Peter Woods

2014 Children of the Revolution

This exhibition was shown in my studio/gallery in Bittern in November 2014, celebrating over 37 years involvement with the West Papuan people, and for 14 years painting their struggle for freedom. My previous exhibition in 2012 was about the women, the hidden heroes of the resistance to Indonesia’s occupation. I painted with oils and on wood panels and canvas. Since then I had travelled twice to West Papua, and when I was in Manokwari (our old homeplace) the previous June I spoke to my friends there about doing an exhibition, showing their children and grandchildren who carry on the struggle for independence. This is the genesis of the exhibition.

In using mainly gouache (an opaque waterclour) on heavy papers I have enjoyed the sometimes randomness of the medium and its results. I pushed myself to produce a lot in a few months and the deadline (always helpful) has kept me ‘loose’.  A huge thank you to my wife, Jeanette who has worked incredibly hard as well to make this happen, and also to my family who always pitch in so well. The exhibition also launched my website, the fulfilment of a long-held dream. And thank you to long time friend and colleague in the West Papuan struggle, Louise Byrne for opening the exhbition.

Violence has been done towards West Papuan children for over 50 years since Indonesia took control of that land in 1963. Children have fled the bombing of villages,the burning of their houses, the searching and wrecking of their homes by security forces. Violence continues to be done towards children now – more mothers die in childbirth than anywhere else in Indonesia. Children often have no teachers at all and have the lowest school retention rate in the country. Poverty is the highest in Indonesia. Children have witnessed the arrest of their fathers and the rape of their mothers. Tens of thousands of West Papuan children have experienced the disappearances of family members, the long absences of fathers who have been jailed for ‘treason’ or who have taken to the jungle or exile. The nation of West Papua is a traumatised place and the children are the ongoing victims. Despite this, children continue the struggle of their parents and grandparents – for freedom – often with joy, humour and song.

I have sought to convey some of that optimism in my paintings.