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The Arts of Survival

Creativity can give us options. Creativity can give us something to fight for. And creativity can help us recover from the worst when it happens. Like in 2010, when Mt. Merapi erupted in Indonesia, monsoon rains flooded the Indus river in Pakistan, and a 7.0 magnitude earthquake shook Haiti to it’s core. Or in 2005, after Hurricane Katrina.

Across all four regions and cultures survivors turned to art to reclaim their homes. In 2011 some of that art was featured in an exhibit called The Arts of Survival: Folk Expression in the Face of Disaster at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

“The Arts of Survival provides a window to the many ways contemporary folk artists use what they know best to respond to natural disaster with vision, perseverance, dignity and imagination-even in the midst of political infighting, infrastructural log jams, and environmental after affects. Through this experience, they learn that the most fundamental power is the indomitable spirit of mankind.”  — Exhibition curator Dr. Suzanne Seriff

In Indonesia, master makers created shadow puppets representing the volcano with fire and ash spewing from it to memorialize the story.

In Pakistan local craftswomen took to needle and thread, creating ralli purrs (quilt tops) from excess clothing from relief efforts into much needed blankets, both for warmth and to raise funds for rebuilding.

In Haiti, street artists pulled scrap metal from the wreckage, transforming it into sculptures depicting the terror they had experienced. Others stitched Vodou Flags or crafted terrifying papier-mâché masks.

Evelyne Alcide, Earthquake!
Evelyne Alcide, “Earthquake!”

 

In New Orleans, they painted poems on the sides of broken houses, stitched quilted memorials from moldy bedsheets pulled from drowned buildings. One built an entire village from broken furniture, old chain link fencing, and other salvaged materials.

When asked  why, one artist answered:

“My reason for making this is to bring together the human family, so we can get together and rebuild New Orleans, so we can rebuild ourselves and our soul.” Joe Minter

Joe Minter, Rebuild and Restore New Orleans
Joe Minter, “Rebuild and Restore New Orleans,” 2007, mixed media. Photo: Paul Smutko

 
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