"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." — Elie Wiesel

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Hawaiian Shirt To Die For


I was pondering the work of the Pacific Life Community(which is "committed to ending nuclear weapons and war-making through nonviolent direct action along the Pacific Rim") recently when I discovered a truly remarkable work of art. The Posters for Peace and Justice 2009 Calendar has Pam Debenham's work, "No Nukes in the Pacific" for June.

As one who understands the legacy of atmospheric nuclear testing in the Pacific, and as a devotee of Hawaiian shirts, I was immediately drawn to this poster on many different levels. Here is Pam's explanation of how the poster came about (from the calendar).

"The original idea for this poster was inspired by an American Friend who collects antique Hawaiian shirts telling me that the rarest shirt from the 1950s was one with a design of a bomb blast. The shirt was produced in celebration of the United States doing atmospheric testing on Bikini Atoll. This seemed so contradictory I thought it was worth reinventing the idea in the context of protest. This poster was one I produced in the early 1980s dealing with the continual armaments build-up by the superpowers and nuclear testing in the Pacific. Like many Australians, I feel an affinity for the coastal landscape of our country and the sense of our close proximity to our Pacific Island neighbors. The voice of the individual protester is conveyed throught the visual map of the shirt."

Pam's poster is part of a collection of political posters commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the Atomic Age by the Center for the Study of Political Graphics. These are some of the most remarkable works of anti-nuclear art that I have ever seen. I think they demonstrate the effectiveness of (poster) art as a form of political speech. You will find it difficult to get some of these images out of your head once you see them.

If you have an artistic side, whether in the graphic arts, music or theatre, consider how your creative expression can move to the social/political realm to work for peace and justice. Art is a powerful tool for reaching people on an emotional level, from which they can begin to move towards understanding and change. How utterly subversive!

Towards Peace,


View the original image of the Hawaiian shirt poster by clicking here. The artwork is copyrighted by Pam Debenham, C1984. Poster from the archive at the Center for the Study of Political Graphics, Los Angeles, California. www.politicalgraphics.org

"Disarm the Warheads" is a computer-generated piece done in 2003 by an unknown artist.

Click here to view the entire 60th Anniversary of the Atomic Age poster exhibition.

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