Archive for category: Musings

Changing Culture

European culture is changing rapidly these days, and the expansion is contributing to a new Europe that is more diverse.

Today, commonly held values of European democratic countries, are encouraging new arrivals from the Middle East, the Balkans and North Africa to join and become a part of a smaller world.

As with the Algerian immigrants who came into France after the Second World War, the new arrivals are bringing with them a culture that will challenge Europe.

The original Algerian immigrants who arrived in France though the 1950’s and 60’s may or may not have assimilated well into French culture but I would suggest that their children are French.

An example of how these two cultures have combined is evidenced in the language, as we see the mixture of Arabic with French, first as slang and now as commonly known terms.

The challenges that have become evident in this developing culture, I believe originate from the differences in education and theology, with the language barrier as a catalyst.

In many cases new arrivals will congregate in neighbourhoods with others from their home countries, forming exclusively immigrant zones with limited education and employment opportunities all contributing to feelings of non-acceptance by the indigenous population. [1]

Unlike the previous immigrants to France, in the middle of the 1900’s, the segregation of more recent arrivals has contributed to a new generation of young people who do not identify with the values of the European countries in which they were born. [2]

As the world gets smaller we will need to achieve a peaceful ideological amalgamation where theologies can live side by side in mutual respect.

In Abu Dhabi recent UAE legislation established religious freedom allowing for a new Hindu temple to be built, a first in the region. [3]

How quickly can we change with our new world?

Freedom of speech and the rights of women are fundamental to our world.

A young man arriving from Pakistan spoke into the camera on the news, he said that he just did not want to fight somebody else’s war.

Will it be possible to keep radicalism away from our shores?

By Blake and Boky

  1. Disentangling neighbourhood problems: area-based interventions in Western
    European cities. By Wouter P. C. van Gent. University of Amsterdam, Institute for Metropolitan and International Developmental Studies
  2. ibid.

Fragments and the EU Migrant Crisis

As Europe rides the waves of economic volatility, 120,000 refugees are in motion, seeking for a better life or even perhaps just the possibility of one.

Wherever we look there is desperation.

The frustration of having gone through so much, just to get to Europe and find closed borders has understandably resulted in violence at times.

Language barriers, xenophobic attitudes and the potential dangers of welcoming terrorists into their countries have resulted in considerable unrest.

There is the refugee running for his life, and then there is the economic immigrant who seeks an easier life for his family.

Can the European economy sustain such an influx of people?

With the best of intentions, country after country has been pushed to its limit; even Sweden has found their system stressed, as disappointed Syrians continue north to Finland.

This is a human crisis and while the solutions are being found, the Geneva Convention should be respected.

Still, there is fear, fear of economic repercussions for each country, fear of terrorism and fear of a basic lack of control over the situation.

After the Serbian-Hungary border crossing was closed the refugees decided to move north through Croatia in their zeal to reach western Europe.

However, moving through a ‘post-war’ Croatia comes with great risk.

With 50,000 landmines spread over a 500 kilometer area, the refugees face even more life threatening moments.

“According to the United Nations Mine Action Service, the mines and other unexploded ordnance (UXO) still contaminate areas in 77 towns and municipalities in 10 of the 21 counties in Croatia.

“During four years of armed conflict in Croatia, mines were laid by all the warring parties, mainly to protect defensive positions, which changed frequently, but also in areas of strategic importance, such as railway lines, power stations and pipelines,” reads a portfolio on the UNMAS website.

“The majority of suspected mined areas are woods and forests followed by agricultural land, underbrush, meadows and pastures.””[1]

Social media is being used to guide them, posting warnings and maps of the contaminated areas and they have been advised to stay close to roads and train tracks.

While the Croatian Mine Action Centre has committed to clearing these areas, they have spent more than 500 million euros already to remove 90,000 landmines.

The head of Croatia’s de-mining office, Dijana Plestina, estimates that it would take a further 500 million to eliminate the landmines in the rest of the country. [2]

This is an old story, as countries the world over continue to see both local and foreign populations effected by landmines.

Although greatly reduced from the threat these abandoned weapons created in the last half of the 20th century, landmines are still a part of our world today in eastern Europe, Africa, Cambodia and in the many countries in the Middle and Far East.

During my time teaching sculpture in Hanoi in 2003 I was horrified to find that the Vietnam wars continued to maim and kill the rural population, and I was moved to try to do something about it.

I set out to create a collection of 19 sculptures; Fragments, in order to try to contribute something towards cleaning up this type of military waste.

I saw the resulting sculptures as ‘intentional art’; art with a purpose.

While artists cannot change much in the world, we can certainly try and work in the hopes that we might make this a better place.

In 2007, the Fragments campaign funded the destruction of 318 unexploded weapons in the Quang Hung Commune in Vietnam by Mines Advisory Group.

In 2008, the campaign provided funds to the Canadian Landmine Foundation for mine risk education in Afghanistan and funded a Landmine Survey that identified 522 suspected hazardous areas in the Moxico province in Angola.

In 2009, Fragments contributed to funding clearance of NATO-dropped cluster munitions in Kosovo through No More Land Mines.

In 2010 and 2011, Fragments contributions supported clearing landmines in Cambodia through The Cambodian Landmine Relief Fund.

In September 2016, we will be exhibiting the collection in Saint John, New Brunswick and are canvasing museums all over North America for the opportunity of exhibiting the works to bring awareness to this huge problem.

We need to get back to work in order to solve this problem, from where the world started before the initiative put in place by the Canadian government in 1997, we have come a long way to clearing our world of this hazard.

Let’s hope that the refugees stay safe and their desperate plight for a better life doesn’t become the next event that makes us aware that the landmine problem is still a very real one.

By Boky & Blake



To Bend History

As the grip of extremist Islam becomes more prevalent, those who live in democracies, will need to challenge the extremists living among us, in order to protect our way of life.

Many people claim that this extremist ideology is not true Islam, yet there are not many Muslims standing and voicing their opposition to these extremist factions.

Only devout Muslims can challenge the scriptural basis upon which the extremists proclaim the laws of their faith.

Only these moderate Muslim voices can provide a credible alternative view challenging this form of extremism and encouraging reform within the Muslim community.

Our democratic culture must continue to stand for tolerance and the right to freedom of expression, and we must insist that those who choose to live among us share our democratic values.

We require our universities to provide a platform for alternative thinking, however, we must not allow extremists to use our liberalism to promote their lethal ideologies by hiding behind allegations of racism and cultural insensitivity.

In order to begin to counter this extremist ideology we need to initiate some very difficult cultural debates, that must be aired without the fear of being branded an Islamophobic.

There are many examples today of our passive tolerance of practices that are contrary to the progressive values upon which we have built our civilizations.

The future of our nations rests with our children and they will naturally assimilate the culture in which they live.

Many of the children of landed immigrants, in many countries today, lack the sense of belonging, they lack a bond with the general population, and remaining strangers to its culture have failed to identity with their home nation.

We need to have the confidence to inspire others our values as they will form part of the identity that our children will choose.

We know that extremist ideologies evolve in the minority communities within our countries, in neighbourhoods that are isolated and where opportunities for young people are limited.

There, language barriers and poor education restrict possibilities and prevent women from entering the workplace and attaining any sort of independence for themselves.

These conditions segregate communities and subjugate the inhabitants, limiting their identity to a closed faith or ideology.

We need to reform these communities through education and integration, to expose radical Islam as a theocratic belief system and contrast their subversive intolerance of freedom and sexual discrimination with our values.

We cannot allow the moderate voices within this dialogue to be silenced by these failures of integration.

Many democracies in the world have built diverse communities that include minority cultures and faiths that co-exist and create a country that is far greater that the sum of its parts.

“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.” (Robert F. Kennedy)

By Blake & Boky

This blog was inspired by a speech made by Prime Minister David Cameron at Ninestiles School July 20, 2015.

Freedom of Thought

As a result of the changing technology that has taken over our lives we are now connected and affected by events in many different parts of the world on a daily basis.

This type of information will change how secure we feel in our own environment.

Of course we are aware that the world has never been a safe place.

Today we may feel that we are so much more civilized and therefore we are at less risk than at other times throughout history, but I am not sure that this is the case.

I think that it is safe to say that we are at less risk from physical harm than at other times in history.

Undoubtedly we know far greater freedom of thought, expression and speech, at least in a large part of the world we are safe from persecution.

The freedom that has lead to our leap in technological advancement is the freedom that is cherished by our institutions of learning, our schools and universities.

For in these scholarly offices it is expected that every notion of truth, be it scientific, sacred, secular or even foul can be overturned, examined and debated freely.

It is here that disturbing ideas of any sort may be introduced without risk to the physical safety of the speaker, and seriously considered with the only exceptions being ideas that promote violence, and hatred.

Even the politically incorrect must be sheltered from physical harm and rebutted with correct and true ideas rather than subjected to censorship of any form.

Our centers of learning should be a place for ideas, principals and ethics that can stand and be discussed based on their merits.

These institutions must protect the freedom to speak ideas and the freedom of dissent and although we should be tolerant of an individual’s ideological doctrine, these beliefs can be heard in other institutions of that individual’s choice.

For freedom of religion is also freedom from religion.

We must protect the freedom to speak our ideas and to choose our beliefs, without fear or reprisals, for this remains the basis of a free and progressive society.

By Blake and Boky

Photo: The Unnamed Prophet No.1

Make it Happen

This blog is dedicated to our mothers, sisters, daughters; to women all over the world, many of whom face the extreme challenges of living in a rigidly patriarchal society, within cultures where their human rights are viewed as being less important than those of men.

While the degree of injustice is lesser in some societies than others, it is time to give women equal access to education and resources.

For they deserve to have the same opportunities.

It is time to empower them so that they may contribute and prosper under the same sky as men.

It has been twenty years since 189 countries signed the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. [1]

While much has changed, so much more remains to be done in order for us all to understand that women’s rights are equal to human rights.

The Beijing Platform for Action focuses on 12 critical areas of concern, and envisions a world where each woman and girl can exercise her choices, such as participating in politics, getting an education, having an income, and living in societies free from violence and discrimination.” [2] These critical areas are: “…poverty; education and training; health; violence; armed conflict; economy; power and decision-making; institutional mechanisms; human rights; media; environment; and the girl child.”[3]

All we have to do is consider the case of Malala, who was shot in the head, point blank because the Taliban could not tolerate a 12 year old girl taking a stance for the right of education.

She campaigned from the age of 10, writing a diary for a BBC blog, volunteering for The New York Times documentaries and her little voice had power.

Her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, gave a wonderfully eye-opening TedTalk in which he exposes the tribal, patriarchal society as it is.

To begin with, women who give birth to a girl are not even congratulated!

The child cannot go to school, only her brothers can.

As a result her name has not been officially recognized and she has no identity.

In many countries women are considered the property of their fathers and then the property of their husband, they cannot be considered as individuals before the law.

They are denied access to a life of their own.

As Malala’s father puts it: “Admission in a school means that she has entered the world of dreams and aspirations where she can explore her potentials for her future life.” [4]

She is expected to be quiet and submissive and even marry as a child.

By the age of 14 she could be on her third marriage with children and no education; no way to fend for herself.

Boys are taught honour, girls are taught obedience.

If they stray, the girls risk being killed by their father, or another male member of their family for dishonouring them.

The tragedy is that this is taught over and over again, from mother to child, perpetuating the horror.

Khalida Brohi is a young Pakistani woman who has dedicated her young life to putting an end to the honour killings. [5]

She has done this through education; empowering them to take charge of their lives, by creating centers called Sughars, where the women learn about embroidery and business.

Brohi has launched the Sughar Foundation in the U.S. and her dream is to unleash the potential of rural women in Pakistan in the years to come.

We don’t all live under such extreme social conditions but I know that we all have women in our lives whose achievements deserve to be celebrated and their rights recognized.

To them I offer my gratitude and admiration for their strength and courage.

May this 20th anniversary since the Beijing Declaration Platform for Action remind the world that gender equality is critical.

When asked how he taught his daughter to be “…so bold and so courageous and so vocal and poised” Malala’s father responds: “…don’t ask me what I did. Ask me what I did not do. I did not clip her wings, and that’s all”. [6]

‘Make it Happen’ is the theme for this year’s International Woman’s Day. [7] The UN theme for International Women’s Day 2015 is “Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!” [8]

So, Let’s Picture it! Let’s Make it Happen!

By Boky and Blake


Hurrah G20

What are the G20 talking about these days?

Have any of you guys actually heard the latest buzzword, the Bail-in Regime? “ALACGSIBR” or the “Adequacy of Loss-Absorbing Capacity of Global Systemically Important Banks in Resolution” agreement is the title to a recent decision of the G20. Is this title a diversion of “a group of governments that are trying very hard to conceal the purpose of some especially nefarious agreement that they’ve just colluded on.”? [1]

The idea is essentially that in the event of an emergency or bank failure, the bank is allowed to use unsecured depositor’s monies (anything over 100,000) as regulatory capital.

How is that fair?

This keeps the taxpayer happy, as the pocket they are removing funds from is someone else’s, the bankers are thrilled and the G20 countries are “wringing their hands” [2] as they strike with another great vision of “OPM” (also known as “Other People’s Money”).

As Europe goes to hell in a hand basket they bask in their “collective epiphany” [3] on solving systemic bank failure.

Here’s what bothers me.

The idea of investing in equities, complex derivatives or the like, seems somehow less risky, in view of these new ideas regarding potential global bank failure when compared to just putting our money in an interest bearing savings account. [4]

That low risk, feeling of safety that could be had from having your savings safely put away in a bank account is a thing of the past. Theft is now legal.

Depositors are viewed as a liability to the bank because anything over 100,000 is unsecured.

What is perceived as being “low risk and high liquidity” offers very little in return, yet is climbing to the top of the risk ladder. [5]

To be fair though, it must be stated that “In some jurisdictions, the banks must give something back, such as shares in the bank (which may or may not have a saleable value). In addition, whilst the individual bank can take as much as it wants, it is “encouraged” to place a floor on the confiscation, for example, in Europe, €100,000. And this would be “hoped” to be a “one-time-only” confiscation. However, in each country, should the banks later decide that the first confiscation was insufficient, they could make as many further confiscations as they see fit and could lower the floor each time. If your account is “insured” by your government, it would be well to bear in mind that confiscation is not the same as a bank crash. In confiscation, you have not technically “lost” your deposit; the bank has traded it for a piece of paper that says you now own something other than your money—shares in the bank (which, again, may or may not be saleable).” [6]

Cyprus was a test, a virus that could prove a pandemic in OPM’s. Once the banking emergency has been created, accounts can be confiscated.

The outbreak effectively began a long time ago, but nobody really took notice. Suffice it to look at pages 145 of Canada’s Economic Action Plan 2013:

“The [Canadian] Government proposes to implement a “bail-in” regime for systemically important banks. This regime will be designed to ensure that, in the unlikely event that a systemically important bank depletes its capital, the bank can be recapitalized and returned to viability through the very rapid conversion of certain bank liabilities into regulatory capital. This will reduce risks for taxpayers. The Government will consult stakeholders on how best to implement a bail-in regime in Canada. Implementation timelines will allow for a smooth transition for affected institutions, investors and other market participants. Systemically important banks will continue to be subject to existing risk management requirements, including enhanced supervision and recovery and resolution plans.” [7]

I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel better right this minute.

If the G20 has agreed on a bail-in regime, then what will happen the next time the banks decide on some high risk and irresponsible investment, such as bundled mortgages, for instance?

Will this constitute an emergency?

While it is true that I’m an artist, not a politician, I do believe in balance and honour.

Am I missing something here?

P.S. All joking aside, it might be best to avoid fiat currencies and instead invest in art.

I can help you with that!



By Boky & Blake


Art Activist

“What artistic activist aims have in common is a faith that awareness can change the world without any specific follow-through. This is magical thinking.” [1]

While dreaming is quite fitting when discussing artists, the idea that there need not be a specific follow-through is ridiculous! Awareness is a first step but it simply isn’t enough.

Knowing about an issue does not bring about a solution, but it is a start.

According to Duncombe and Lambert, the success of an activist art exhibition can be judged by:

-How much press it got, which would bring public awareness to the issue, but does it automatically bring about change?

-Whether it made people think, thus starting a discussion on the issue.

-Revealing some hidden truth regarding social injustice or corruption, still there won’t necessarily be a transformation just because the cat is out of the bag!

-Expressionism; if the work triggers such strong emotional reaction then it is considered a success; but just because it made me shudder, was the problem fixed?

Activism in art is the reflection of the terrain of warfare having changed from the fields to the venues that provide a new battleground. The goal is social awareness in the hopes of engendering action.
Educating the public on political and social issues can bring about change, but it is only the first step.

Whether we are dreamers who believe in magic or whether we have a more concrete plan with a proper follow-through program that allows for a concrete solution or not, the fact is, we are all trying to bring awareness and make this a better world.

There are hundreds, if not thousands of art activism projects around the world.

The Fragments series is intentional art that aims to shed light on the issue of landmine clearance in post-war areas where military waste was left behind.

We need all the press we can get and hope that the public will reflect upon these issues and join us in this battle to put an end to the killing fields.

Still, for Fragments it doesn’t end there.

The exhibition is only the beginning.

Raising funds to clear the fields is the intention and I think we can safely say that we are succeeding.

– 2007, the Fragments campaign identified and destroyed 318 unexploded weapons in Quang Hung Commune in Vietnam.

– 2008, the Fragments campaign provided funds to the Canadian Landmine Foundation for mine risk education in Afghanistan.

– 2008 Fragments also funded a Landmine Survey that identified 522 Suspected Hazardous Areas in Moxico province in Angola

– 2009 Fragments took part in in funding clearing NATO- dropped cluster munitions in Kosovo.

– 2010, Fragments began support in Cambodia through The Cambodian Landmine Relief Fund.


We would like to see Fragments get back to work and are introducing the program in Canada.

We will see a Fragments campaign in 2015.

I am proud to be one of those dreamers and it is my deepest hope that this trend in art will continue because art is about humanity, it has power, and that, is magic.

If you would like to get involved please write us, we would love to hear from you, we can use all the help we can get!



By Blake & Boky

The Silent Majority

When might we learn enough to stop repeating our history?

When will we overcome our tendency to insist that we are right and the others are wrong?

When will the majority of people stand up to the few who threaten a more tolerant society?

What of the human rights and the rights of women that are denied within Read more

Art and Metaphor

Both a metaphor and a work of art are things representing something else.

A work of art can be analogous to our conceptual imagination.

Concrete and physical, a work of art can express something that our minds or hearts understand so completely that we not only accept it but we embrace it.

While paradoxically metaphors can be said to stretch truths regarding our physical world, they trigger emotions that run deep within.

Is this type of identification at the heart of art appreciation?

Certainly we can quantify elements, technique and quality, but is that why we fall in love with a particular piece of art?

I would suggest that technical analysis or observation cannot explain this phenomenon.

Art, like a metaphor, has the power of grabbing the heart and blasting past the logical mind, enticing us to see within the artwork images of our own lives, or perhaps a moment within history that we see is lived over and over again.

This allows us to identify in some way with the work of art in question.

Why is it that Rembrandt’s Lucretia had such an effect on me when I first saw it?

I froze and couldn’t take my eyes off it.

Even now, when I think of that moment the words of Emily Dickens ring out: “I saw no way, the heavens were stitched…”

Was this pseudo-Stendhal effect due to my love for poetry?

What caused these two images to converge at that very moment and why can I not forget it?

Is it that the events told of in Lucretia have been repeated so recently in our world and are in some ways analogous to the events that have occurred in the Arab Spring?

Is this why this work of art remains close in my memory?

The images in my dreams often defy the logical mind yet when I awake I can still continue to live within that reality, for a little while, especially when creating.

I wonder if in creating a piece I am providing a world for someone else’s heart, like Rembrandt did for mine.

Life is full of mysteries….

By Boky and Blake

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