Collection of silent voices brings hope for the muted
Over the past six months, 34 women from three emergency shelters have been working with the UAE-based artist Jennifer Simon to produce work that goes on exhibition tonight in Abu Dhabi.
"These paintings illustrate not only the suffering and anguish endured by the Ewa'a women but also their hopes and dreams of a better future," says Sara Shuhail, the chief executive of the shelters.
Since 2009, the Ewa'a Shelters For Women and Children in Ras Al Khaimah, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah have given refuge to 166 people, with most fleeing forced prostitution. The United Nations has reported that the practice of human trafficking currently enslaves some 2.5 million people around the world.
Ewa'a centres offer medical, legal and psychological care to those seeking to escape the snare of human trafficking in the UAE. They assist women with bringing traffickers to justice as well as their future rehabilitation, and the centres' efforts were lauded by an independent UN investigator in April.
Indeed, the exhibited works are remarkably upbeat: "The main aim was to give the girls a sense of achievement and perhaps keep their minds occupied for a short while," says Simon, the artist who led the sessions and sought to bring out some buried creativity in these women. "When I first started the workshops I didn't know what to expect. Most of the girls had never painted before in their lives.
"Although many sad stories circled the air, what was most rewarding was seeing the power of the human spirit and how brave these girls are."
Tonight's exhibition is organised and supported by the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation. All proceeds from sale of the works go to funding the efforts of Ewa'a in helping those escaping modern slavery.
Silent Voices is at Ghaf Art Gallery, Al Khaleej Al Arabi street, Abu Dhabi, from today until Thursday. The exhibit opens tonight at 7pm. For more information, visit www.admaf.org