In April 2011 I was lucky enough to go on a school trip to Ghana. We planned to set up a permanent link with a school in Accra and to discuss & share ideas.
Nothing could’ve prepared us for the wonderful reception that greeted us at the Ghanaian school. We were treated like royalty even though we had all dressed for comfort in the heat & wished we had made more of an effort! Every one of us was truly overwhelmed & humbled by the experience. We were all aware of our differences but quickly realized how similar we are & laughed about some of the misconceptions we had about one another.
One of the teachers, Selina had gone to the trouble of buying jewelry for each of us, staff and students alike, at her own – not inconsiderable – expense. In my photo the english student is wearing a bracelet Selina gave her. We were all quite shocked by such generosity towards us as complete strangers.
We returned 18 months later. We were better prepared & we had spent the time in between visits fundraising so that we could come with gifts. We all made an effort to dress smartly, which after such a long hot journey wasn’t easy, but we did our best. Fortunately my friend Selina was there ready to meet us with most of the others and although such a lot of time had passed we picked up where we had left off and greeted one another with hugs. Selina admired the necklace I was wearing, it seemed the perfect moment to offer it to her in exchange for the necklace she had given me the year before and I hope that with this simple exchange of gifts we now both have souvenirs which help us to remember our connection and the wonderful feeling of love and unity between us and our schools.
I chose this story as my paintings have been based on jewels, symbols of marriage. The giving of a gift is a demonstration of the love and respect we have for the recipient, and the gift itself becomes an empowering reminder that we are loved.