I just finished working on my second media event at the hospital and this one was a doozy – or should I say boozy (sorry). The event centred around an island-wide art contest for school children that was hosted by the anti-alcohol and narcotic unit at the hospital. The theme of the contest was to show how drinking fathers impacted their family’s lives. “Father, refrain from drinking alcohol” was the official theme, but I like mine better.
Just like in Canada (and most of the world), Sri Lanka has an ever-increasing issue with alcohol and drug abuse, especially in the rural areas.
Over 6,000 pieces of art flooded the unit from all corners of the country and each one had to be recorded, filed and then judged by a panel of about a dozen local artists and painters. It was quite the process and no doubt took hundreds of hours to pull off. I should know as they wanted me there every second to take pictures of what was going on. (I’m still confused by this obsession with taking photos in Sri Lanka, so I’m sure I’ll be writing about it in future posts. All I know is that one of the only thing anyone ever asks me to do is take pictures. Should have taken some photography lessons before I came I guess?)
The art that was submitted by the kids was both creative and disturbing. The type of domestic violence and graphic images depicted showed some extremely troubling family situations. Whether the art was from personal experience or just showed what the kids thought was alcohol abuse, I have no idea. But, I hope there is at least some follow up done by the unit or by the schools to offer any help that is needed.
The grand finale of the contest was the exhibition of 500 pieces at the Royal College in Colombo. The Health and Education Ministers spoke, the winners were handed their medals and hundreds of school kids came through the hall to view the art. It was quite the spectacle and it was all setup and arranged in less than a week. An amazing display of putting on a huge event at the very last minute.
The next plan is to publish a book on the contest filled with (you guessed it) about 400 photos that I took of the entire process. It’s going to serve as a model for other areas of the country and the world when they go to put their next – “Dad, stop boozing!” contests on. Should be interesting…