Recently, me, Zoe Sikon, and Anne Knellinger had the opportunity to design and paint a mural at the ESL school Columbus Global Academy. It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. We’ve all seen the inspirational newscasts about the children fleeing from Africa and the Middle East to come here, but I’ve never actually met one. It’s strange to be confronted with people that you’ve only seen on television. These kids really deserve the world, and it was our honor to design and paint this mural for them. The school requested a tree, because they were originally going to pin flyers to the branches. Personally, I think just a plain tree is boring, so we tried to tie in elements from all these kid’s cultures. To do this, I researched a bunch of folk tales from all the countries. We took Anansi from Africa, the coquis from Puerto Rico, and the enchanted storks from Iraq. Anyone can enjoy the mural on a surface level, because it’s just a bunch of cute animals in a tree. However, a child could walk past the the tree and see something that reminds them of home. It makes the entire area seem bright and cheery, instead of blank walls. It makes the entire school feel a little more like it belongs to them, instead of retaining the old remnants of the school that was there before. It’s amazing that a small group of people completed a mural of it’s scale in such a short period of time. I’m really happy that we could do something to help these kids. Really, it’s a testament to how important art is in our lives. Jeremy showed us the garden outside, where the kids can plant flowers or other plants that remind them of home. Some of these kids have PTSD or other issues, and seeing things from their home can really help them calm down. We also including a wall of languages, because the mural is right outside of the library. Library was translated into a bunch of languages. Hopefully, that makes the kids feel more welcome.
I was also really impressed how smoothly the actual logistics went. It was my first time designing something and I was floored that what we drew was now on a wall. I’ve never directed a large group of people, and it really helped that I had two other people to help direct people. We mixed all the paints, and traced everything out. Once we told everyone which colors went where, they just painted what we told them. I don’t think it could’ve been any easier. I hope the kids end up liking the piece.
Sam S. recently held a Current Events meeting where we discussed stereotypes and some current events from Africa. I think my favorite part of the event was watching a satire video that judges the “starving African” charity commercials. The video focused on a young actor who would dress up in order to be seen as poor and starving in these commercials. African kids are extremely similar to American kids, and kids from all around the world. They wear the same clothes and play the same games. They go to school and get normal jobs. They are just regular people. While it is true that some parts of Africa are disadvantaged and still need a lot of improving, a lot of it is just poverty tourism. We need to stop seeing people from Africa as so poor they are unable to help themselves. It is a “give a man a fish” situation. Yes, it’s fantastic that people try to help by donating money to feed the starving children, but as the videos Sam showed illustrated, it’s better if we help them build infrastructure and help them help themselves.
After this discussion, we did go slightly off topic, and the discussion was equally as interesting. Sam started to talk about the popular magazine “The Economist”. It’s interesting that while the magazine has separate topics for the USA, the rest of the Americas, Asia, China, Europe, and Britain, Africa is lumped together with the Middle East. The Middle East and Africa, while they are geographically next to each other, don’t have a lot in common. Why does Britain get a separate category when an actual continent almost 75x its size does not? So much is currently happening in Africa, with the Nigerian elections, hyperinflation in Zimbabwe, and tons of eco-friendly innovation. Africa, a country famous for being impoverished, gets a higher percentage of its energy from green sources than the United States. They are innovating, not for the present, but for the future. Before this event, I don’t think I realized how strong Africa really is. It isn’t a continent to take pity on. It’s a collection of diverse countries with a rich heritage. Africa still needs help, there are still areas that are impoverished and war-torn. However, it’s more important to give them the help the actually want and ask for then treating them as a way to get Instagram likes.
On September 24th, I attended this lecture organized by OSU’s Institute for Japanese Studies. I don’t know what I was expecting. What little of Japanese culture I’ve experienced in the past I’ve absorbed through television and video games. I haven’t actually spoken to someone from Japan. This lecture was profoundly interesting to me. The three men who spoke, two priest and one a priest-in-training spoke with such reverence about their culture and their people. They conveyed a connection with nature and humanity that was truly something to behold. The priests came from a Shinto temple called Meiji Jingu, a forest oasis in the middle of the metropolis of Tokyo. A point that Moriyasu Ito, one of the priests, kept repeating, was that Shinto isn’t a religion. Most people in Japan practice Shinto, but they also practice Buddhism, or Christianity. Christmas and Halloween are huge holidays, along with the traditional Shinto festivals. Shinto’s main principle is based around the Kami, or the spirits. That feeling when you see a beautiful waterfall or a stunning mountain vista is the Kami. They are the awe-inspiring spirits that inhabit everything in the world. Shinto has no holy book, no written scripture. It is simply about respecting the world and the people around you, which I believe is a principle that more people need to live by. The priests told us about their temple, Meiji Jingu. It is an idyllic sanctuary, one that millions visit a year. In the middle of Tokyo there is a giant forest with a beautiful temple. Here they have the Kami shrines, and they hold many festivals. It is truly extraordinary to see people from all walks of life come together.
The priests also played Gagaku, which is the traditional music of Japan. Gagaku is deeply ties to Shintoism. The priests all play some sort of instrument, and the music is used in nearly all Shinto ceremonies. Some Gagaku compositions have been around for centuries. They played three wind instruments, all which are made by hand. Even though the music was slightly out of tune and dissonant, it carried an ethereal quality that was extremely calming. It was interesting when they showed us Gagaku sheet music. There are no notes, no staff. The rhythm is written using Japanese characters, but the notes must be passed down from teacher to student. Without learning from a master, you cannot play. This human connection also ties in to the fundamental belief of Shintoism. What made me interested in the lecture wasn’t the information itself, but how the priests were so happy to be able to teach others about their culture. They invited people up to play the instruments and applauded even when the noise was truly awful. They showed so much passion for their culture and their music. It was inspiring. In conclusion, I’m really thankful that I was able to listen to these priests speak and play. If Japan, a country so famous for being the capital of isolation, with their video games and anime can be so connected to one another, why can’t the rest of the world?
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