Contemporary votive illustrations: The human war

To accompany our current exhibition ‘Infinitas Gracias: Mexican miracle paintings‘, we’ve been working with professional illustrators to produce contemporary votive illustrations based on stories submitted by visitors to Wellcome Collection and to our website. Just as Mexican ex-voto paintings were made by painters to tell stories of thanks, we want to hear contemporary stories of gratitude and explore the process of exchange between storyteller and illustrator.

Melanie Winning: The human war

Melanie Winning: The human war

Melanie Winning’s latest illustration is for this story submitted at Wellcome Collection:

I was working as a human rights observer and had been asked to remain in the village of Sieda, in the north of the West bank near Tulkarem. Two wanted men were captured by the Israeli Army, and the villagers asked me to negotiate with the soldiers to make sure the men were not shot or injured before being taken to trial. I walked over the hill several times to speak with the soldiers asking to check on the condition of the arrested men. The third time I went to check with the guards, in the house next to where the arrested men were being questioned, I noticed six children aged from about three to eleven years, each with a different soldier holding a gun to that child’s head. While the adults of the house desperately rushed around bringing the soldiers photographs and documents, I pulled out my camera to film this horrific scenario; not noticing an Israeli sniper in the bushes. The sniper then trained his green laser on me moving the laser slowly up and down between my stomach and my heart. I shouted to him that I was not armed, while still trying to film the six children being held at gun point. I walked backwards attempting to get out of the range of the gun and up some stairs. A man allowed me to take shelter in his house, where I continued to try and film the children through the bullet holes shot into the walls of the house. However, the sniper’s gun may have had some heat seeking sensor and he remained able to track me as I moved inside the house. I went outside so if the soldier did shoot me he could not claim it was an accident. I was shaking so much it was hard to film. The Israeli border police arrived and the laser was taken off me and the soldiers took their guns away from the children’s heads. I am grateful that no one was killed, not the six children or my self and I wish to thank who or whatever kept myself and the children safe that day.

Pennie Quinton, Sieda village near Tulkarem in the West Bank, Palestine. For the people of Sieda village near Tulkarem for sheltering me while I was held at gun point.

You can find out more about Melanie Winning’s work and explore more votive illustrations on the Wellcome Collection website.

Could your gratitude inspire a votive? Tell us your story, and it could form the basis for an illustration.

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