Art Review: Artists Without Borders
What's Artists Without Borders? "It's a Colombian guy teaching Japanese culture to Chechen kids in Russian," says Hector Sierra, the founder. He started Artists Without Borders to give children affected by war "food for the soul," noting that NGOs like Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) offer food or medical assistance but nothing for the heart. "We give them some hours of entertainment and fun to at least forget for a moment. It's very cathartic for them," he says.
Sierra first encountered ethnic conflict as an exchange student studying film in Ukraine and Georgia at the end of the Soviet era. Over six years from Brezhnev to Gorbachev, he witnessed long-suppressed animosities reemerge in the fragmenting USSR.
Over the last three years, Sierra and AWB have conducted eight missions
to troubled areas like East Timor, Chechnya, and Serbia. In each location,
Sierra leads the children in two main projects: drawing and origami. When
asked to draw "my city," most kids recount the recent horrors
they have experiencedtanks, bombs and massacres invading their lives.
On his recent trip to New York, many kids at PS 89 and PS 234, both about
a block from where the World Trade Center towers fell, drew the twin towers
in different stages of destruction.
A "dream city" drawing session usually follows. The results
would seem banala simple house with two windows, a door and a chimneywere
they not created by displaced kids living in tents or other temporary
shelters. As for origami lessons, Sierra says that folding paper into
hopping frogs or inflatable cows empowers kids and builds confidence by
teaching them how to make their own toys.
Ideally, Sierra would like to set up permanent missions, but AWB lacks
funding. Each trip's shoestring ¥500,000 budget covers airfare, accommodation
and living expenses. With no regular sponsors, Sierra relies on sporadic
donations, cooperative airlines (Austrian Airlines helped him get around
the Balkans and Georgia), periodic fundraisers (see below) and his own
Spanish- and English-teaching jobs. He is also working with a major Japanese
publisher to produce a book of children's drawings from his missions by
the end of the year. (Besides donations, people can help by volunteering.
For more information, visit www.artwit.org.)
Salsarity Sunday, a fundraiser to support Artists Without Borders' upcoming two-month mission to Afghanistan, will be held at the Pink Cow, Sunday April 21, 5-10pm. The admission (¥4,000 adv/¥5,000 door) includes dancing to Tokyo-based Cuban salsa band Pedro Valle & Afrocubanos, fusion home-cooking from the legendary Michael Gover, two drinks, and salsa lessons by Hector Sierra himself. For reservations (until Apr 18), call Hector Sierra (03-3550-7053), Michael Gover (03-3487-2136), or Eiko Sugiura (044-814-0206). The Pink Cow, Jingumae 1-10-1. Tel: 03-5441-6777. Nearest stn: Harajuku or Meijijingumae, exit 3.
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