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Affixed Productions Launch in Freetown, Sierra Leone with Urban Artist Vhils

Using public art to share Sierra Leone's heritage of inter-religious cohesion and 'openheartedness' with the world.

Photo of sierraleone2018
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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

In collaboration with We Yone Child Foundation, the City of Freetown and world-renown urban artist Vhils, Affixed Productions will officially launch in November 2018 in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Amidst radical extremism which threatens the lives, livelihoods and ecological well-being of many, Sierra Leone offers a model of religious cohesion for all of us. Previously described by former UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, as not merely inter-religious tolerance but 'openheartedness', this a corner stone of Sierra Leonean culture we wish to share with the world.

This begins in Freetown, where, with the support of Vhils and the municipal government, we will construct a public mural celebrating this ethic. In turn, this mural will not only become a tourist attraction but also a source of local pride and will be used to share this ethic globally. This also challenges harmful stereotypes of Sierra Leone and Africa more broadly, demonstrating that communities elsewhere have something to learn from local practices. Following construction of the mural, we will engage in an extensive multimedia campaign to share this story globally.

Additionally, Vhils will conduct workshops with members of We Yone Children Foundation, filling a crucial gap in arts and critical thinking education while serving to inspire the youth.

Lastly, we intend on reproducing this project in sites of both inter-religious celebration and contestation. This includes tentative plans for 2019 in Beirut (Lebanon) and Malmo (Sweden).

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

The direct beneficiaries will be the school-aged children involved with We Yone Foundation. Between the grades of 1-6 the children are ages 6-13. These children, both boys and girls, come from impoverished families (some are orphans) living in the Kroo Bay and George Brook areas of Freetown. Not only will the workshops provide an educational opportunity in the arts that is otherwise limited but the mural will instill a sense of local pride, with the aim of encouraging these children to become leaders in their communities.

More broadly, those living in Freetown will benefit both from the beauty of the mural in their community, as well as a sense of pride in international recognition and also the monetary benefits of an additional tourist attraction.

Moreover, this mural and community engagement will provide additional support, encouragement and coverage to the ethic of inter-religious cohesion. This will serve to support continued fights against radicalization, reenforcing peace.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

At present, very few in both popular as well as scholarly circles highlight Sierra Leone's ethic of inter-religious 'openheartedness' as a model for those elsewhere. To our knowledge, we are the first to do so in a public as well as international manner.

Globally we live in a world characterized by diversity though art uniquely brings us together, encouraging cohesion. Moreover our organization has the benefit of having arranged Vhils to contribute (he has a large profile, over 200 thousand Instagram followers) while two of our members are professional journalists and have published articles, videos and photoessays in North American, European, and African platforms; there is potential for this story to have a large reach to audiences globally. Additionally, our organization has extensive networks with human rights practitioners as well as academics whom would benefit from integrating the lessons from Sierra Leone into their research, interventions and policy developments.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Pilot: I have started to implement the idea as a whole with a first set of real users.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

Affixed Productions harnesses the power of art to encourage not simply religious tolerance but openheartedness; to not merely coexist but to live, produce and grow together.

Website in development, will be ready prior to November 2018 launch.

Expertise in sector

  • 3-5 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

One of our Co-Founders, Marcus Olsson, has been involved with We Yone Child Foundation in Freetown, Sierra Leone since 2015. While there, he observed this ethic of inter-religious openheartedness and felt that this needed to be explored in more detail and shared with the world. During this period he decided to design his Master's thesis around this ethic, during this period the idea arose to fuse his passion as well as the accessibility of urban art with this beauty of this ethic.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Counter to prevailing assumptions about the role of religion in conflict, in Sierra Leone the civil war never broke down on religious lines; in fact, it was religious leaders that were crucial in brokering peace and reconciliation. Encouraging and recognizing inter-religious openheartedness serves to reenforce peace which in turn enables economic prosperity and inclusive development. Moreover this allows sustainable use of the natural world as social cohesion and inter-religious solidarity provides stability which prevents conflict-associated exploitation, desecration and pollution of the environment. Additionally, aesthetics and art reenforce a sense of local pride and foster environmental stewardship.

On a global level, the message of cohesion and togetherness is required if we are to tackle collective challenges such as climate change, inequity, and poverty.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

Our organization will be working with a number of actors. Firstly, We Yone Child Foundation will be partnering with us in the facilitating of workshops. This experience will not only provide the children with world-class art educational experiences but a celebration of local heritage which will encourage local leadership. The organization will also benefit from global exposure following our media campaigns.

Secondly, the City of Freetown has kindly donated a public wall to be used for the mural. The city will benefit not only aesthetically but will ideally reap the communal benefits of recognizing the local heritage of inter-religious openheartedness as well as the economic benefits of an additional tourist attraction.

Thirdly, we will be partnering with Vhils (http://vhils.com), a world class urban artist. He will construct the mural, lead the workshops and provide an additional audience for our message.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Our launching event has the benefit of working and engaging with active, recognized community leaders as well as children involved with We Yone Children's Foundation. In this way, not only does the project have legitimacy locally but an excitement to share a local source of pride globally. Moreover, the core team and the organization's Board are diverse, there will be an advantage both in sharing the media we produce globally but also the networks needed in reproducing the project abroad.

Geographic Focus

We begin in Freetown, Sierra Leone however intend to later reproduce the project elsewhere.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

We intend on launching this project in November 2018.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No

2 comments

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Photo of John Caulker
Team

We held a planning retreat for the Wan Fambul Framework last spring in Northern Ireland, with a delegation of government and civil society leaders from Sierra Leone. We toured the murals in Belfast, and our delegation was surprised by how much violence was represented in the images. It was a reminder of how far we've come with reconciliation in Sierra Leone. I can imagine your project opening up new avenues for that conversation and sharing with Northern Ireland.

Photo of sierraleone2018
Team

Thank you for your encouraging and intrigue insights, perhaps there is space for future collaboration and synergy John Caulker