The Nigerian and US governments refused to release the terrorists “brethren” in exchange for the kidnapped girls, so this artwork examines the ethics around ransoms. The text art “baa baa black sheep have you any wool” is cutout of the paper and similar to the holes that one finds running up the side of a notebook page. The old English nursery rhyme is transformed into a metaphor for ransom demands. The words “Yes sir, yes sir” are changed to “no sir, no sir” since the girls refused to go along with the kidnappers and ran for their lives (and the government won’t meet the ransom demands). The rhyme also acts as a hidden symbol for the 13-year-old Catholic saint, St. Agnes, who’s symbol is the lamb. She was dragged naked through the streets to a brothel, raped and then beheaded for her beliefs. St. Agnes represents both virginity and rape in the church. Since the Boko Haram threatened to use the kidnapped girls as sex slaves and sell them as child brides and St. Agnes’ symbol is a lamb, the nursery rhyme fits. The lamb symbol is hidden in a non-religious nursery rhyme as a reference to people hiding their religious beliefs to survive. The white color is lamb-like.
The artwork connects Agnes’ beheading with the journalist James Foley’s who was beheaded by ISIL. At his beheading, Foley denounced America and his Catholicism. He was clothed in orange to make a statement about all the prisoners who are wearing orange in US jails and who the terrorists asked to be released in a swap for Foley. The English nursery rhyme is especially apt since Foley’s executioner had a British accent and the government was able to use voice recognition software to help identify him.
Mixed media on paper
60" x 44"