In their shoes

Photo essay

by Azadeh Azad

In 1996 Stella Meades, a Canadian ceramic artist residing on Vancouver Island, created 1001 child-sized ceramic shoes for an installation called FOOTNOTE. Affected by the Rwandan genocide and a 1995 UNICEF statistic that 6,000,000 children around the world have been disabled or killed in the last decade, she decided to make FOOTNOTE and chose these numbers as its starting point. Each one of the first 1000 shoes represented 6000 injured or dead children. The extra shoe moved the exhibition beyond the statistic’s timeline, into the future. The shoes were unglazed, darkened with smoke and mangled to suggest the suffering of children affected by war.

In January 2007, Stella began to think about how the present wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of the world would affect the children. She says, " thoughts turned to questions of what war-affected children might need in order to begin to heal. At this time I had close to 900 shoes. Rather than make this a solitary project, I decided to invite other people to help. I sent interested people a shoe and asked them to make something to hold, cover, or contain it that would symbolise an alleviation of the loss or damage the shoe represented."

Thus The Global Shoe Project and the current show FOOTSTEP grew out of taking the shoes in FOOTNOTE a step further. Galvanised by the word of mouth and an advertisement on the Internet, the artist received, from around the world, over 800 packages of clay shoes. Teachers seized the idea of the art project to teach students about war. One teacher in Australia contacted Stella and asked for 30 shoes for each of her students who were refugees from war-torn regions.

The Global Shoe Project aims at raising awareness about war-affected children as well as assisting them. The shoes are on display and for sale in many Canadian cities. If you would like to have a shoe, please make a donation to one of the following two organisations that are working with children in countries affected by war: The International Community for the Relief of Starving and Suffering and Save the Children - Canada. To view more of these shoes online and the cities where they will be displayed, please go to The Global Shoe Project.

These pictures are some of the shoes that were exhibited this month at the Community Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Canada. Enjoy.


more from Azadeh Azad

"loaning bread" ?!

by just Oo (not verified) on

shoma do taa beh gholeh maroof khoob beh ham noon gharz midina...hahha! just kidding!

Leila Radan

Very touching...

by Leila Radan on

What a beautiful, touching and heartbreaking project... I cannot even begin to fathom what such hardships are like for children and yes, we do need to shed more light on the subject matter at hand and help the world's smallest victims...

 How I wish there was no need for this project to begin with though!  Thank you for a beautifully written piece.



I agree with Anon77

by Majid on

Very touching pictures when you think about it.


Other cities

by Azadeh.Azad (not verified) on

Dear Shahriar,

I'm not aware of any such plan. But you may ask the project organisers about it or preferably make your suggestion.




I like the work on an emotional level

by Anonymous77 (not verified) on

Just that I'm not much of a fan of aesthetic propaganda.


Any plans?

by Shahriar on

To move this exhibition to other cities? Like AGO in Toronto?


Pic 6 is my favorite.

by Anonymouse on

It's hard to imagine the sculptures in 2D pictures but they are very nice.  More power to her.