In conjunction with Geneva Conventions Day and International Youth Day, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Kuala Lumpur Regional Delegation organised the first Humanity in War art design competition in Malaysia.
Aimed at raising awareness of communities affected by armed conflict among “tomorrow’s decision makers and opinion leaders”, the competition was open to all Malaysians between the ages of 16 and 25.
Launched on May 30 for a period of seven weeks, participants were given the opportunity to make use of any medium of art to communicate their perception and awareness of humanitarian issues and war.
Head of the ICRC Kuala Lumpur Regional Delegation Francis Amar said: “We at the ICRC wanted to know what Malaysians, particularly the young people of Malaysia, thought of humanitarian issues and war, especially in these challenging times.”
Malaysians have been fortunate as there has been no violent conflict for more than 40 years. An entire generation has grown up without first-hand experience of armed conflict.
However, this means that some young Malaysians might find it difficult to empathise with communities affected by war, or might not even think about the issue at all.
United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) communications officer and judge of the competition Yante Ismail commented: “I think Malaysians have lived in peace for so long that they are disconnected from conflict or war and lack empathy for those who live in such situations.
“This competition makes young people think about their role in keeping the peace,” she added.
Participants were given eight topics to choose from – Children and War, Women and War, Landmines, Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), Missing Persons, Biotechnology and Weapons, Conduct in War and Reuniting People and Families Separated by War.
While the most popular topic was Children and War, entries were received for all the topics.
Competition judge and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) representative to Malaysia Dr Gaye Phillips said, “I think the entries showed a great depth of understanding of these issues. I’m impressed at the way the participants were able to translate these issues into visual art.”
A total of 116 entries were received from participants ranging from secondary school students to working graduates.
Out of those entries, eight finalists were chosen by a panel of nine judges based on their artwork, humanitarian content and originality.
While choosing the top three out of the eight was not much of a problem, the judges had a more difficult time deciding on the winner due to the high quality of work submitted.
In the end, the first prize went to Intec College student Ng Wai Ho whose poster entry highlighted the issue of families separated by war.
Second and third place went to artist Gan Ka Yee and KBU College student Liew Boon Cheng respectively. Both their entries tackled the subject of Children and War.
Judge and graphic design consultant Foo Chi Wei said, “The top three entries were very good.
“They had great visual impact and both artistic and humanistic value.”
Chief judge and editor of Kakiseni.com.my Pang Khee Teik said, “Those who won felt for the topic. Some of the others hadn’t much feeling for the topic, but the pieces were still moving because the topic was a touching one.”
The eight finalists will have their entries showcased in a special publication by the ICRC.
The ICRC plans to turn the Humanity in War art design competition into a biennial competition, with the next one held in 2007.