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This 'protest art' is touring Glasgow during COP26 to highlight the impact of climate change

The exhibition by artist Iain Campbell looks to portray the injustice being caused by the carbon footprint of the world’s richest countries.

Artist Iain Campbell pictured with the portraits that tell the story and devastation of climate change. Photograph by Colin Hattersley

A protest art exhibition featuring portraits of those most impacted by climate change is touring Glasgow’s most iconic sites during COP26.

These are no standard portraits however, and before they had the chance to be displayed they were dipped in a vat of black paint to demonstrate the damage and consequences climate change has had on the world’s most vulnerable communities. 

Protest Art: a Lament in Black Paint features the sobering story of three individuals who have lost their homes and possessions as a repercussion of the carbon footprint left behind by developed nations.

Joyce’s portrait before it was dipped in black paint.

The portraits, which were first displayed in Kelvingrove Art Gallery, tell the story of Joyce, a mother of two from Malawi, who lost their home in a cyclone but has now retrained as a tailor; Rita from Bangladesh, hailing from an area which has been drastically impacted by flooding and storms but has now turned to selling sunflowers for a living and Dhital from Nepal.

Dhital’s family completely lost their livelihood in floods, fortunately however they now live in a home that is both earthquake and flood resistant. 

The artist behind the project, Iain Campbell, told The Big Issue: “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.

“I don’t expect Boris Johnson or Joe Biden to look at these paintings, but if we get a groundswell of folks in the UK who further understand the impact of our carbon footprint on the lives of the most vulnerable people on the planet, then hopefully more people will care more and there will be further demand for action.”

The stories were selected through the charity archives of those spearheading the project, a collaborative effort from Christian Aid, Islamic Relief and the Tearfund organisation.

Sally Foster, head of Christian Aid 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.

Pictured with Iain Campbell is Head of Christian Aid Scotland Sally Foster-Fulton, Graeme McMeeki (Head of Tearfund Scotland), Maria Zafar and Nadeem Baqir from Islamic Relief UK. Image: Colin Hattersley

“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.” 

If you’re interested in seeing the striking blacking out process that Campbell described as quite the “emotional moment”, tune into BBC’s Songs of Praise this coming Sunday. 

If you’re in Glasgow over the coming month however, you can catch the exhibition in person at: 

  • 25 Oct – 4 Nov – St George’s Tron, Buchanan Street
  • 4 Nov – Glasgow Central Mosque
  • 6 Nov – 9 Nov – Glasgow Cathedral
  • 10 Nov – 19 Nov – Mitchell Library
The exhibition in Glasgow. Image: Colin Hattersley

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