Bring Back my Bonny to me, to me

I went into Bigtown on one of my biennial shoe shopping trips and found rather more than I had bargained for

shoes representing missing schoolgirls

More than 200 pairs of girls’ and womens’ shoes, placed there in solidarity with the kidnapped girls in Nigeria. You were supposed to take a selfie, I think, and tweet it or facebook it, but I stuck to photographing the shoes and talking to a few of the folk who were doing the organising.

I’m not 100% sure what I think of these sorts of campaigns – taking a selfie and sending a tweet doesn’t seem calculated to acheive much of anything except making ourselves feel a bit better about something, rather than helpless (you could say the same about pedalling on Parliament) and ‘trending on Twitter’ is not the same as ‘actually liberating 200+ schoolgirls from a horrible fate’. But then again, I do find it encouraging that people in Bigtown are taking time to act in solidarity with women in Nigeria. It’s not the most diverse of places, and it’s good to see it turn its gaze outwards once in a while. Long may it last, after the caravan of media attention has moved on.

Later, after the rain had returned, the shoes were gathered up and taken away, leaving only ghostly footprints which were if anything more moving

footprints in the rain

Meanwhile (to lower the tone somewhat) I have bought my first pair of Doc Martens since the last century. Obviously these days I channel ‘granny biker’ rather than ‘bovver girl’ (and they’re way more comfortable out of the box than they ever used to be) but it feels a bit like an act of solidarity with my 20-something self. Bouncing soles…

new shoes

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10 Responses to Bring Back my Bonny to me, to me

  1. Whoa, I thought the image of the shoes was powerful, but actually it’s the rain shadow ‘ghost shoes’ that pack the biggest punch.Transience, mortality… reminds me of Andrew Goldsworthy’s ‘shadow’ works. http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2007/mar/11/art.features3

  2. Reblogged this on Uphilldowndale and commented:
    Take a look at this, post. What powerful images.

  3. disgruntled says:

    Yes it was really striking. I don’t suppose you could ever plan such an effect though (although waiting for it to rain is a bit of a sure thing around here)

  4. CJ says:

    If the western world hadn’t picked up the story I’m not sure that the Nigerian government would have done very much about it. So maybe there is a part for ordinary people to play. But I know exactly what you mean about the tweeting thing. Fantastic Doc Martens, your feet will be happy in them.

  5. disgruntled says:

    I do think it’s great that there has been such an effective campaign started from within Nigeria for these girls, which has spread to the west, rather than it being something imposed from outside.

  6. Steven Hope says:

    I think what bothers me more is the impression that retweeting or putting something in your Facebook status (because 90% of people won’t) is the same as actually doing something. Like reading about exercise or diet is the same as actually exercising or dieting.

  7. Flighty says:

    A good post. These are such powerful images, especially the second one. Like you I’m always a bit in two minds about campaigns like that. xx

  8. welshcyclist says:

    I think you hit the nail on the head, we feel outrage about what has happened, but powerful images don’t do anything for those suffering, they just console ourselves that we care. These 200 girls deserve better, yet the world, including myself, just looks on. I know I am ashamed, what about our government?

  9. Powerful photos. I’m ambivalent about a lot of clicktivism, particularly some of the claims made about its power to effect change, but nonetheless I continue to sign petitions and share things on Facebook and Twitter if I feel moved to do so. Given the reach of the media these days, particularly social media, we’re so much more aware of atrocities and outrages around the world that we – as ordinary people – are utterly powerless to do something about. In a way, I’d almost prefer to remain in blissful ignorance than to want to help but be unable to do so. But because I’m not in blissful ignorance, sharing a picture or signing a petition gives me the feeling that I’m doing something. And who knows, maybe they can help in some way – if only to show our government that ordinary people do care about these issues, and maybe they should get up off their backsides and do something about it. I live in hope, anyway 🙂

  10. disgruntled says:

    I think the Guardian Weekend cartoon nailed it this week http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/cartoon/2014/may/10/stephen-collins-cartoon-may-10

    That said, other than solidarity, I’m not sure what else we can offer these girls and their families. A donation to a charity for education in Africa perhaps? Any suggestions as to a really good one?

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