire world leaders to double their funding for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (Wash) in response to Covid -19 pandemic.

Artists have until July 27 2020 to submit their artworks on the theme of water and hygiene and the winning artwork will be used ahead of the G20 meeting of world leaders in November 2020, calling for them to double their investment in water and hygiene in response to the pandemic.

The judging panel including Grayson Perry, Aida Muluneh, Russell Tovey and Jean Julian will shortlist 12 pieces, from which the public will be able to vote for their favourite and the winner is expected to be announced on October 15 2020 during the Global Handwashing Day.

WaterAid has also indicated that it will be sharing some of the best entries using #Artof Change &#BringWater.

The competition gives an opportunity to Malawian artists to come out and be part of the challenge.

For a long time, the country’s artists have failed to do well on the international platform especially in such key competitions that would help expose them to the world and at the same time earn some money for their sweat.

Tovey, who is, best known for starring in the BBC/HBO drama Years and Years; a London-based actor, art collector and Talk Art podcast host said contemporary art is his passion.

He said he was happy to be part of the judging panel and that he was looking forward to sharing his experience.

“It is a beautiful way to share an experience, break boundaries, create connections, and inspire change. That’s why I am really proud to be working with WaterAid on its Art of Change campaign. It will bring together different stories from around the world that will be used to urge world leaders to take notice and make concrete actions that will transform lives,” Tovey said.

Perry, another member of the Art of Change judging panel said art is a powerful tool for expressing what is going on in the world and identifying “what really matters, especially during the turbulent times we currently find ourselves in”.

“WaterAid’s campaign is a great way for artists from around the world to unite and use their creative skills to highlight the importance of everyone having the basics of clean water and hygiene and the vast inequalities that exist as we tackle a shared crisis. I am looking forward to seeing the different ways people will interpret and portray this important issue and the impact it will have. Together, we can call on governments to take action that will help transform lives for good,” Perry said.

Another judge, Aida Muluneh, said creativity and art are powerful forces for change in the world.

“As a photographer working in Ethiopia, my vision has been to create art that courageously challenges clichés and portrays the strength, beauty and heritage of Africa and its women,” she said.

Muluneh added that clean water and good hygiene are vital in preventing the spread of deadly diseases like coronavirus and yet millions of people are living without these basics.

“Together, we can call on governments to take urgent action to address this injustice. I am excited to be working with WaterAid on this initiative that offers artists the chance to create a unique piece of work that advocates for global change and helps transform lives across the world,” she said.

Water Aid (International) Public Relations Manager Laura Crowley, said this was a one-off campaign for now and that it was just for visual art, including digital art, mural, painting and sculpture.

“Handwashing with soap is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of diseases like coronavirus, yet three billion people worldwide have nowhere to wash their hands with soap and clean water at home, and one in four health centres lack these basic facilities on site, putting lives at risk and so, having artists involved in this campaign is crucial,” Crowley said.

WaterAid says it was using artists to help address this injustice by using their creative skills as a force for good, producing inspiring and thought-provoking work linked to the theme of water and health to drive change and help transform lives.

International water and sanitation charity WaterAid is racing to reach vulnerable communities in 26 countries with much needed clean water and handwashing facilities as well vital hygiene education.

WaterAid is calling for these basics to be prioritised on a global level as the pandemic continues to escalate.

Claire Seaward, Global Campaigns Director at WaterAid, said:

“Handwashing with soap is the first line of defence against the spread of diseases, but three billion people have nowhere to wash their hands at home,” Seaward said.

Seaward said everyone can play a role in getting clean water and good hygiene to those most in need by adding to their voice to the campaign, either through creating artwork that can help drive change or by voting on their favourite and supporting their call for urgent action.

Artists need to be creative and they need to know that they have a role to play in reaching out to the people with different messages and help bring about change and Art of Change is one of them.

Malawian artists need to participate and take up this challenge and help amplify WaterAid’s call for water and hygiene to be prioritised by joining the Art of Change campaign.

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