Monday, November 12, 2012

Celebrating African Grandmothers, Heroes of the Continent

For some years, I have thought of African grandmothers as the unsung heroes of Africa. Ever since the HIV/AIDS pandemic arrived in African countries, this (mostly) heterosexual disease has stolen away the young adults of those nations. While education and social change have helped somewhat, it has been the grandmothers and widows who have carryied the burden of caring for the young children who have been orphaned. My work with these women in Southern Africa opened my eyes to this, but it took the articulate and compassionate voice of Stephen Lewis, among others, to give voice to this reality here at home. Now there are "Grannies'  
Groups" all over the country, raising funds for projects that help these women. I applaud all of you, all of us, doing our tiny bit to help our sisters across the ocean. It may not seem like much to you, but taken altogether, these efforts have succeeded beyond anyone's imaginings. Enough pontificating. What I really want to tell you about, is a new endeavour by a group of Grannies from the Lower Mainland. They are mounting an art show called "Celebrating Grandmothers, Heroes of the Continent", which will travel across Western Canada. The link to this group is If you are an artist in any 
medium, and would like to have your work considered for this juried show, I would encourage you to check out the website. I think it will be a spectacular show, and if it's anything like the two previous shows organized by the North Island Quilters for Community Awareness and local Grannies Groups, it will go a long way in raising more funds for this most worthy cause. The Bitengye Designers I work with in Uganda are another effort in this work, and as many of you already know, their lives have improved dramatically since they learned to sew and began providing for themselves and their families through their sewing. "We left our troubles behind when we learned how to sew," Anna told us. Just give an African woman a chance to find a way to provide for her family, and she will run with it, "try her very best, by all means", and she will succeed. The work of the Stephen Lewis Foundation looks for ways to give more opportunities to more women, so that they too can "leave their troubles behind".

The photos I've included here are of some of the grandmothers I've met in Uganda over the last few years. Such dignity. Such ability to celebrate in the day - staggering and humbling in light of the challenges they face each and every day. I encourage as many of you as can, to be part of this art show. And if you're not an artist, perhaps you'd like to bid on one of these pieces for yourself, when that time comes. I'll be sure to let you know about show dates and auction dates once these become known. We CAN make a difference!


  1. They are indeed. Spending time with them, even thinking about them, brings a smile to my face and helps put everything else I might have on my mind in perspective.