Art for Africa end's after 23 years.
A recent sunny weekend in June saw the final Art for Africa - the long-running art exhibition and sale for Christian Aid which has been part of the Monmouthshire art landscape for the past 23 years.
"You could have an art exhibition here, and the proceeds could go towards Christian Aid projects in Africa"
One of the founders, Peter Symes, explains how it all started, 'There was a major crisis in Africa in 1991, perhaps the first time that people in UK had become aware of the scale of the need in Africa. At an informal meeting of the Wye Valley Art Society in the dining room of our home, Fern Lea, Bertie Lloyd, an amateur artist, commented that most of the walls of the downstairs rooms had picture rails. “You could have an art exhibition and hang pictures here,” he said, “and the proceeds could go towards Christian Aid projects in Africa."
'Bertie and my late wife, Hazel, offered to exhibit some of their work, and other artists also generously joined in. We decided to make a weekend of it. Lots of furniture had to be removed from the downstairs rooms, but that first exhibition raised £1,600!'
Masai Warrior painted by Helen Scourse.
'In 1992 there was still severe drought in some areas of Africa, and help was urgently needed once again. Rather more furniture was moved out of the downstairs rooms. Other artists joined in and craftwork was added. The momentum gathered pace and the amount increased almost every year, reaching almost £6,500 in 2009.'
'To date, over £75,000 has been raised for a wide variety of projects, such as tools and animals for refugees returning to their homes in Eritrea, wells providing clean water in villages, drought relief, agricultural projects in Ethiopia and Tanzania, basic education in southern Sudan, and anti-malaria projects in Zambia and (this year) Sierra Leone.'
'Over the 23 years, 5000 visitors have bought a total of more than 500 pictures. More than 3,000 different pictures have been exhibited (not counting a postcard-size exhibition last year) by beginners, very accomplished and experienced amateur artists and high calibre professional artists. The variety of exhibits expanded over the years to included sculpture, woodturning, paper making, rocking horses, pottery, painted glass, handcrafted cards, photography, miniature tools and tapestry.'
'There have been demonstrations of spinning, weaving, and painting, woodland walks and stalls selling plants, second-hand books and bric-a-brac, and Traidcraft items.'
'During the exhibitions, youth groups and children from Trellech Primary School have taken part and groups of visitors have come from a number of places including Bridges Community Centre in Monmouth. Many old friends have visited and new ones have been made. People come, not only to view and buy paintings and other items, but also to have a cake and cup of tea or a cold drink, chat with friends and generally sit back and chat and enjoy the sunshine and the view.'
Art for Africa will be a much missed event in the Christian Aid Wales calendar. An enormous thank you to all who have taken part, but especially to Peter Symes for his vision, enthusiasm and commitment!