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Friday, 18 September 2020


Inspiring art from around the world highlights importance of water and hygiene in fight against COVID-19

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ARTISTS Grayson Perry and Jean Jullien, photographer Aida Muluneh, and actor Russell Tovey are inviting the public to vote for one of 12 striking pieces of artwork as part of WaterAid’s campaign, Art of Change, which calls for clean water and hygiene for all to help fight the spread of COVID-19.

Artists from across 44 countries tapped into their creativity to produce pieces linked to the theme of water and health to help WaterAid drive change and transform lives. The all-star panel of judges have chosen their favourite 12, shortlisted from 285 entries, and are now inviting the public to decide the most powerful one.

The public has until 10 October 2020 to vote. The winning masterpiece will be announced on Global Handwashing Day on 15 October and presented to governments to urge world leaders to double their investment in water and hygiene in response to the Covid-19 crisis.

Handwashing with soap is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of diseases like coronavirus, yet three billion people worldwide have nowhere to wash their hands with soap and clean water at home, and one in four health centres lack these basic facilities on-site, putting lives at risk.

As part of the international development charity’s campaign, artists have interpreted the importance of clean water and good hygiene, exploring a variety of themes from ‘togetherness’ and ‘community’ to ‘handwashing and hygiene’.

A water deity and a woman wearing a necklace made of beads of water are among the 12 final striking designs shortlisted by Grayson Perry, Jean Jullien, Aida Muluneh and Russell Tovey.

Mulenga Mulenga from Zambia, whose thought-provoking collage ‘A puzzle that can be solved’ is among the top 12, said:

“Handwashing is the first line of defence against Covid-19 yet 785 million people have no access to clean water worldwide. Women and children are the most vulnerable because in most households they travel long distances to access clean water. As a result, this has caused a lot of health problems and social-economical challenges. A tap, a borehole can save a life especially the most vulnerable.”

Photograph credit: Mulenga J Mulenga

While Jess Mountfield from the UK said of her artwork, ‘Turn on the tap’:

“I drew this while sitting with my grandfather who was dying of suspected coronavirus. His whole life was about positivity and kindness. I want people to look at this image and feel empowered, uplifted, and positive about the future and our potential. Things don’t have to be as they are – we really can enact change. And it is our duty to do so. ”

Russell Tovey, London-based actor, art collector and Talk Art podcast host, helped shortlist the entries. He said:

“The quality and variety of artwork submitted to WaterAid’s competition were impressive. Art of Change seems to have captured the imagination of artists around the world.

“With contemporary art being a great passion of mine, I’m really proud to be working with WaterAid on its Art of Change campaign. It will bring together different stories from around the world that will be used to urge world leaders to take notice and make concrete actions that will transform lives.”

Aida Muluneh, photographer and contemporary artist, whose work is on permanent exhibition at New York’s MOMA gallery and the Smithsonian Institute, was also part of the judging panel.

Aida said:

“Creativity and art are powerful forces for change in the world. I’m excited to be working with WaterAid on this initiative that offers artists the chance to create a unique piece of work that advocates for global change.”

Grayson Perry added:

“WaterAid’s campaign is a great way for artists from around the world to unite and use their creative skills to highlight the importance of everyone having the basics of clean water and hygiene and the vast inequalities that exist as we tackle a shared crisis.”

Claire Seaward, Global Campaigns Director at WaterAid, said:

“The importance of access to hygiene and clean water has been worryingly overlooked by world leaders, yet handwashing with soap is the first line of defence against the spread of diseases.

“Through WaterAid’s Art of Change campaign, we encourage the public to join us in urging world leaders to double their investment in clean water and good hygiene to help in the fight against COVID-19 and build healthy, resilient communities.

“By taking action and voting for your favourite artwork, you can help make a difference to the three billion people around the world who lack clean water and soap in their homes and to the millions of frontline health workers and their patients in clinics and hospitals.”

To vote for your favourite artwork, visit: www.art.wateraid.org. Votes close at 23.59 on 10 October 2020.

More information is available at www.wateraid.org/uk/art-of-change.

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