From Kintyre to Columbia; art project shows global solidarity

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A Campbeltown-born artist is calling for people to pick up a paintbrush in solidarity with struggling indigenous communities.

Jan Nimmo has created the Rivers in Solidarity project to highlight the environmental crisis devastating communities living alongside a polluted Columbian river.

The river Atrato is fought over by armed guerrillas, illegal gold-miners and paramilitaries and Jan wants to ensure the plight of the river and its people is known worldwide.

Known by its Spanish name, Rios Solidarios, the project is for people from anywhere in the world to create artwork that sends messages of solidarity from their river to the communities of the Atrato river in Chocó, Colombia.

In her studio in Kintyre Jan has created a piece of art inspired by Machrihanish Water and is working on a depiction of the Whitehouse Burn, and now she is asking people to join her in celebrating their own waterways.

She said: ‘Through the creation of artworks, the project will forge and strengthen networks of solidarity, centred on an understanding of rivers as the lifeblood of communities across the globe.’

The project aims to raise awareness of the socio-environmental devastation affecting the Atrato and the communities who live there and includes portraits created by Jan of the so-called River Guardians, a group of 14 people who risk their lives to protect the Atrato.

Jan explained the complications her project has faced: ‘I was supposed to travel to Colombia just as the pandemic broke so have had to make ‘long distance’ works which I have been made possible with the help of Steve Cagan, an American photographer and activist with the help of the partners in Colombia – especially Yesenia Palacios, Diana Canbra and Viviana Gonzéle – I couldn’t have made them without them.’

Based at her studio in Whitehouse, Jan is working with Professor Mo Hume and Dr Allan Gillies as artist and affiliate of University of Glasgow where academics have been campaigning for years for the human rights of the communities living alongside the Atrato as well as for legal status for the river itself.

The Rios Solidarios will create an online gallery of the artworks and stories from rivers around the world, and there will also be opportunities for the artworks to be exhibited.

Artworks, which must be square, can be in any 2D medium or combination of media including painting, collage, recycled materials, embroidery, prints, photographs; or they can even be words or poems simply written on a piece of cardboard, for example.

All art works should be emailed to Jan at Jan.Nimmo@gla.ac.uk.. Contributors can also discuss their ideas for the artwork with Jan using this email address.