By Bethan Uitterdijk
Behind the scenes is an exciting place for Arts to End Slavery. Although the A2ES exhibitions aren’t to be held for a few months (they will be in May 2015), there is much going on at the moment in their eager preparation. It’s only fair to explain how A2ES is continuing to grow and mature in preparation for May. One particular rite of passage for our artists has been to have a concept meeting with the project coordinator. The meeting has focused on explaining the issue of human trafficking. These meetings strive to explain to the artist the different forms of trafficking (for labor, for organs and for sexual exploitation) and seek to educate the artists on the nature of human trafficking in Kenya.
I am an intern for HAART and although I’ve been passionate about anti-trafficking for some years now, avidly researching the issue wherever I could, this internship has been opening my eyes even more to the true nature of trafficking. For instance, most people are familiar with sex trafficking in South East Asia because of the media highlighting stories. However, the nature of trafficking in Kenya is very different. We have sex trafficking occurring at the coast but most of the cases that HAART has handled mainly involved trafficking for labor. I’ve learned that trafficking isn’t defined solely by moving someone from A to B; you can hold someone against his or her will in the same location and this too is trafficking. The industry trades both men and women; both boys and girls.
There are three characteristics classic to this complex business that we want our artists to describe: transit, exploitation and recruitment. To fully depict human trafficking, one needs to communicate its many facets: deception/trickery, abuse of trust, confiscation of official papers and documents, bondage to an agreement and/or consequential burdens of debt to the trafficker. The artists have all had concept meetings because it is important to HAART that each work of art is able to educate honestly and accurately about the trafficking of humans. Not only is this an opportunity for the artists to better understand the industry of modern-day slavery, but the ultimate hope is for the viewers at the A2ES exhibition to be confronted with accurate, well informed and balanced representations of the different forms of human trafficking. The concept meetings also allow the artist to choose the form of trafficking that they want to depict in their art piece. The idea is that we do not want a scenario where all the artists end up doing pieces on the same issue. We want all the aspects of human trafficking covered and these concept meetings will ensure that this happens.