Heather Haynes

The Irony of It All

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2021
Mixed media on Board
42" x 60"

About The Irony of It All

The Irony of It All was created from an image that was captured late in 2020 of the Mbuti (Pygmy) Community of Idjwi Island DRC. I haven’t been able to visit DRC for a few years, first because of the Ebola threat and later because of the CoronaVirus. I hired Lucianna, one of our graduating students from the Tchukudu Kids Home program (under The Art of Courage non-profit) to begin documenting the projects I was raising funds to support from Canada.

The village of Indigenous People on Idjwi has been stuck deep in my heart since I first met this group of people back in 2014. I had wanted to create a body of work to tell their story. They are racially, economically and culturally discriminated against. Their story is rarely heard and documented. My hope is to raise awareness about the hidden value and ancient wisdom they have to offer modern-day society.

The irony depicted in this painting is the fact that this little girl would have zero access to any kind of media. No television or internet…no way of knowing what the iconic picture is on her T-shirt. The myth of the Mbuti (Pygmy) people may well have been something Disney would have fantasized in the earlier days of inception. The dehumanizing veil of humanity.

More about the Mbuti (Pygmy) Community

I met the Mbuti (Pygmy) people of Idjwi Island five years ago. I heard from Kizungu, Director of Operations at World’s Collide and born on Idjwi Island, how badly the Mbuti (Pygmy) community was suffering from lack of food, poor housing conditions, no means to send their children to school, and no medical help. When I met them they spoke about these things but they also told me how the surrounding communities treated them like animals. They were clearly frustrated and hurt. Cultural myths about “others” are deeply rooted in most societies. What I felt from the Mbuti (Pygmy) people is that they just wanted to be treated the same as everyone else.

Kizungu, members of adjacent World’s Collide projects, and I began helping by providing garden hoes so they could grow food more efficiently. Then a year later we began helping them by providing a stipend of basic food needs for their village. The children were also invited to join the temporary school being built on the island.

Due to these interactions, the larger community has now accepted this marginalized group of people into the fold of the larger community. They are learning beside one another. They are growing food and working to build the permanent school together. Recently when the Chief's son died, the leaders from the surrounding Bantu community travelled to the Chief’s village to pay their respects… something that had never been done before.

Since the first day I shook hands and hugged this group of people, I wanted to do more for them. The most basic tool I have is to paint those I want to help. So, I began painting from images taken by Lucianna (former Tchukudu child) late in 2020. The paintings slowly evolved into paintings of worship. I am honouring this indigenous group of people the best way I know-how. I bow down to their connection to the earth… one that most of us have lost complete attachment to. They live simple lives and when they have food, shelter and hope for a brighter future they live in complete joy. They are creative; from their pottery to their song and dance, they have a spirit that is unlike anything I have witnessed or experienced before. My longing is deep to be with them again.

We should be ashamed of ourselves for letting a culture so rich in history and knowledge be left to suffer from a consumption-obsessed world that has ripped the forests down; the place where they originally lived and flourished.

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