My name is Joel Mulindwa and I am a painter based in Western New York, USA. I specialize in oil painting. I also like drawing with pastels, colored pencils, and recently started using copic markers.
The painting, The Three Little Patriots, depicts three boys who are child soldiers. I intentionally give them the title “patriots” because they are trained to think that they are patriots. In most cases, child soldiers are forcefully recruited, but in some cases they voluntarily join. The process of turning children into soldiers, if effective, produces a formidable fighting force that can be deployed in frontlines and cause astronomical havoc. In the painting, I portray them as still and unbothered. They no longer care about the ideal world of where children laugh, learn and play in an environment that shelters them in love. Instead, they assume the role of soldiers, “freedom fighters”, “Liberators”, “Patriots.”
I was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and due to the civil war, my family was displaced and we found refuge in neighboring Uganda. Amidst all the fighting, child soldiers were often recruited and greatly contributed to the violence. My family was among the lucky ones to escape. I sometimes think about what could have happened if we never escaped and the conclusion to that thought is death. Also, another conclusion is that I myself could have been recruited as a child soldier and that fact humbles me greatly. When I paint those boys, I see myself in them, in other words, those paintings are self-portraits of me as someone who could have been a false patriot.
This subject is important to me because, through it, I am able to face the harsh reality of war and displacement. Living in the United States has been extremely comfortable in comparison to where I come from. It is very easy to forget home and what we left behind. Most of my paintings are reflections of Congo, both the good and the bad. I consider my paintings as prayers to God reminding him of a country and people I feel he has forgotten.
If you would like to show support for Joel and the cause he is creating for, please consider donating to War Child.
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