Offering Refuge: From art to refugees
Ruby Ewen is a highly regarded visual artist based in Luskville. Her current exhibition, The Bluebird of Happiness, shows at Ottawa’s SAW Gallery until January 27 (artengine.ca). Bluebird is an extremely difficult show depicting abuse Ewen experienced at a boarding school.
Meanwhile, the federal government is bringing in Syrian Refugees. With two Municipality of Pontiac residents, I attended a meeting in Wakefield on January 13, hosted by Wakefield for Refugees and learned about their, as well as a Chelsea group’s, commitments.
Ewen’s exhibition and Outaouais communities’ efforts to welcome refugees share many commendable goals, one being the concept of sanctuary.
Bluebird of Happiness
Ewen explains the Bluebird, “appears as an agent of the ideal state of Happiness... It is my hope these paintings speak beyond me, and lead to a further understanding of the isolation, abuse and fear so many children have suffered, live, and do not live through.”
Her paintings are difficult. Ewen hits us in the gut because she’s grappling with dark aspects of humanity: pedophilia, rape, humiliation, and murder.
Is there redemption here? Perhaps it resides in us. It is you and I who bearwitness to the horrors Ewen faced, through this oeuvre. Is the murder she depicts “real”? Or, is it the symbolic murder of an innocent child whose trust was deliberately destroyed and ignored by Society? If redemption exists in Bluebird, it’s from how we decide to listen to those who have suffered abuse, to offer safe haven with friendship and support, and a commitment to stop the silence.
Syrian refugees : Outaouais communities offer refuge
The Wakefield for Refugee (WFR) organization’s meeting was impressive. The 100+ volunteers organized into five committees: Financial, Basic Needs, Social Integration, Communications / Advocacy, and Welcome. Spokespersons revealed more than $50,000 has been raised, primarily via YouCaring, an online crowd-funding page.
WFR Co-coordinator Erin Krekoski said, “It is $10,000 for the first person (or couple), then $1000 per dependent after that. For our first family of 6 it was $14,000 minimum.”
Volunteers have worked with two government organizations : Accueil Parrainage Outaouais (apo-qc.org/fr/) and Quebec’s Ministry of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion (immigration-quebec.gouv.qc.ca), to bring two families to Wakefield.
At time of writing, they’ve not arrived. Krekoski explained Chelsea for Refugees was informed by telephone on Tuesday morning to be told their family was arriving and must be picked up, that very evening in Montreal.
Also, a Tunisian immigrant, Sami Bibi spoke, informing us he’s part of another group in Gatineau called Plateau: United for Refugees.
Sponsoring the settlement of refugee families is an ongoing commitment. For example, adults must be driven to and from Gatineau to receive French lessons.
Want to work to sponsor Syrian refugees? Examine the Wakefield group’s Facebook group (facebook.com/ groups/403699526485907/?fref=ts) and Plateau group (facebook.com/ PlateauUnisRefugies/?ref=hal).
Refuge; respect; compassion; action
Whether it’s Ewen’s Bluebird of Happiness exhibition, or bringing in Syrian refugees, each and every single one of us can do more to further compassionate understanding of others. And, we can offer a refuge in our own hearts and communities, for those who are suffering.
Contact Katharine Fletcher at email@example.com