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Int'l quilt project teaches kids about Mandela


06-23-2014 13:53 BJT

An American artist is finding out what Nelson Mandela means to young people across the world. William Rhodes is creating an international quilt created by school children to celebrate the icon. The quilt started off at schools in San Francisco, and will later be taken to South Africa where children there will add their individual squares.

Did you take a good look at the picture. Artist William Rhodes is showing his students a photo of Nelson Mandela.The anti-apartheid icon is the inspiration for a collaborative project between this school in the tough San Francisco neighborhood of Bayview Hunter’s Point and an arts foundation for impoverished youth, the Lalela Project, in Cape Town Rhodes says some of the kids see their own experiences reflected in Mandela’s story.

"Mr Mandela was a political prisoner, really fighting for the rights of people that did not have a voice at one time. And the kids could really relate to that. Many of them are in economic positions where they feel like they don’t have a voice or their families don’t have a voice." Visiting art teacher William Rhodes said.

The seven and eight-year-olds are making squares for a quilt any of them are painting likenesses of Madiba intertwined with symbols of love, peace and justice

"I made Nelson Mandela with his grey hair and I didn’t have any other color to do his face so I just did it red." Student Damiyah Earby said.

"He went to jail for a long, long, long time. And he got out and he became the president." Student Lanice Brown said.

"Nelson Mandela stands for love and he’s a loving person." Student Shamira Payne said.

Supervising teacher Brenda Dupre says the kids have learned vital life lessons from Mandela’s example.

"I think they can learn about perseverance and never giving up, I think they can learn the importance of standing up for what’s up and being able to know the importance of when someone treats you unfairly, it’s not necessarily for you to treat them the same way." Brenda Dupre, supervising teacher of Dr. Charles R. Drew College Prep. Academy, said.

William Rhodes financed the project through a crowd-funding website called Hatchfund, which supports the arts. Later the kids will embellish their squares with glitter and collage. Then quilt sections from this school will then be sewn together with those from South Africa and taken on a traveling show from San Francisco to Cape Town.

Once a thriving industrial area, Bayview Hunter’s Point is now a community suffering from high unemployment, poverty and crime. William Rhodes hopes his project will help his pupils to expand their horizons -- and that Mandela’s transition from prisoner to president will inspire them to dream of a brighter future.


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