Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Child Abuse Monument

I am starting off this blog by showing you a drawing I did a couple of years ago.  This drawing was done because I wanted to draw a child who was obviously off by himself, somewhat withdrawn.  I guess I was trying to express how I felt as a child.  I would take every opportunity to go off by myself where I would be safe for a little while; where I could gather my strength before going back to face more abuse.  For I, like so many children in this world, grew up in a very abusive home.

So, in this posting, I want to tell you about a project I have been involved with since 1997/98 and I also want to show you how you can help me and others to finally complete this wonderful venture.

Dr. Michael Irving, a psychologist and artist par excellence, had a vision of a way to help people who had grown up as he did -- in abusive situations.  In fact, I cannot even begin to comprehend the kind of abuse he suffered.  Anyway, his vision was to create a  monument to express the suffering of children who are abused as well as the strengths they develop because they survive the abuse.  The basic element in this monument was to be a simple hand print.

You need to go to his web site to get the whole story, but I want to give you some information here as well as showing you my contribution.

This first photo gives you some idea of what the monument would look like when it is finished and standing, hopefully, somewhere in the area close to Queen's Park in Toronto.  The difficulty with a photo is that you simply cannot get the feeling for how massive these figures will be and how impressive they are when seen close up.  This photo, obviously, is manipulated since the second figure is not yet finished and neither figure is standing anywhere near Queen's Park!

Here you see Dr. Michael in front of the figure that is finished -- he is posing for the camera as he is obviously not working at the moment!  Often when he is working,  he has a welder's mask on and a blow torch in his hand!

Here is a photo of a child experiencing the finished figure close up.  The desire to touch and feel the "quilt squares" is almost instinctive.  They call for that sort of tactile experience.  People will really be able to "feel" their way around this monument while gaining a sense of the suffering of children.

As the years have passed and Dr. Michael and friends continue to try to get the monument finished and in place, he has gotten school children across Ontario involved in the project.  Many children have now drawn their own hands on a piece of paper, decorated it after learning a bit about child abuse and then had their drawings collected so that they can be included inside the second statue.

Now for a bit of information about how this all works.

Every person who was interested, paid a fee and then came to the studio where each one made a plaster cast of their hand print.  This sounds simple but was really a very powerful experience for most of us -- all of whom were abuse survivors.  That hand print, when you looked at it, said "I am really here and I have a right to exist".

The photo above is, clearly, my hand print and my quilt square.  Dr. Michael took the plaster casts and made a square we could work on and "decorate".  As you can see, I ended up putting a nail through my wrist (the real way Christ would have been crucified) to show how I felt for all those growing up years as though I was being crucified, nailed to a cross my parents never allowed me to get off of.  But then, out of my palm there grows a rose, a rose in bloom.  This was to symbolize the growth and beauty that came out of all this pain and suffering.  I am a survivor and I have become a person I value because of it.

At the top I have written "breaking the silence" which is what I finally did after years of keeping it all inside.  At the bottom is my full name because I am saying to the world "I will not be silent anymore".  Then, if you look closely, you will see a small flame coming out of the tip of my little finger.  I have never been really sure what I was trying to say by that, but I do know that I had to have it there -- the square would have been incomplete without it.

Finally, there's a list of names under the heading "In Gratitude".  These are people who contributed in some way when I was raising funds to pay my fee.  By the way, there were people who were not able to pay the fee and I understand that exceptions were made for them.

There is also a prayer attached to my square which I memorized some years ago.  I don't remember who the author was so we just put "author unknown".  The prayer is as follows:

Dear God

Please help the children of this world;

They are hurt and hurting

and are crushed beneath the weight of our insanity.

Please bless the children and awaken us before it is too late.


(Author Unknown)

What Dr. Michael is doing at present is gathering names on a petition to be presented to the provincial government, asking for a space to place the monument when that is finished.  You can help.  Here is what Dr. Michael is saying:

"We have established an online petition to ask the Province of Ontario to accept the gift of the Monument and confirm they will allow it to be placed in a park-like setting at the northwest corner of College Street
and University Avenue in Toronto.  Please visit the Monument website, http://www.childabusemonument.com/, click on the petition link and add your voice to our plea.  And of course, tell others to do the same. Please leave comments in the comment box of the petition that state strongly what the Monument means and why is should have a prominent home."

Please take a moment after reading this and go to the web site and sign the petition.  It would mean a great deal to a great many people who have suffered tremendously as well as those who are still suffering from childhood abuse.  I thank you very much for your help.

Now, after all that seriousness, I want to show you a couple of really strange photos.  You may have seen them previously, but I hadn't and I must say, I find them amazing examples of the absolute unpredictability of nature.

If you can read the information given, you will see that the tiger was suckled by a pig for the first four months after birth.  The tiger now plays with piglets as though she is one of them -- not realizing that they would make very tasty snacks!

And, here, I suppose, we have mother and child!  I am not sure if it is the same tiger as the colouring seems to be a bit different than the previous photo.  Whatever the case may be, it is still an amazing sight.  I would imagine that the zoo keepers would have to be very careful not to ever feed the tiger any pork -- that would be too traumatic for words!

I continue to do reasonably well.  I am looking forward very much to my birthday in 14 more days (not counting today).  Otherwise, I am just trying to acclimate myself to the cold weather.  It does seem to get more difficult to do each year as I get older.

Suki, on the other hand, is doing just fine and manages somehow to insert herself into whatever I happen to be doing.  The only place I can be alone is in the shower and even then she often sits just outside the bathroom door waiting for me to finish.  I really think she has some attachment issues.  Probably they are due to all those months she spent living in a cage at the Toronto Humane Society!
May you find plenty of peaceful moments among all the busy ones as we begin to make our way towards Christmas!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I continue to enjoy visiting this site, even though I do not do so as frequently as I would like. Tonight I became particularly interested in your post about child abuse, including the monument. I have signed the on-line petition in hopes of helping see that it finds its appropriate home.

Please continue with the blog. I continue to appreciate your effort and you talents that it evidences.

Warm Regards,