By Evan Pfeiffer
I recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk with seasoned artist Cynthia Davis, on how she made the transition into doing art for a particular purpose. Her story is not only unique but should be an inspiration to all of us on how we can take the skills we have and apply them to a cause in need.
Back in early 2008, Cynthia Davis became interested in why her high school son was lobbying to create awareness for Darfur in Washington. Davis, a seasoned artist best known for her work in decorative arts, began researching the situation in Darfur. Before long she encountered Gabriel Bol Deng, a lost boy of Sudan, and a man whose life had been scarred by war and exile and yet still shared a remarkably similar sensibility to hers. Soon thereafter, she began collaborating with his organization, Hope for Ariang, vowing to help his efforts to educate and empower women in the native village from which he was chased as a boy in 1987.
In the months and years following her encounter with Gabriel, Cynthia fought tirelessly to raise funds and public awareness for Hope for Ariang – becoming a Board Member in 2009 and playing a major role in raising funds to build the village’s first school. Through her efforts with Hope for Ariang, they raised $300,000 to construct an edifice housing 500 students. But there was more she knew she could do.
When Cynthia was nominated to become a Carl Wilken’s Fellow, a program to raise genocide awareness and build relationships with government representatives, she jumped at the chance and immediately went to DC where she met Rebecca Davis, who had already established a dance company for Darfur and Naomi Natale, an accomplished installation artist, photographer and social activist. They encouraged Cynthia to use her artistic gifts to further her efforts with Hope for Ariang. Through collaboration and with inspiration from these women, Cynthia created a grassroots art collective whose paintings create awareness for the plight of the South Sudanese and whose proceeds go to educate and empower the women of Ariang. She called the collective The Sudan Canvas Project.
In less than a year, forty-two artists have contributed to the The Sudan Canvas Project, many of whom, before their involvement, had barely been familiar with the humanitarian situation in Sudan. To contribute to the project, the artists involved must first gain an understanding of the conflict and engage the suffering and humanity of their subjects. The purpose of this is to inspire the artists to take action, because after delving into the lives and predicaments of the Darfuris, the artists become complicit in the efforts not just to raise awareness but also to actually do something about it – symbiosis between art and politics.
More than just paintings, the exhibit contains a number of photographs and interviews with women from the village – offering a detailed account of their lives and struggles. Such, Cynthia says, is the threefold purpose of the event: to create awareness, to educate and to empower the women of Ariang. Taken together, she hopes the exhibit will be a powerful call to action. Among the works will be one of her own – a painting in which three women lift their weathered arms in jubilation to welcome the return of a distant son. They were celebrating the return of Gabriel Bol Deng, the lost boy who had returned after twenty years in the wilderness to rekindle the flame of hope for Ariang.
You can visit the exhibit on November 27th in Connecticut. Click here for more information.
A native of Saint Louis, Missouri, Evan has studied in Washington, New York, London and Paris, worked in Buenos Aires and Calcutta and lived in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil. He has traveled extensively throughout Europe, Latin American, the Indian Continent and the Middle East. A historian by trade, he hopes to write, travel, talk and take pictures for a living.
We are very excited to announce the launch of the Indie GoGo page for our newest client, Wolf Dog!
Wolf Dog is a narrative film based on the true story of New York’s oldest dog, Paco Sosa. As Paco’s life begins to come to a close, his owner, a New York Venture Capitalist named Bernadine, begins to fear what her life will be without her friend of 20 years. Searching for ways to save Paco, and compelled by the wolf that haunts her dreams, Bernadine take Paco back to her home town in New Mexico, where she confronts the family and friends she left behind and consults the ancientos of New Mexico for advise.
The film shows the power of friendship between dogs and their owners and, the strength those relationships give us. When finished, Wolf Dog will be used to raise awareness and funds for various animal organizations.
Music for the film was donated byU2, Moby and Grammy award-winning Robert Mirabel, and with an Emmy and Oscar nominated and winning team behind it, Wolf Dog is guaranteed to have dog lovers cheering. BUT first the film must get finished, and to do that the filmmakers are seeking donations online through Indie GoGo. The money raised will go to the sound mixing, color correcting, animation (8 minutes of the film has animated traditional Navajo stories) and campaign management.
Watch the video to learn more about the film, and please consider supporting Wolf Dog.
By Ben Homrighausen
Some months ago while walking in the fashionable neighborhood of Angel in London I was approached by a woman asking for directions. When she realized that I was American, she asked what I was doing in her country. I told her that I was studying the history of genocide, 20th century wars and ethnic cleansing at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Annoyed, she sarcastically responded, “Yeah, and I studied parakeets in Grad school”, and walked off angrily. To many people, the idea of devoting oneself to the study of genocide is not only foreign, but unbelievable. Thankfully, this is not the case at Righteous Pictures; I knew this as soon as I watched The Last Survivor.
It is one thing to passively study genocide and an entirely different thing to transform thoughts into art for the sake of social action; this is what specifically drew me to Righteous Pictures when I recently returned to the U.S. from Lithuania after a heart-rending, Everything-is-Illuminated-like-trip with my girlfriend’s family. Over the course of a week, her grandfather, one of a small group of Polish Holocaust survivors, led us around Vilnius, revisiting both his and his wife’s wonderful early adulthood as well as recounting their later horrific experiences of what they endured in the ghetto, work camps and hiding, during the war. It was here that I was reminded of the need for action, as well as reflection, as I walked hand in hand with my girlfriend, alive today because of the efforts of some kind Poles who hid her grandparents at great personal risk. Recognizing the incredible odds her grandparents overcame to survive once the Holocaust had begun, I am grateful for the opportunity to work with Righteous Pictures, an organization that has allowed me to begin my own personal journey towards prevention of the world’s greatest crime.
Ben is a native of Greenwich Village, Manhattan. After spending several years abroad in Europe and Asia as an educator and student adviser, Ben returned to New York to work in the Disarmament and Peace, Political and Humanitarian Affairs Branches of the United Nations Secretariat. Before joining Righteous Pictures he returned to academia, graduating with top honors from Columbia University and the London School of Economics and Political Science with joint degrees in International and World History. His dissertation used Armenian oral history to document the role of Turkish altruism during the Armenian genocide.