an exchange of prayers
This year marked my fifth year of working with the children, artists and others in the neighbourhood. Two good friends from Winnipeg joined me this year on the project and were welcomed with open arms and hearts by my Cuban friends and it did not take long for them to fall in love with the culture and spirit of this vibrant community.
El Tanque continues to be a major hub of activity in the neighbourhood. During the day it is busy with labourers and artists working on a never-ending list of construction activities and creative installations. Late afternoon through early evening it is full of children who attend free after-school programs in music, dance, theatre and art. The rooftop of El Tanque was completed this past year and has become an outdoor party sight for special events and visitors, with live music and dancing under the beautiful Havana sky and stars....it is quite magical. Tourists visiting the project are almost a daily occurrence...they are coming on cultural bus tours from all over the world to experience a bit of what Cuba, Havana and this neighborhood has to share.
I wanted to do something a little special this year to celebrate my 5th year in the project, so prior to leaving Winnipeg I held a workshop which resulted in the gifting of 30 beautiful prayer flags , with the simple idea of sharing prayers, love and support from a community of friends here to the community in Havana. Prayer flags were also made by children, grandmothers and artists of during my workshops here, using many mediums such as markers, paint, fabrics, beads, buttons and printmaking. Most of the Cubans had not been exposed to this Tibetan tradition of prayer flags so it was a completely new concept which they embraced. Some of these prayer flags were then gifted back to me to be shared with others on the grounds of a Winnipeg church for all to see during spring and summer.
While I was there, Muraleando was also host to artists from Germany, Mexico and California, so it made for a lot of interesting cultural, social and creative exchanges. I was surprised at the closing ceremony when they revealed the reason for a large installation that had involved a number of artists while I was there. It was a beautiful three-dimensional concrete wall relief of a tree complete with a nest and eggs and bearing many fruits of creativity done by the children prior to my arrival. This impressive installation was dedicated to me by the community in honour of my 5th year of volunteer work here. I knew that something was up because I kept asking what it was all about and in return I got lots of vague answers and strange looks suggesting there was a language problem!!
So in 5 short years I have personally witnessed this artistic community grow from just a dream with practically nothing, to become a jewel in Cuba’s cultural community. They continue to win national awards for their tireless efforts in trying to make life better for their small neighbourhood, through the power of arts and the strength and commitment of its people. They are becoming a role model for other projects in the country. It is truly an honour to be able to say I played a small part in helping to make this dream come true. Who knows what year 6 will bring but I am counting the months until I return...