Fighting modern day slavery with… creativity?

When you read the words ‘tackling modern day slavery’, what comes to mind?

Perhaps you picture a safehouse; perhaps a police officer. You might associate the phrase with a number of charities, or maybe you think of bills being discussed in Parliament.

But here’s a word that may not have been immediately obvious – creativity.

Maybe your mind draws a line, and ‘tackling modern day slavery’ falls on the side with the facts and figures, strategy and communication.

Of course, doing battle with atrocities like sex trafficking and domestic servitude requires all of those things. But what if we added to this arsenal? What if we began to see creativity and the arts as an equally powerful weapon in the fight against modern day slavery?

The arts have a way of evoking an emotional response in a way that facts and figures simply cannot. A pen, a paintbrush, a camera, a song, a movement – all of these can tell memorable stories that have the potential to live on for centuries.

The arts connect us to someone else’s experience, bonding us in our shared humanity. The arts have an enormous impact on how we think and what we believe – think, for example, about how fashion has evolved to reflect the spirit of the age, of how music echoes a progressing culture, or of how media exposure influences public opinion on big social issues.

Creativity reminds us that in the battle against modern day slavery, there is hope. When we create, we’re not only having fun; we’re adding something new to the world. While human trafficking and slavery seek to dehumanise and destroy, creative expression actually wages war on the lie that people can be reduced to commodities, because the very act of creating something demonstrates value and worth.

But like anything, creativity can still be used for good or for evil. Sadly, this means that the entertainment industry often perpetuates the objectification and devaluation of human beings. Pornography in particular has a direct correlation with the demand for human trafficking[1] – but even the music industry, television and advertising can send out messages that promote oversexualisation and commodification. Some of these messages are subtle, others more obvious.

We need to fight back if we want to see an end to modern day slavery. Imagine that the creative arts fully celebrated the worth of human beings rather than sought to exploit them. While this may seem a distant reality, it’s something to work towards.

Though science seems to agree that some people exhibit more ‘creative’ personality traits than others[2], creativity takes many forms and we all have the capacity to be creative in one way or another. It seems to be written into our very DNA to invent and design and build and beautify.

So if you have a creative skill, you have the power to be an agent of change by raising awareness and maybe even by raising funds through selling your creations.

At The Sophie Hayes Foundation we believe having fun is key in this fight! In the week running up to Anti Slavery Day today (18th October), we have been showcasing pieces of artwork (they can be drawings, paintings, collages, photographs or the like) from artists and from some of the survivors we work with, to raise awareness of modern day slavery and remind us that this is a battle all of us can help to fight. Our aim is to depict our survivors as we see them – as heroes on a journey of hope and restoration.

We have been sharing the contributions on social media and we will also be sharing them on our website, so do check back to enjoy the art displayed and perhaps get inspired to create something yourself!

By Camilla Olim

[1] http://fightthenewdrug.org/the-internet-can-be-a-very-unsexy-place-we/

[2] https://www.format.com/magazine/features/art/creative-thinking-science-facts

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