The power of caring is what makes us human
We spoke with Doug Rocks-Macqueen, responsible for the project “Open past – We are what makes us human” and director of the Charity Open Past and Kenneth Aitchison, chair of the board of Open Past.
Their project is about inviting artists and illustrators throughout Europe and commissioning them to create a colouring book. The colouring sheets need to be related to cultural heritage as the topic is “people helping people throughout time”. The project will thus create a pan-European pool of artists and offer colouring activities for people to learn about cultures in different eras. Firstly for home use, and, in future, the coloring sheets could be used in classrooms too.
The great archaeologist Theresa O’Mahony who built a community of people with disabilities working in the cultural heritage sector has been a great inspiration for Doug and this project. The main idea behind her project is that “caring for others is what makes us human”.
When COVID-19 started taking off, there was a lot of public discussion on just leaving the virus do its course without considering the weaker people. People were feeling abandoned and not worthy. This kickstarted the idea to face the situation and take care of everyone, not leaving anyone behind.
“Another issue is the political isolation”, says the chair person, “the sense of isolation across Europe has affected people in such a way that they are afraid to share their European experiences.”
“The power of caring for people is what make us human: society and culture work best when we are taking care of everyone,” says Doug. The idea of not letting anyone behind is a theme that has occurred around history for thousands of years.
Doug tells us that it will be a collaborative and participatory cultural art and heritage project. The images will be uploaded on the web – free to print. Each image will be designed by a different illustrator from anywhere in Europe and will come with text, translated into multiple languages, explaining the image and the history depicted. The project will be accompanied by a social media campaign encouraging people to share what they have coloured in. This way we connect through time and through space.
“Caring for people is what makes us human and a person shouldn’t be caring only about people belonging to their social group. Standing with people you don’t know but who you are willing to support, this is the most human thing that we can do,” says Doug.
Heritage and culture across borders
The project aims to create a European public space in the sense of “heritage and culture across borders”, as the cultures and eras represented in the illustrations will be cross-cutting, ignoring modern national boundaries, to demonstrate that caring knows no geographic, cultural or time boundaries. As, so Doug and Kenneth say, to remind people that the nation as a concept is a new idea and that any European Union has always been a collection of people spread across the entire continent.
Grant awarded: €15,000