By Sonia Lowman, International Medical Corps
“Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable.” -George Bernard Shaw
November 15, 2013 - In January 2013, Mali made headlines when rebel armed forces from the north began moving south, triggering French military intervention. Nearly a year later, over 300,000 Malians remain internally displaced from the conflict, with an estimated 4.2 million in need of humanitarian assistance (UNHCR). Working in the north of Mali, International Medical Corps is providing emergency health care, critical nutrition interventions, child immunizations, and protection services to Malians affected by the conflict. But with the reality of war indisputably ugly, International Medical Corps’ Country Director in Mali, Giorgio Trombatore, has also worked to bring some beauty into the lives of young Malians.
Since August 2013, Giorgio has spent his weekends volunteering in the Bolle state prison for minors in Bamako, Mali. The prison—housing between 50 and 60 minors—is in desperate condition, with serious hygienic concerns and a near constant state of confinement for the prisoners to prevent their escape. Giorgio, a passionate Italian by birth, organized a group of local Malian painters to provide painting lessons for the adolescents. He has also worked with locals to clean the prison cell walls, improve prison sanitation, and distribute clothes to the young prisoners.
Further, unable to bear the prison’s dire conditions, Giorgio decided to radically transform the prisoners’ aesthetic experience. Working with the local painters, Giorgio orchestrated three massive Caravaggio-inspired paintings to cover the inside walls of the prison for the young prisoners to see. Giorgio’s wish is that the paintings “inspire light to the darkness of life—with light perceived as hope for the future.”
Just as art inspires light, it’s people like Giorgio who make the world a little more bearable.