‘It seems that in connecting to what is true within myself, I help other people to connect. Making genuine connection lies at the beginning of building a real community’.
In Al Aqaba, a small village in the Palestinian West Bank, there is a wall . . .
The wall used to be bare, blank and unremarkable. But the wall is bare, blank and unremarkable no more. The wall has been transformed, a beautiful mural depicting flowers and serving to symbolize peace, hope and a connection to the land. In a place as divided as Palestine, this is more than just a mural. It is an inspiration that is altering attitude and outlook. It is something that is changing people’s lives . . .
‘[It’s] something from the heart and soul . . . [something for] the place [and] the community . . . [something that has brought] great feelings of giving and belonging,’ says Ayat Omran, a local poet. ‘Seeing the beautiful and creative transformation and being part of the process is inspiring’.
‘It touches the core of our lives and our struggle,’ adds Haj Sami. ‘The tree represents the connection to the land [and] the flowers reflect peace and hope. It’s a visual embodiment of our story, our journey. It shall be a source of strength to keep us going with the same spirit.’
The mural, incidentally, was completed in just one day. For something done in such a short space of time, its enduring power to inspire is remarkable . . .
Remarkable also is Lily Yeh, the artist whose non-profit group, Barefoot Artists, is responsible for the mural at Al Aqaba. Born in China, but for a long time resident in the United States, Lily has spent 25 years travelling the world, visiting troubled communities and using her unique talents to bring people together. It is a mission that began in 1986, when Lily was asked to create a park in an abandoned lot in North Philadelphia. To this day, her efforts stand as a testament to her belief that art has the power to transform communities.
‘The experience was challenging and profound,’ she says. ‘It brought me to a place I’d never visited before. It felt truthful and genuine. I knew then that I was stepping into my own path and that my activities have meaning. Guided by the light within, I felt a great urgency to move forward’.
Lily’s path has taken her back to her native China. To Kenya, Ghana and Ecuador. To Rwanda, where she helped to create the Genocide Memorial Park as part of the Healing Project. In 1994, some one million Rwandans were murdered during an episode that has left deep scars. Healing is hard, but Lily’s efforts are having an impact.
‘We can move forward to our future only when we fully understand and embrace our past,’ she says. In all the places she visits, there is a common theme: Broken Places. Broken People. Broken Promises. In all the places she visits, her aim is the same: to inspire people for whom poverty, crime and despair are constant companions. To use her art to foster better relationships and to rebuild shattered communities. To encourage empowerment, preserve and support indigenous art and culture. To restore pride and give back hope. To establish equilibrium.
‘When I see poverty, brokenness and crime, I also see the enormous potential and readiness for transformation and rebirth,’ she adds. ‘We’re creating an art form that comes from the heart and reflects the pain and sorrow of people’s lives. It also expresses joy, beauty and love. This process lays the foundation for building a genuine community in which people are reconnected with their families, sustained by meaningful work, nurtured by the care from each other and will together raise and educate their children. Then we witness social change in action’.
Here at OM®, we couldn’t be more inspired.