Globe and Mail, November 27, 2004, by Cecily Ross

A chance to dump
  on celebrities


It's no fun getting dumped on. Actors Minnie Driver and Colin Firth learned that the hard way after agreeing to have their photos taken while loads of cotton and coffee were poured over their respective heads as part of Oxfam's current Make Trade Fair campaign.

The cotton was dusty and itchy, and the coffee? Well, it burns when it gets in your eyes. But that's nothing, says Oxfam, compared to what happens when rich nations dump cheap commodities on the unprotected markets of developing countries, putting indigenous farmers out of business. Itchy burning eyes are nothing compared with hunger and poverty.

Driver and Firth are just two of more than a dozen celebrities (a group that includes Canadian singer Alanis Morissette, REM's Michael Stipe and Radiohead's Thom Yorke) getting publicly dumped on in order to draw attention to what Oxfam says is one of the major causes of world hunger: a trade system that favours a few rich countries and big corporations at the expense of the more than a billion people struggling to live on $1 (U.S.) a day, most of them farmers.

Oxfam plans to use the images on billboards, bus shelters and in magazines around the world to pressure politicians into changing the rules regarding the dumping of not just cotton and coffee, but rice, sugar, chocolate, wheat, feathers and even orange juice. As London- and Los Angeles-based photographer Greg Williams, who took the pictures, said: "It's about something very familiar being used to hurt or humiliate."

More information at the Fair Trade website, including a screensaver download,
 petition to sign and more photos of the celebrities in the campaign.

Movie stars and rock stars have joined Oxfam's Make Trade Fair campaign. The campaign highlights the plight of billions of people being made hungry and poor because of the crisis in world agricultural trade - especially the dumping of cheap commodities by rich countries.

Celebrities Alanis Morissette, Michael Stipe, Chris Martin, Colin Firth, Thom Yorke, Antonio Banderas, Minnie Driver, Jamelia, Youssou N'Dour and other world-class entertainers have donated to Oxfam's campaign a sequence of striking images of themselves being drenched by milk and showered with coffee, cocoa, feathers, wheat, sugar, rice and cotton.

Phil Bloomer, head of Oxfam's Make Trade Fair campaign, said: "We're thrilled that such A-list international stars feel passionate about this vital issue and were eager to do so much to help the campaign succeed."

The pictures are by Greg Williams, a leading London and LA-based photographer and creative director, who first worked with Oxfam 12 years ago in drought-ravaged South Africa. Williams has supported Oxfam since.

"I wanted to give a quirky and imaginative twist to a serious campaign by highlighting the almost violent misuse of something as mundane as cotton or sugar," Williams says. "The immediate impact of the photographs is an unsettling one - it is about something very familiar being used to hurt or humiliate."

Colin Firth arrived direct from a press conference for his new Bridget Jones movie and then had coffee poured over him, "and we found out quickly that coffee liquid is incredibly burning when it gets in your eyes," Williams says.

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