War Child Series
Artist, Helen Broadfoot

A Show Of Respect is a body of work painted for the children of war. This exhibition is comprised of ten large oil paintings. It underscores the violation of these children’s basic human rights. Each painting depicts a child from a different country and chronicles ways that war effects children. Children die, children are forced to become soldiers, children are captured and sold into brothels and children are displaced and spend their young lives (often their whole lives) as refugees.

“I sought to compose these paintings with extreme sensitivity to the children involved, wanting viewers drawn into the paintings, not repelled by them. A major component of each piece is the inclusion of one of the articles of “The Universal Declaration Of Human Rights.” These articles are painted on the canvas in the language of the child depicted in the painting. Next to each painting in the exhibit is the translation of the article into English as well as the inspiration for the painting itself. It is my hope that these paintings will help bring awareness to the plight of these children and help people reaffirm their commitment to peace”—Helen Broadfoot

Below are four oil on canvas works from this exhibit. You can view the entire exhibit at: http://www.oilpaintingforpeace.com/

respect_painting_1Title: “Why Do You Come?”
Universal Declaration of Human Rights… Article: #3
English translation of Pipil language written on canvas:
“Everyone has a right to life, liberty and security of person.”

Inspiration for this painting: In 1981, the US trained Atlacatl battalion of the Salvadoran Army massacred 900 people in the village of El Mozote. A reporter from the New York Times named Raymond Bonner was fired for trying to report it. The villagers were uninvolved in the war and some had taken refuge there against an offensive against the FMLN. The United Nations conducted an investigation and produced a document called the “The Truth Report” that stated, “During the morning, they proceeded to interrogate, torture and execute the men in various locations. Around noon, they began taking the women in groups, separating them from their children and machine-gunning them. Finally, they killed the children. A group of children who had been locked in the convent were machine-gunned through the windows. After exterminating the entire population, the soldiers set fire to the buildings.” The job of the government “Death Squads” was to terrorize the population so they would not support the FMLN. They would often come to the homes of the villagers at night and take one or more family members away. More often than not the terror included the death or torture of innocent villagers.

respect_painting_2Title: “Come With Me”
Universal Declaration of Human Rights… Article: #5
English translation of Luandan language written on canvas: “No-one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhumane, or degrading punishment.”

Inspiration for this painting: Since 1987, the “Lord’s Resistance Army,” a religious rebel group in Uganda, has abducted and enslaved over 20,000 children. They butcher villagers to steal food for their army and steal their children to serve as soldiers in their army. Children who are captured are made to kill a loved one or a friend to “toughen them up.” This traumatizes the child to make them more obedient. Children are made to watch killings to get them used to the job they will soon be expected to do. Many countries use children to kill for them especially in Sri Lanka and Myanmar.

respect_painting_3Title: “Twisted Media”
Universal Declaration of Human Rights… Article: #25
English translation of Vietnamese language written on canvas: “Everyone has a right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well being of himself and his family, including food, clothing,
housing and medical care and necessary social services and the right to social security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood.”

Inspiration for this painting: Chemical weapons of mass destruction… “Napalm”, “Agent Orange”. Who can forget the molten, sticky liquid plastic that clung to burning bodies as flesh was twisted into wreckage? Agent orange is also a horror that has no end. Agent Orange was the name of a chemical sprayed over large areas of jungle in Vietnam to defoliate the trees and expose the enemy. Unlike agent white or agent purple, Agent Orange was laced with “DIOXINS”. Agent blue was also used and contained arsenic. Forty-five million liters of Agent Orange were dropped on 20,000 villages during the Vietnam War. Vietnamese have recorded at least 600,000 people affected by birth defects and terminal medical conditions caused by this chemical.

respect_painting_4Title: “Who Will Clean the Earth?”
Universal Declaration of Human Rights… Article: #28
Written in English on this canvas: “Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this declaration can be fully realized.”

Inspiration for this painting: Hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese were killed on August 6th and August 9th, 1945. Many more died in the following years from the effects of radiation. We cannot undo this horror, but with determination we can possibly prevent such horrendous crimes from happening again…. Our children and our children’s children will inherit the earth we leave them.

helen_broadfootI once believed that as a little Canadian woman artist of no consequence, I couldn’t do anything to change big things like war. I wrote to Noam Chomsky asking what I could possibly do. His answer was “There is no such thing as a little person of no consequence.” His advice strengthened my resolve. And so, I took a year from my life and set to work to bring the children of war to my canvas for all to see. I hope to inspire people to use their own talents to help end war.—Helen Broadfoot

The artist has donated this exhibit to The Missing Peace Art Space and
The International Network of Museums for Peace.

Reprinted by permission. Artwork © Helen Broadfoot 2006