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Xmas 2020

Every year I send an ‘Xmas Image’ to friends and colleagues, chosen to reflect some important aspect of the year just passed, and the year to come.

In some years the image comes from a very personal perspective, but in others I hardly seem to have any choice, because the year has been so dominated by one event or development that just can't be avoided. 2020, and the covid pandemic, is one of those years.

I also find myself often drawing on street art, and this year is no exception - I have chosen a mural painted by the Mathare Roots youth group in their shanty town in Nairobi, Kenya.

Photo by Brian IngangaPhoto by Brian Inganga

There are in fact thousands of examples all over the world of street art inspired by the pandemic, and especially by the heroic engagement of health workers - but for me it carries an extra burden of meaning and emotion when it comes from artists who know what it means to be hard-pressed. It is an act of defiance - an assertion of our collective strength in the face of life's difficulties. In this Mathare Roots work we can also, perhaps, infer allusion to another of 2020's most significant developments - the world-wide propagation of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Human experience is almost always mixed - and it never goes amiss to remind ourselves that even in the most difficult circumstances, the human spirit is irrepressible - that we can, I hope, enjoy the season, and even - perhaps - have a happy new year.

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