Lily’s Reflections on the Mei Hua School Project in Daxi, Taiwan
The Mei Hua Gyro Tree of Life Mural Project was a great success despite many challenges.
Execution of the project was chaotic and difficult with so many pairs of hands, from kindergarteners to retirees, from the school community to volunteers from the local Daxi region and from the cities of Taipei and Taizhong. In addition, it rained almost every day. Drizzles continually washed away our paints and smeared our surfaces. It was not easy to create, salvage, and repair from a six-level scaffolding with people coming and going in different shifts. Yet, the dedication and persistence of the many participants paid off.
The whole community was moved by the scale and beauty of the mural.
The project transformed people’s understanding of the power of art. It empowered the school community to envision; it emboldened the Daxi residents to dare to imagine.
One of the reasons for its success is the dedication of our partners, the Gaya Foundation and Xiang Guang Shan Si (香光山寺) with its many devoted volunteers. When the school authorities and teachers doubted and wanted to withdraw from the project, they displayed courage and held steadfast to the promise of realizing a vision. Their confidence in me laid a solid foundation for the project.
Lily was inspired by the commitment of these two religious organizations to live the principle of compassion in everyday life. They were realizing Buddhist teachings of generosity and kindness through working with and strengthening the vulnerable in the society.
Zizhuo Shi, the principal sponsor of the project from the Xiang Guan Shan Si shared her reflection:
Chong An Transformation Project: One Life, One Story
In fact, I am the one who benefits the most through the process of teaching weekly art classes and preparing the creation of mural. I read your book Awakening Creativity several times and translated some part of it for Principal Yeh. Hence, I became familiar with your educational ideas and methods of guiding students to create artwork. Also, in the preparing period, in order to invite community people, I came to Mei Hua and visited quite a few local people and made friends with them. Accordingly, I became more familiar with the situation of Mei Hua community. Furthermore, the hardship of not being supported by Principal Yeh and other people, also made me stronger than before. Particularly, when the mural is finished, it confirmed that sometimes, a great work may not be understood by everyone.
I am so happy that the result turns out to be so great. More significantly, now Principal Yeh is very willing to take up the responsibility of preparing the building of a cosmic Gyro Top next year.
Although Yang Xuan is only in third grade, he has experienced a good deal of trauma in his young life. His mother — a victim of domestic violence — left home, abandoning Yang and his two little brothers. The family felt deep anguish.
His troubles manifested themselves in different ways, usually in negative ways. He was a bully who displayed unreasonable aggression. People regarded him as a delinquent-in-the-making.
Yang Xuan participated in the Barefoot Artists’ Chong An transformation project in Taiwan in 2012 and 2013, where he learned painting and mosaic making. To everyone’s surprise, his mosaic art won the third prize in Taidong’s art competition, a part of the 2014 National Art Event. Through making art, he begins to express himself and reshape his future.
His story is one of inspiration and encouragement, and we wish Yang Xuan the best as he continues to grow with his art.
(Left) Yang Xuan painting, (Right) Yang Xuan (in the middle) watching and learning the mosaic making process
Meeting Chong An residents and visitors
Barefoot Artists Director Lily Yeh revisited Chong An, the village of the indigenous Ah Mei people, with whom she’s been collaborating with since 2012 to bring colors and vitality to the village. Lily realized quickly that there are conflicts within the community. It makes the continuation of the Chong An transformation project difficult. She established the Community Harmony Committee. The four members are charged with the mission to turn conflicts into harmony.
Establishing Chong An harmony committee
Invisible Is Now Visible
Since 2011 when Barefoot Artists worked with the Twa people in Rugerero, Rwanda, the community has grown their pottery production. A government energy department is now partnering with them to make a special economic stove, which uses only one wood stick. The Twa villagers have extended their workspace and constructed a new kiln for the purpose. The production of the new stove helps to stabilize their income.
“When Barefoot Artists helped the Twa to construct their Pottery Center along a major highway with the beautiful mosaics and mural, it made the Twa visible. Their lives have been transformed.”
–Jean Bosco Musana, former Red Cross Regional Director
In May 2014, Stacy Bailey-Ndiaye, Executive Director of Muhammad Ali Institute for Peace and Justice, along with a group of young Ali Scholars on their International Learning Journey to Rwanda and Uganda visited Rugerero Survivors Village and the Genocide Memorial Park.
National Day of Prisoners
National Day of Prisoners is an annual festival of support for the 800,000 Palestinians and their families who have been victimized by the Israeli occupation since 1967. Barefoot Artists team members painted children’s faces at the 2014 festival. To learn more about Barefoot Artists’ work in Palestine, please visit our Balata Refugee Camp project page.
2014 Return To Balata Refugee Camp in Palestine
In mid April 2014, a Barefoot Artists team is going to Palestine to do peace building through the arts. We ask for your blessing and support.
The following photos were taken during our 2011 trip to the Balata Refugee Camp in the West Bank of Palestine. To see more photos and read more about our project, please visit the project page.