Student inspired to raise awareness of injustices
By Darren Lum
April Kovacs, a Haliburton Highlands Secondary School Grade 11 art student, is hoping the digital collage she created will have a lasting impression on people and help promote equality.
April created her original artwork earlier this year in response to the Black Lives Matter protests that gained momentum around the world following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
The piece, which she completed in multiple layers on a tablet computer using a stylus, was a self-directed final art project for the Grade 11 drawing class at HHSS.
In her artist’s statement, April said her work’s message is about promoting equality.
“My overall, and I think fairly obvious message is equality for the Black Lives Matter movement. I want people to understand that we are all equal, no matter the colour of our skin. The fists are a very important symbol for the movement as it represents support solidarity.
They’re also glowing, and the glow originates from the black fist (the symbol of the movement) at the front of the group and spreads amongst the rest of the hands that have all different skin tones, showing their support. To me, I’ve always thought of glowing to represent change and hope. The equal symbol subtlety in the background, which pretty much sums up the whole idea of the movement; equality. Behind all this, I collaged pictures of peoples signs, and of people protesting; this shows that other people support the cause. Lastly, there’s a silhouette of a person’s head, which represents the people who don’t, for some reason, understand or support the cause. On this silhouette, there’s a message that I would like to get to those people to understand: Our skin colour may be different, but we all bleed red. There may not be too much detail on the image, because I wanted something simplistic, and have nothing that would distract people from the message, same goes for the colour palette.”
April said she had difficulty coming up with the design because of the importance of the cause.
“I really wanted something that would stand out. I wanted to show that I wasn’t alone in this idea, so I did the collage of other people supporting,” she wrote in an email. “[The] quote on the image was the hardest to come up with, because I wanted something original, but I had trouble straying away from other peoples messages. So, I kept telling myself, what do I want to say? It hit me in the middle of the night, and I thought it was perfect. It started out as a question at first, a genuine concern that sure, we may be different on the outside, but why treat others differently because of that? We’re all human. We all bleed red. The glow around the hands [was] a last minute touch, that I think brought the piece together.”
April said raising awareness is an essential part of moving forward as society.
“Art is a reflection of our culture, and I believe that showing inclusiveness would highly impact the furthering of our culture when people look back on these pieces, and hopefully learn from the lessons that they teach. Hopefully, with art, people are able to see a new perspective on certain matters,” she wrote.
She said equality improves happiness and that those who do not need to fear abuse from others have a better chance of achieving it.
“It’s hard to be happy in a world where you’re afraid to walk out [of your] home because you fear abuse and slander. This doesn’t just include the brutality against Black people, but all people of all races, genders, and beliefs. It’s not fair, and it’s horrible to see innocent people who don’t deserve such things suffer, and it makes me sad and frustrated with the world, because we should know better by this point. Some people believe that they are the superior being, but what gives them the right to think that? It’s likely because that’s what they were taught growing up, but that shouldn’t be an excuse. I don’t believe there are qualities that can justify a superior being. It’s important to remember that despite our differences, at the end of the day, we’re all human. I believe the day we learn to accept each other with open arms will probably be the happiest day on earth,” she wrote.
April said she has not experienced racism personally, but believes she has a semblance of understanding experiencing sexism.
“Seeing things like sexist comments towards women hurts my confidence and my self-esteem. I have friends who’ve dealt with sexism, which also hurts to see because they are absolutely amazing people who don’t deserve such things. I’m sure this goes hand in hand with people who deal with racism too. Nearly every day, there’s new accounts of racism, and it sucks to see and it makes me disappointed in humanity,” she wrote in an email.
Her art teacher Karen Gervais wrote in an email that April and other students “were asked to consider the various purposes art serves to both individual and society as well as the audience they were hoping to impact with their work. After working through some drafts of ideas that were more generalized statements about awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement, I challenged April to do some reading about the issues and really speak from her authentic voice, experience and also to the audience she was trying to reach with her work. I encouraged her to consider how she, speaking from her own place and identity, could make change. April took up this challenge and evolved the work into the strong visual statement I have shared.”
This piece is also available to view on the HHSS website and there are tentative plans to create printed posters or T-shirts this fall as part of an equity initiatives effort, Gervais added.