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Portraits covered in black paint unveiled at Kelvingrove in protest art display ahead of COP26

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A protest art exhibition has opened at Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum featuring three striking portraits, the faces partly obscured by black paint. All three paintings represent lives that have been devastated by the climate crisis in countries around the world. The paintings, by Glasgow-based artist I.D. Campbell, have been commissioned by Christian Aid, Islamic Relief UK and Tearfund ahead of COP26, to shine a spotlight on stories from the vulnerable communities within which they work - communities that are on the frontline of the climate crisis.

Protest Art: a Lament in Black Paint is an exhibition that the three international development organisations hope will help amplify global voices over the coming weeks and prompt action, in what is widely regarded as a critical United Nations climate summit and a pivotal moment for the planet. Concerns have been raised that the number of people from the global south able to actively participate in COP26 in person may be reduced because of the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on international travel.

The exhibition runs until 24th of October at the Kelvingrove, then it will go on tour and appear at a number of prominent venues in the city during COP26 including Glasgow Cathedral, St George’s Tron and Glasgow Central Mosque.

Head of Christian Aid Scotland, Sally Foster-Fulton said: “Protest art allows us to explore the issues around climate change in a really powerful way and by dipping each painting in black paint we’re able to visually represent the way the actions of the industrialised north are impacting on our sisters and brothers around the world.

“This injustice must be at the heart of COP26 and the voices of communities in the global south must be at the centre of decision-making. Each portrait is one of our global neighbours and we owe it to Joyce, Rita and Dhital and the communities they represent, to make sure their stories and lived experiences are amplified this November.”

Maria Zafar, Campaigns and Public Affairs Coordinator at Islamic Relief UK said: “Islamic Relief UK, Christian Aid and Tearfund have teamed up on this project to bring attention to the impact climate change is having on vulnerable communities – and to ensure they are not forgotten during COP 26 negotiations next month.

“Climate emergencies are becoming more frequent, and whilst we may see them reported on the news, we rarely see how communities adapt in the long run.

“These images seek to change that. They are a vivid representation of the effects climate change is having on communities worldwide and how individuals are forced to change their lifestyles in the face of devastation.”

Graeme McMeekin, Head of Tearfund Scotland, said: "This exhibition is such a striking but sobering way to convey the damage our organisations are seeing on a daily basis around the world, as people are increasingly being pushed back further into extreme poverty as a result of the climate crisis. For every bit of progress, we take a backwards step when we fail to address this harsh reality, which Iain has captured so vividly.

"With COP26 right on our doorstep, we have a real opportunity right now to tell the stories of those who cannot be in Glasgow at this time, but whose lives and livelihoods hang in the balance with every word uttered at this conference."

The three charities are grateful to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum for allowing the protest art to be displayed in one of Scotland’s most iconic art venues, in the run up to COP26.

Artist I.D. Campbell says it’s been a privilege to collaborate on this project and hopes people will take the time to see the paintings while they are at the Kelvingrove and read the stories behind the portraits. He said: "When I paint portraits, it elevates who this person is in people's minds. People become curious about who is in the painting and want to know what their story is. We want the public to be curious about the real stories of those on the frontline of the climate emergency and hungry to see climate justice."

Councillor David McDonald, Chair of Glasgow Life and Depute Leader of Glasgow City Council said: “COP26 is a real opportunity for us all to make the changes needed to stop more lives around the world being destroyed by the effects of climate change. These paintings demonstrate the all too real consequences of global warming and are a stark reminder of exactly what is at stake when many of the world’s leaders head to Glasgow at the end of the month. Glasgow has already declared a climate emergency because we realise the effects being felt today will only become worse in the generations to come without new measures being agreed.”

Notes to Editors

N.B. There is footage and photos available of the 3 individuals featured in the portraits and of the paintings being dipped in black paint.

Background information about the portraits:
Painting 1 - Joyce’s story – Malawi
Joyce, a mother of two, lost her home during a cyclone in Malawi. She has now re-trained as a tailor.
Painting 2 - Rita’s story – Bangladesh
Rita and her family were living in extreme poverty in an area battered by cyclones and storms. Rita now grows sunflowers for a living.
Painting 3 - Dhital’s story – Nepal
Dhital and his family lost their home and livelihood in devastating floods. They now have a new home that is both earthquake and flood-resistant.

About Christian Aid

Christian Aid exists to create a world where everyone can live a full life, free from poverty. Poverty is an outrage against humanity. It robs people of their dignity and lets injustice thrive. But together we have the power to transform lives.

We are a global movement of people, churches and local organisations who passionately champion dignity, equality and justice in countries worldwide. We are the changemakers, the peacemakers, the mighty of heart. We provide urgent, practical help in times of crisis and beyond. We seek to eradicate extreme poverty by tackling its root causes. Together with people living in poverty, we amplify our voices to speak truth to power and create lasting change. www.christian-aid.org.uk

About Islamic Relief

Islamic Relief is a faith-inspired, development and humanitarian agency working to transform and save the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in over 40 countries. Islamic Relief assists people according to need and does not discriminate in any way.

Set up in Birmingham in 1984 by a group of volunteers, we have assisted over 117 million people all over the world. We’re saving lives and empowering people to lift themselves out of poverty in over 37 countries – from Bangladesh to Bosnia, Pakistan to Palestine, Kenya to Kosovo. Islamic Relief is on the ground in some of the world’s most dangerous and difficult places – including Syria and Yemen - strengthening the most marginalised communities to withstand conflict and natural disasters and to build a brighter future. We also support vulnerable people in the UK in partnership with local charities and organisations. www.islamic-relief.org.uk/

About Tearfund

Tearfund is a Christian charity that partners with churches in more than 50 of the world’s poorest countries. We tackle poverty through sustainable development, responding to disasters and challenging injustice. We believe an end to extreme poverty is possible. Tearfund is also a member of the Disasters Emergency Committee. For more information about the work of Tearfund, please visit www.tearfund.org.

About I.D. Campbell

Iain Campbell is a Glasgow based portrait painter and is an Affiliate Artist of the UNESCO Chair in Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts. His work focuses on bold portraits, exploring life in the face of adversity. Between 2016 and 2019, he was artist-in-residence at St. George’s Tron Church of Scotland in Glasgow. Iain is best known for his painting, Our Last Supper, featuring thirteen guests of Glasgow City Mission. He has also painted for the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Christian Aid, Tearfund, The World Council of Churches, and in 2020 he worked in partnership with Remembering Srebrenica (Scotland) on paintings for the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica Genocide. He also exhibits paintings with The Glasgow Gallery and The Lemond Gallery. www.idcampbell.com