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Exhibition benefits Nepali trafficking victims

Posted on July 6, 2021

Local newsLifeWide Awake Wilson
Oona Lewis' work will be featured in the “Small World” benefit art exhibit in Carrboro.

Contributed photo

Oona Lewis' work will be featured in the “Small World” benefit art exhibit in Carrboro.

The exhibit "Small World," featuring art by Wilson's Oona Lewis, will run from July 9 to Aug. 29 with an opening reception July 16.

Contributed photo

The exhibit "Small World," featuring art by Wilson's Oona Lewis, will run from July 9 to Aug. 29 with an opening reception July 16.

Oona Lewis' work will be featured in the “Small World” benefit art exhibit in Carrboro.

Contributed photo

Oona Lewis' work will be featured in the “Small World” benefit art exhibit in Carrboro.

The exhibit "Small World," featuring art by Wilson's Oona Lewis, will run from July 9 to Aug. 29 with an opening reception July 16.

Contributed photo

The exhibit "Small World," featuring art by Wilson's Oona Lewis, will run from July 9 to Aug. 29 with an opening reception July 16.

The exhibit "Small World," featuring art by Wilson's Oona Lewis, will run from July 9 to Aug. 29 with an opening reception July 16.
Oona Lewis' work will be featured in the “Small World” benefit art exhibit in Carrboro.

Beauty, culture and spiritual connections spring to life in the benefit art exhibition “Small World,” presented by artist Oona Payne Lewis of Wilson and Carrboro-based Vecino Brewing Co.

“Small World” will run from July 9 to Aug. 29. An opening reception will be held at 6 p.m. Friday, July 16, at Vecino Brewing Co., 300 E. Main St., Suite C., in Carrboro. All are welcome to view the work, meet the artist and enjoy Vecino.

Featured will be a collection of paintings depicting Lewis’ recent travels through Nepal, Bhutan, Peru and New Mexico. All proceeds from art sales will be donated to two anti-sex trafficking organizations.

The first, The Apple of God’s Eyes, is a residential recovery center for victims of human trafficking. The center, located in Kathmandu, Nepal, provides a safe home, treatment, education and vocational training. Also benefiting will be the Hasta Memorial School, a primary school for children at grave risk of being trafficked. The village school, currently under construction, is located in Nepal’s remote and mountainous region of Tamang, where child trafficking is common.

Lewis graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Journalism in 1980 with a second emphasis in studio art. She has painted professionally for the last 30 years. Using knife, brushes, printing methods, cold wax and oil paints, she said she seeks to express the joy and wonder she experiences through travel and exploration of countries and cultures. Vibrant and colorful, many of the paintings are unique in their multi-dimensionality. Here, numerous wooden surfaces are attached together to form an irregular outline and surface.

“I found I couldn’t say all that I wanted to say on a flat surface,” Lewis said. “The multilevel surfaces allow me to arrange diverse images and ideas into strong compositions and incorporate a bit of my experience in sculpture.” 

Travel has been a great love for Lewis throughout her life and provides the impetus for the “Small World” exhibition.

“Just before COVID-19 broke out, I was able to travel to Nepal and Bhutan with a small group of family and friends. From the moment we landed in Kathmandu, I fell in love with the kindness, generosity and deep faithfulness of the people we met,” Lewis said. “Our group leader, Dr. Beverly Booth, served as a medical missionary in Nepal from 2000 through 2009. Her Nepali friends welcomed us into their homes, served us their food and allowed us the opportunity to experience the country at a deeper level.”

On return, Lewis said she found her life shifted by the stunning contrasts she found in Nepal.

“These kind people, the beauty of Nepal and the Himalaya are joyous, but the lack of education and the extreme poverty are disheartening,” she said. “I began reading and writing about Nepal and painting my thoughts and memories.”

It wasn’t long before the pervasive problem of child trafficking emerged in Lewis’ research. According to Nepal’s Human Rights Commission, about 20,000 Nepali girls and women are trafficked each year into India, where prostitution is legal.

After reading “Standing in the Way,” by Anjali Tamang, a survivor who lived for several years at The Apple of God’s Eyes, Lewis began to consider ways to support anti-trafficking efforts.

“I hope through this exhibition and sale of my paintings, I can create awareness and offer financial support to help these young girls,” Lewis said. “The world is very small. Its problems belong to all of us.”

Lewis lives with her husband in Wilson, where she is a resident artist and co-manager of Barnes Corner Gallery & Art Ventures. She teaches painting, and with her business and art partner Pegi Sharp, she has led plein-air painting trips to Key West, New Mexico, Italy and Monet’s Garden in Giverny, France.

For more information about the “Small World” benefit exhibition, contact Monica Molina of Vecino Brewing Co. at 919-537-9591.

For more information about the art or the artist, contact Oona Lewis at 252-236-1055 or onnalewis@gmail.com.

For information about the Hasta Memorial School, visit www.hastamemorial.org. To learn more about The Apple of God’s Eyes, visit www.aogenepal.org.

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