Hello and welcome. I am Benji, I’m the recent graduate of a BA in Illustration and even more recently the intern at Shieldfield Art Works. At three weeks in I would describe my role so far as a witness – learning all that’s going on in this community, watching, questioning and being amazed by it. But with this post comes the next step in my journey, to begin to tell of all that I’ve seen and heard in the form of semi -regular blog posts. The hope is to (virtually) share a little of my experiences with you my (theoretical) audience, and maybe even attempt some original thinking as well.
Without further ado.
On Friday 13th September SAW opened its current exhibition, Communities not Commodities. The exhibition explores the emotional value of land and housing, and protests the injustice of reducing that value to the purely commercial. In the Shieldfield context (where SAW is firmly rooted) this conflict of values plays to the tune of rapid urban development, gentrification, and social cleansing.
The Tuesday prior to the opening, Mixing Bowl (SAW’s creatively spiritual community)sat down to discuss these heavy notions over a bring and share meal and a game of Monopoly. On the surface the Monopoly is a benign and semi-relevant icebreaker into a discussion of the true value of property, place and community. In practice the two are almost mutually exclusive. This is what I found listening to stories of loneliness, the search for sanctuary, the need to be surrounded by those whom we know and are known by – there was just no good time interrupt and ask for rent money.
This juxtaposition of course was the crux of a very deliberate metaphor. SAW have spent a long time listening to Shieldfield’s stories of a community under threat, and have witnessed the callous manoeuvrings of ‘Big Cat’ property owners in sunny tax havens far away. They’ve found themselves called to protest, to name the injustices they see and not look away from them.
We believe in a God who is good, who again and again and again calls for the uplifting of the disadvantaged, and for the fair and compassionate treatment of the vulnerable. A God who is pleased by, and longs for, oceans of justice. A God who certainly doesn’t like the look of the injustices going on in Shieldfield right now. And so SAW have refused to become a tool for social cleansing in the hands of a broken system, instead they have decided to cast their lot in with the little guy, following the example of our God who does the same.