OJFA in Rainbows

The Rainbow Brigade || Lakansyel Squad … One of Project HOPE Art’s happiest afternoons in a long time. With just $20 worth of scrap fabric, 2 pairs of scissors, a flair for playing dress up, elaborate and inventive braiding skills, some portable lights – we wrapped the orphanage in rainbow braids.
Love Wins!

Our Art Director, Rachel Znerold started the Rainbow Braid idea in the States with various Musical Performers. We brought the idea to Haiti, on a small scale, in homage to the deep cultural history of African Braiding. Braiding hair was one of the few practices that slaves could hold onto and continue to openly practice in the New World.

We wanted to create a project that the girls at the orphanage could participate in with almost zero instruction and put their own flair and ideas into it. We wanted a whimsical, happy project. And we wanted to infuse solar lights into the project outcome as this orphanage does not have electricity and it gets dark at 5pm.

So here it is, the The Rainbow Brigade || Lakansyel Squad:

Braids are regarded as a cultural trait of the African people, and they can also be a fashion statement. The history of African tribes and the cultural significance of braiding is deep and long.

Africa is a large continent, which consists of innumerable tribes. The Massai and Zulu are among the primary tribes. Others include:

Afar
Anlo-Ewe
Amhara
Ashanti
Bakongo
Bambara
Bemba
Berber
Bobo
Bushmen
Chewa
Dogon
Fang
Fon
Fulani
Himba
Ibos
Kikuyu
Pygmies
Samburu
Senufo
Tuareg
Wolof
Yoruba

Tribal girls have varied cultures, and the hairstyles are unique and used to identify each tribe. Braid patterns or hairstyles indicate a person’s community, age, marital status, wealth, power, social position, and religion.

Elaborate patterns are done for special occasions like weddings, social ceremonies or war preparations. People belonging to a tribe can easily be identified by another tribe member with the help of a braid pattern or style.

Immense importance is given to the custom of braiding. The person who braids hair performs it as both a ritual and a social service. It is an art form taught by the senior female member of the family to her daughters and close friends. The person who braids well is considered an expert. The man or woman who braids does it as a social duty. No rewards are expected.

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Mesì Gueldy René et Deesse Aishar Delismond for helping ??

-The Rainbow Brigade || Lakansyel Squad

Photo Philanthropy Essay | Wings for Tacloban

Each year, PhotoPhilanthropy puts out a call for visually expressive photographic essays that tell the story of non-profits the world over. This year, Jamie Lloyd and I put together a joint essay about our time in Tacloban, Philippines.
Enjoy!

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Soaring above your everyday struggles, free like a bird. It’s an idea we’ve all wished could come true in times of difficulty and stress. Fueled by generous donations, Artists Jamie Lloyd & Melissa Schilling (along with community organizer, Justin Victoria) were able to gift children (and their families) living in the tent cities and bunkhouses of the Tacloban disaster zone the ability to fly above their problems. Wings for Tacloban are imaginary art wings created for children.

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It has been one year since Typhoon Haiyan, the world’s biggest-ever storm to make landfall, struck the central Philippines – killing more than 5,200 people, displacing 4.4 million and destroying $547m in crops and infrastructure.
In Leyte Province, 70 to 80 percent of the area was destroyed. Tacloban, the capital of Leyte, where five-metre waves flattened nearly everything in their path, suffered more loss of life than any other Philippine city. Outside the town centre, in a hillside cemetery, city workers have dug a mass gravesite which stretches along 100 metres.
Much of Tacloban has been turned to rubble, leaving many survivors homeless and dependent on aid.
Visiting the city, it is clear that – despite the help of the international community – it will take a very long time for the town to recover.

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About the Bunkhouses of Tacloban
The bunkhouses are made of corrugated sheets, plywood and coco lumber and measure
8.64 square meters. 27 Bunkhouses in the San Jose District of Tacloban with water and electricity have been completed as of April 1, 2014. Another 66 remain to be built and equipped with basic necessities. Each bunkhouse has 24 units, although big families are given two units. The partition per unit was collapsed to accommodate bigger families.
We be painted broken down concrete walls, plywood, an old kitchen wall — with chalkboard paint in a variety of colors. Once dry, we cured the walls and armed the occupants of the bunkhouses with chalk. We hope to encourage creative thinking and hope.
Close to 2 million families were affected by the weather disturbance, considered to be the strongest typhoon on record to make landfall. 30 countries have already pledged financial and humanitarian aid amounting to 2.366 billion to victims of super typhoon Yolanda.

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Artist Statement
The Wings: Project HOPE Art is an art collective that responds to disaster with pencils, paints, music and imagination. We want to remind the children of Tacloban that they can overcome obstacles by gifting them the power to fly with wings. These wings do not just live on the chalkboard or wall. These wings belong to them and will allow them to fly and rise up above their problems, environment and situations. They should use their wings not just to solve their own problems but those issues facing their communities at large.
Nothing can stop a large group of living angels.
The project outcomes are multi-leveled.

In the simplest terms children are encouraged to have a fun portrait snapped, printed and handed over. A memory to serve as a reminder to overcome obstacles and head towards dreams and goals. Our mobile printing studio was set-up onsite inside the tent cities and bunk houses. Children watched as each digital image was edited on smart phones and ipads and then sent to the mini-printer. A 4X6 image was spit out seconds later.

In addition to print portrait images, community message boards were created and left behind in every area. A frank discussion was started amongst parents, teachers, community organizers and children regarding their personal paths since Hurricane Yolanda. Lessons were taught about transforming simple, everyday ingredients into action-based toolkits.
We painted everything from a de-constructed kitchen wall in the No-Build Zone to the shell of a school classroom in Palo. We created double sided chalkboards with plywood. We painted over graffiti with bright primary colors and created sleek, glossy spaces to draw, write and dream.

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See our Wings Art Project in Haiti, featured in School Arts Magazine: http://www.schoolartsdigital.com/i/141579/54

Green versus Brown

Everyone on my plane was crying. Tears in their eyes. Even the men. Especially the men, as we glided serenely past the lush, bright, vibrant Dominican Republic and into the dusty, brown, tired, overworked landscape of Haiti.

The difference between the two at 10,000 feet is startling.

Later, I walked near an open air farmers market. And rode several times past Cite Soleil. No text book or anecdote could ever come close to teaching me about the slave trade in quite the same way.  Seeing tin shacks. Seeing the crystal blue Carribbean waters mucked brown with human feces. Seeing dusty roads full of people bathing right in the street without any privacy at all except perhaps wet underwear or shorts. Seeing some of the most beautiful faces I have ever laid eyes on trapped in dead end communities.

Seeing all that showed me what life must have been like under the rule of Europe, slaves imported to work like dogs in sugar, tobacco and cotton plantations and factories. Just walking in Haiti, let alone working, brings forth sweat. I could understand how Haiti came to be.

The first successful slave revolt nation. The only slave revolt nation. Somehow frozen in time. Like an archeological excavation on Pause.

Its a living history lesson.

Stretching so far into every facet of life. Agriculture. Architecture. Government. Politics. Sociology. Art. Culture. Way of life. Means of life. Geology. Numerology. War. Peace. Love.

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I was only in Haiti for 72 hours this time. And everytime I leave, tears stream down my face. I hate to leave Haiti. Despite everything that you must endure while in Haiti, it is quite possibly the most beautiful place in the world. Ready to inspire you with its frankness. Its openness. Its people. And its lessons. -MS