Originally written for Broadsheet.
As the founder and CEO of Missing Persons Advocacy Network (MPAN) Loren O’Keeffe thought it was time to update the image long associated with missing persons: the grainy, depersonalised black and white images on the sides of US milk cartons.
O’Keeffe launched The Unmissables campaign in April last year; it’s a partnership between artists and writers and the families of the long-term missing that creates artworks about those who have disappeared. One of the pieces produced so far is a mural by street artist Heesco and writer Benjamin Law). Another is an illustrated book called Too Short Stories.
The initiative aims to humanise missing people and their families – to “show these people have lives and passions and hobbies and stories the public deserves to hear, in order to engage them in the search,” says O’Keeffe .
This year, O’Keeffe figured the best way to draw people’s attention to the issue was to use something they have in their hand every day: a coffee cup.
During National Missing Person’s Week in August, 25 Melbourne cafes will serve coffee in cups featuring an illustration and story about one of six long-term missing persons: three from Melbourne; two from Tasmania; and one from Sydney. The Unmissables will print 100,000 cups in total.
The coffee cups and other artworks created out of The Unmissables campaign aren’t “forensically valuable”, O’Keeffe says. “People aren’t going to pick up these coffee cups and go, ‘Oh yeah, I just saw that guy down the street’.”
It’s really just to put the issue out there and show the public that this is something we should be caring more about and becoming more involved with.”
The disposable cups will be produced by Biopak, which uses a form of biodegradable plastic to make disposable takeaway products.
The Unmissables campaign is currently looking for sponsors to help fund the cups, and other artworks. Head to the site to get involved. National Missing Person’s Week runs from August 5 to 11 this year.