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“Pieces of Me”

July 25, 2013

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Camila Batmanghelidjh is one of my heroes. She set up Kids Company in London in 1996 to provide support directly to the most deprived and neglected young people. This is dangerous work. These children are not always easy to help. You can read about her here.

I chanced upon this exhibition yesterday at the Royal West of England Academy. It is of work made by vulnerable 11 to 16-year-olds during workshops facilitated in Bristol by Kids Company and RWA’s Volunteer Artist Network members Rachael Nee and Helen Jones, with support from the University of the West of England. The exhibition is on until August 25.

Each child was given a box to decorate and fill to represent him or herself – a “piece of me”. Most boxes were busy, colourful and optimistic. One was dark and empty, with toys stuck to the outside to represent a lost childhood. All were emotionally powerful. The children had recorded their explanations of what they had made. I made notes as I went around:

The box is full … the nuts and bolts … my mind goes blank until I feel the love.

I am the seventh born of ten. I like to watch people skate. I like the way they move.

I’m from loads of different places, and the sea connects them all.

Tigers are the best animal.

The cars will drive you anywhere, to free your mind.

It comes from my heart.

I don’t like doing stuff the easy way. The harder something is, the more you get out of it.

The girl with the shaved head is trying to be different, to stand out. The baby is taking its first steps. The bird is guiding her. “Which way do I go now?” The bird says, “There’s a good way and a bad way. I suggest you go the good way”.

I’m messy. I’ve come a long way.

The Dark Figure – you will see it wherever you go in life.

The last gem is death.

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