‘Somos tus amigos’ is Spanish for ‘we are your friends’.
My hope for a three-month long trip to Peru – described under Yanamilla Prison, Ayacucho, Peru in the ‘Production’ section – was to learn about and connect with those living very different lives from my own as a means to find points of mutual understanding – the familiar in the foreign.
My experience of living in Ayacucho and working in the prison was life-changing. I got to appreciate first-hand the reality of those who have no choice but to survive on minimal resources. Things I regularly took for granted were major considerations for others. My privilege was made to stand front and centre.
As a way of honouring this journey with the mothers, I thought about ways in which I might express my love and gratitude to them. I decided to give each mother a drawing of their child, along with a letter.
Each drawing was a ‘biro blessing’. Using a biro to copy an image of each child from a photo – this took 15 to 20 minutes – I meditated on the child, holding them in my mind whilst sending them love and well wishes for a healthy, happy life.
By using a cheap, everyday tool with which to create each image, one I could not erase if mistakes were made, I attempted to enact a metaphor about the inherent messiness of life and inevitability of mistakes being made along one’s journey. But whilst it may not be able to erase mistakes, there is always the potential to draw something beautiful on top. Despite those the women might have made, which were now impacting their childrens’ lives, with love lay opportunities for future healing.
My letter to each mother described this metaphor and my Peruvian friend, Marisol, translated the English version into Spanish; I hand wrote each letter, enclosing it with its accompanying portrait in a separate envelope for each mother.
When it came to delivering them, I was unable to personally hand the envelopes to every mother. Whilst saddened by this, I left that day conscious that the enormity of the gifts they had given me could never fit inside an envelope.
[Images to be uploaded]