Bearing Witness to Orphans, Mothers and Strangers by Sara Awan

 Sara Awan’s artwork, “ Twins in Yellow Hats ,” appears in  Spring 2015 Intima .

Sara Awan’s artwork, “Twins in Yellow Hats,” appears in Spring 2015 Intima.

In the the poem, "Close to the Flowers: Notes from a Tanzanian Orphanage," Woods Nash bears witness to the plight of orphans, mothers and strangers in a faraway place. It is visceral, the plastic-ness of the sack, the dirt, the body. It is painterly. It illuminates. It is very very very sad. It is a small poem fit for a billboard.

I felt an immediate connection with this poem. More than twenty years ago I researched adoption practices in Pakistan. There too, women abandoned babies under social and cultural pressure. There too, strangers, helpful strangers, took care of these babies. There is a fence in the poem and a concrete wall; there are boundaries. In my small painting, the twins wear hand-knitted yellow hats, there is evidence of help and care, tubes pass across the surface of the painting. When I paint, these tubes passing fluids into, through and out of the twins, take on a psychological and a physical symbolism, representing the inner life and personal circumstances of the child and how that small being negotiates or is situated within the larger context of this world.

There seems to be a certain death of hope at the window in this poem contrasted with the immediate life, there now, in this moment with pollen on her lips. When I make my painting, I hold those twins, living in my thoughts with hope and with joy too.


Sara Awan’s artwork, “Twins in Yellow Hats,” appears in Spring 2015 Intima.

© 2015 Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine