The Atomic Apocalypse

A bigger picture

The global scale of the fears and concerns that emerged in the years following World War II was what distinguished them from those of earlier periods of history. For the first time it was possible to conceive of disasters that were genuinely apocalyptic in nature. However, it was also recognised that the threats at the root of these fears were the work of humans not of divine agency and could be addressed by political action and campaigning at individual, community, national and international levels.

Nuclear weapons


From its founding in 1950, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) led the opposition to nuclear weapons. In the 1980s, it targeted a government information campaign called ‘Protect and survive’, which advised the British public how to protect themselves during nuclear attack.

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Biafran famine


The Biafran War (1967 – 70) in which the Igbo people of the state of Biafra sought independence from Nigeria, resulted in one of the worst famines of the AD 1900s. Images of starving children from Biafra were a shocking sight and triggered appeals for mass charitable action.

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HIV/AIDS in Uganda


This wall hanging by Betty Ssetumba was made as part of a community project bringing women craftworkers together to communicate about contemporary concerns, particularly over HIV/AIDS.

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HIV/AIDS in India


Wall hanging made by women participating in Adithi, a non-profit making organisation working to empower rural women.

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HIV/AIDS in the developed world


© Reproduced with permission of the David McDiarmid estate

Made a year before his death in 1995, Australian printmaker David McDiarmid’s prints confront the reality of living with AIDS. Wit and irony shock the viewer into public understanding. The rainbow background recalls the Gay Rainbow Flag, a symbol of gay pride first unfurled in San Francisco in 1978.

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Nuclear power


The Smiling Sun design originated in Denmark in 1975, but fast became an international symbol of opposition to the development of nuclear power stations.

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The Atomic Apocalypse