There are many layers of meaning in this mural. It was painted by a group of extraordinary individuals. Extraordinary in their diversity, in their heartful stories and in their synergy.
Their origins hail from Bangladesh, Canada, China, Egypt, Ghana, Grenada, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Philippines, Romania and Sudan, and they speak Bengali, Urdu, English, French, Mandarin, Arabic, Ga, Hindi, Gujrati, Marati, Spanish and Philippino. Their stories are three-fold, and form the content of this mural – the meanings of their names, childhood memories and their relationships with elders in their lives. Their synergy during the project in July 2013, was evident in their compatibility and harmonious relatedness.
With varying degrees of experience working with paint, the participants came to the project with an openness, enthusiasm and humility that enabled them to discover unique and distinct qualities in their individual artistic styles. This offered them an experience of feeling a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction with their work.
In this mural, the sky spans the course of a day, beginning in darkness before dawn, arriving at the brightness of day and returning to the darkness of night. The jigsaw of international flags and the Indian henna designs in the border, together with the African cloth banner weaving across the entire image, represent unity in diversity. The central image of the huge, sheltering tree represents their strong foundation in their family histories and cultures. Hindi and Aboriginal symbols of Lakshmi and the Dreamcatcher, along with Alchemical symbols hover in the sky. Portraits of their elders gaze down from atop the hill upon which are rendered the symbolic representations of the meanings of their names and their childhood memories.
My name is Wu Run Cong. It means “smart”. I was given a gift when I was young from a good friend of a doll like the one I painted in this mural. This is the skyline of Shanghai, where I come from in China.
My name is Jin Fong. It means “golden Phoenix”. I remember I was hungry when I came home from school, so I ate the bananas, all of them, and my mom got mad at me. I painted the trishaw, a popular mode of transportation in Malaysia.
My name is Juilee. There is a flower by that name in India where I was born. I had never seen the flower before this project. Lakshmi is the Goddess of abundance and prosperity. My grandparents will always be remembered. They are standing in the roots of the tree in the mural.
My name is Alexa. It means “defender of mankind”. The taste of mango reminds me of my beloved hometown in the province of Guimaras in the Philippines. My grandma loved to sew.
My name is Samira. It means “friend of the night”. My grandma was the third of four wives. She is amazing. She encourages me so much. I painted a nest in the tree to remember the bird with a broken wing that I found as a child in my front yard. We buried the bird with its nest.
My name is Faiza. It means “victorious”. That is me holding the bow and arrow. My grandma loves gardening. She has a green thumb. I played the flute in elementary school. I painted the henna design in the border. Women and girls decorate our bodies with henna in India for special occasions like weddings or Eid.
My name is Raiky. It means “speed”. The night inspires dreams and triggers my imagination. I painted a Dreamcatcher because it illustrates my being – the threads and the stones represent my experiences and how life is difficult but beautiful. The headbands on my great Grandma and me in the mural represent standing up for what you believe. She is a shining star of inspiration for me.