This latest painting is a collaboration with C.A.L.M. a charity set up to help tackle the issue of suicide amongst men in the UK.
The campaign against living miserably (CALM) was set up to help reduce the high suicide rate amongst men under 35, currently the single biggest killer of young men in the UK.
Men are three times more at risk of suicide than young women – in 2010 75% of suicides were men. But while smoking and knife crime make the headlines, suicide is the biggest killer.
I was instantly attracted to the charity due to my own issues with mental health and I am very keen to do whatever I can to help highlight the issue of mental health.
The pain I have suffered through my ongoing issues with mental health are ten fold any physical pain I have ever suffered. Despite the pain it is still something that very few people talk about, especially men and this is something that needs to change!Without giving too much away (as I prefer people to make up their own minds about what they think a paintings is about) you have the very honest, dead eyes juxtaposed with the inner pain. Here it is physically expressed though unfortunately most people do not feel comfortable enough to express such feelings. It is mostly kept pent up inside. If it comes out at all then it is in private.
It is about breaking down that male bravado, making people realise that it is not a weakness to be hidden but something to be shared. If you are fortunate enough to not suffer with mental health issues, you will still have had shit times at some point. Its about talking about these periods in your life, sharing with others, realising that you are not alone in your suffering.
The image will be used as the front cover for the next C.A.L.M. Magazine which will be coming out at the end of October.
Returning tonight from an incredible trip to Joburg.
Such an eye opener in so many ways and I’m very privileged to have got to paint such an individual in Soweto, as well as meet the people that I have, and hearing their remarkable stories
Can’t wait for part 2 of the project when I can get back here to see other parts of this country and get my brushes out again. …..
British artist Ben Slow has painted a large mural of Ruth First in Nomzamo Park informal settlement in Orlando East, Soweto.
Starting on National Heritage day, the 12 foot tall painting was completed in five days using ink and brush and spray paint. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the assassination of Ruth First by a letter bomb in Mozambique.
The spot where the painting is located is only a few kilometres from Kliptown where in 1955 the Freedom Charter was adopted by the Congress of the People. This became the central document outlining a vision of an egalitarian and apartheid-free South Africa. Ruth First was in the drafting committee of the charter but could not attend because of her banning orders.
Commenting on the subject of his painting, Ben Slow said: “I am very interested in people who deserve to be immortalised and who have a direct link to where they are painted. It has been an incredible experience for me. The people here have been incredibly friendly and welcoming. Life must be difficult here. There are shacks in Nomzamo Park without basic amenities. No electricity. No running water.”
Gillian Slovo, novelist and playwright and Ruth First’s daughter, when asked for her comment about the painting replied: “How wonderful that this painting of Ruth, based on a photo which was my mother’s favourite, should be there amongst a community she cared so deeply about.”
Beauty Mlakalaka the owner of the small house on which the painting appears said, “I think it is beautiful. Also people must know who this person was and what she did.”
Ruth First was a journalist, an academic and a gifted and dedicated political activist. She authored several books including “117 days,” the account of her imprisonment under apartheid’s 90 day law, and “The Barrel of a Gun,” her book about coups in Africa. She also edited a number of books, including Nelson Mandela’s “No Easy Walk to Freedom.” She was married to Joe Slovo who became the Housing Minister in Mandela’s government. On 17 August 1982, Ruth First was murdered by order of Craig Williamson, a major in the South African Police, when she opened a letter bomb made by Jerry Raven and sent to her university. The Truth and Reconciliation Committee granted amnesty to both Williamson and Raven.
This painting will form part of a film documentary on the anti-apartheid struggle currently being produced by Six Oranges, a London based documentary production unit.