how one illustration captured the heartfelt response to the christchurch shootings
Ruby Jones' artwork was shared across the world after the terror attacks.
On Friday 15 March, after hearing about the two consecutive terrorist attacks at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, 25-year-old New Zealand illustrator Ruby Jones felt helpless. Unsure how to process or react to the news, she drew her immediate response to the Muslim community: “This is your home and you should have been safe here”.
It’s not the first time that she’s drawn her response to devastating events, to be shared with her previously small social media following consisting largely of her “family and close friends”. Her previous work is a backlog of illustrated responses ranging from the Kaikoura earthquake to Melbourne’s Bourke Street terror attack. “It’s just what I do”, she says.
A loving opposite of the live-streamed footage that spread across social media, the illustration has become an unexpected motif for the attack, to be shared on social media across the world and redrawn at vigils. Time Magazine also commissioned a similar illustration from Jones for their New Zealand coverage.
For Jones, this is not because of the skills on her part but rather because she believes people needed something to cling to. As Muslim communities across the world continue to process and respond to the attack, she hopes her simple illustration can continue to be used and shared at times that people feel speechless.
i-D spoke with Jones about the illustration that, she feels, “now belongs to the world”.
How long have you been drawing?
For as long as I can remember. Pretty much my whole childhood was just my brother and me sitting on the floor drawing. It’s all self-taught and I’ve always drawn up by hand on paper until I started drawing digitally around two years ago.
Illustrating isn’t your day job, what do you do?
I studied occupational therapy but then I ended up getting a job in TV, which I absolutely loved. Now I do media monitoring and just draw after work or on the weekends.
And what compelled you to draw something in response to the terror attack?
This is probably the third or fourth drawing I've done in response to an event. When I become overcome with emotion, that's just what I do. I have to draw. So when this happened, it was the feeling of helplessness that made me want to reach out and hug the whole country.
Talk me through that day.
I went straight to social media and all I could see was people not knowing how to react or what to say. It was just complete confusion and disbelief. I felt the same and was like ‘how do I manage these feelings’? I did the drawing initially and then finished it as everything was still unfolding while listening to the news.
Did you expect the drawing to mean as much to people as it does now?
No, that’s been pretty crazy to say the least. I had a tiny following of a few hundred friends for the last few years. And then it started taking off on Friday, which I understood within New Zealand. But then when it started getting shared internationally and it was unbelievable.
What kind of reactions have you had personally?
I was receiving so much love that I felt like I didn't necessarily deserve it. I just drew this little picture. But to have all these people thinking about our country was so special. And to have feedback from the Muslim community all around the world saying how much it means to them to see themselves in the image has been amazing. Though it shows how usually underrepresented the Muslim community is.
Why do you think it has resonated so strongly with people?
I think people just needed something to grasp onto at that moment. And that turned it into something. The closeness of the figures has connected with people also. It shows how powerful a simple image can be.
Do you expect you’ll continue to draw through experiences that make you feel “helpless”?
It always has to be a genuine reaction, but I definitely think it was affecting me or people in a way that I feel needs to be expressed, then I will one hundred percent keep doing it. It's not suddenly at a weird opportunistic thing, which feels important as well. It’s just what I do.
People in New Zealand have also started printing out or re-drawing the image to leave at vigils, do you intend for the image to continue in some way?
I feel like it belongs to the whole world. It’s taken on a life of its own and I’ve just been sending it to absolutely anyone. People have contacted me about using it for fundraising in schools or making pins, badges or t-shirts out of it to raise money for the victims and their families. I’ll definitely say it will continue to be used for something good.