Wanda’s Arts Awards 2019: James (1st place winner)

James always dreamed of being an artist. His preferred mediums are drawing and painting, though he does do sculpture work occasionally. He attended university in Uganda, majoring in photography, painting and product design, but was unable to finish when his family couldn’t afford his tuition anymore. After that, James tried to leave his artistic talents behind, but was unable to.

“Art has always been a part of me. I can’t run away from it. Every time I feel down or I feel happy, I end up drawing, I end up sketching, I end up painting.”

A quiet young man, James has become well-known at the St. Clair Shelter because of his art. He hadn’t done any art for nearly two years, but began participating in weekly art classes after encouragement from the Life Skills Worker, Rachel. Now, he has other shelter users arguing about who gets to keep the small pieces he paints and draws in the class. The pictured work of flowers is something he created for one of the shelter residents for Mother’s Day.

“These are people you hardly talk to but in this moment you’re really connecting with them and it makes me feel special.”

James came to Canada this past March, fleeing circumstances he felt too pained to talk about. Now that he’s arrived, he hopes to finish his education, and use his art to inspire people.

“I remember my friends graduating and I was there and I couldn’t do anything. Still [art] gives me strength in most of my days.”

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