Sunday, March 7, 2010

Inspiration for the Masses

Let's be honest here....Africa was not my top choice on where to serve. When I first decided to apply this time, I was visualizing rustic cobblestone roads and cute, homey cottages in one of the Eastern European countries still fighting for their own identity after the demise of the USSR. But I can say that I am truly excited about where I will be spending the next two years. What swayed my opinion?

Again, I do not have just a simple answer (see post 1: nothing is ever simple inside my rambling head). I can pinpoint the force behind the fascination I did initially have with Africa. I had only been at my current job about a year when I got to work with Hollis Chatelain. She and her family lived several years in Africa and that time inspired her art beyond description. Below is a clip from her artist statement on her website

"The twelve years I lived in Africa have deeply influenced me. Six months after moving back to the United States, my longing for Africa was so great that I started to paint African images in order to put me back into the life I loved so much. I feel Americans should know more about the joy, harmony, and pride of the African people, rather than only hearing about the suffering and turmoil so commonly depicted in the media. I would like viewers to see my African imagery as a tribute to a people I truly admire and respect."

I can still remember picking her up at the airport and spending the drive back to the museum talking about her upcoming visit with Archbishop Desmond Tutu. She was preparing to meet with him personally to help in the creation of a quilt she was to make depicting Tutu. I have still yet to meet anyone more perceptive to their surroundings, and her art allows others to see what she sees. It is simply amazing.

As things have a way of strangely working out, Hollis has long since finished the quilt and included it in the exhibit Imagine Hope, which will be debuting at the museum April 9-May 25. I am quite excited about getting to see her mere weeks before starting my own African journey!

Not only will I get to see her, but last month Tutu himself spoke at Murray State University. (I know, it is crazy how these things happen!) Included with this post is a picture I took at this event. The image is not a great quality but does show how packed RSEC was. It was basically standing room only....much like graduation for anyone who went to MSU. 

To say the least, it was one of those rare moments when a large group of all ages and nationalities come together to hear something inspiring from a world leader who is clearly not just giving a scripted speech to get votes. Not to be repetitive, but it was simply amazing!

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