Emma Zahren-Newman

Emma Zahren-Newman

A few weeks ago, I headed back to Cuba to visit friends and family. While I was there, Michael asked me and some friends, including Vidushi Sharma, to create another mural. Being the ambitious folks we are, we decided to try to make TWO murals-- one small one on the side of the new Cultural Center (!!!!), and another nearby on a medic's house. Due to weather complications, we only were able to complete the painting on the side of the cultural center, but we left paint and money so that a local artist can make her or his mark on the other mural venue.

The Cultural project of Los Pocitos has officially been named "PROYECTO AKOKAN"-- and is a registered cultural project! Akokan comes from the word for "heart" in the religion of Abakuá, one of the predominant religions of the community. The project hosts workshops for the kids of the community (sort of in a Boys and Girls Club framework), and are run by experts in the area. Already, they have had a photography workshop, run by a photography student, and a mask-making worship, run by two cuban art professors.

The building in this picture is the future venue for the workshops. Right now, it needs a new roof, a new door, and a dry-only bathroom. We decided to paint the name of the project on the outside of the building along with the handprints of the kids of the community to give the kids a sense of ownership over the project and their artistic endeavors.

An upcoming workshop: theatre with a local street performer!

I am so pleased with the direction Michael is taking this project, and hope to continue supporting it as it matures.

Rajat

Rajat A lot of heart and a little money can go a long way. Keep it up.

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Anju Sharma

Anju Sharma Emma Zahren-Newman so proud of you, so proud of you and of Vidushi Sharma for carrying this out...

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Emma Zahren-Newman

Emma Zahren-Newman

Update: Benches and a garden have been added to the park in Los Pocitos! Thanks to a bunch of volunteers and donations from CIEE, the park is cleaner and more enjoyable. If/when I return to Cuba this winter, my professor, Michael, and I hope to continue covering surfaces with beautiful, vibrant art!

Rajat

Rajat This is shaping up nicely. Is it the same kids in the picture who painted with you in the spring ?

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Emma Zahren-Newman

Emma Zahren-Newman Some of them, yeah! This is pretty much their backyard and hang-out area-- it's relieving to see that it isn't filled with broken glass and rotting food anymore!

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Anju Sharma

Anju Sharma Emma Zahren-Newman thats a wonderful job done. I am sure they'll enjoy it for a long time and remember you fondly!

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Anju Sharma

Anju Sharma

So I tried to look up Los Pocitos just because you guys piqued my interest. But google keeps taking me to Mexico whereas I think you mean Cuba. And on google maps it just says "We could not find los pocitos cuba". There isn't much in English on the place. Would love to read more about it and see pictures! Emma Zahren-Newman and @Ben Kessler

Emma Zahren-Newman

Emma Zahren-Newman That's probably because it's not an "official" neighborhood as much as it is a refugee camp-- only, the refugees are fleeing economic hardship in the country

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Anju Sharma

Anju Sharma Hmm okay I understand

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Ben Kessler

Ben Kessler

Los Pocitos is an amazing community! I am thrilled that I too had the opportunity to contribute to its vibrancy and beauty through our community service project. Along with the mural, we also reconstructed a crumbling sidewalk, that was perilously located in the middle of a common passageway within the community. The project demonstrates the shear power of "giving", enriching the lives of both those who live in Los Pocitos, as well as those who worked on the project, all of us viewing it as one of the highlights of our time in Cuba.

Jade Mills

Jade Mills Sounds like a great experience-- but even more so, it seems like you guys really benefitted a community with that side walk! Do you have any photos?

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Vidushi Sharma

Vidushi Sharma ^ Yes, I would love to see these! I want to hear about the beginnings of this project too-- how did you guys connect with this community in particular?

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Emma Zahren-Newman

Emma Zahren-Newman Yes! I'll post a picture from the sidewalk building days, Jade Mills and Vidushi Sharma

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Emma Zahren-Newman

Emma Zahren-Newman

About a week ago, and few friends and I finished work on a mural in Los Pocitos, a temporary community located in Marianao (a neighbourhood in Habana, Cuba). I loved working with the kids of the community and getting their perspective on the project. Pictured here are the kids adding their own touch to the mural :)

Emma Zahren-Newman

Emma Zahren-Newman Hey Jade! Long time no talk! I was in Cuba for the semester, so 4.5 months in total. It certainly is a fascinating place, but I wouldn't go just to enjoy the beach and turn your head to the very real problems that the people face (not that you would!). I got to get to know several of the kids in the community and it was so special talk to them about what the mural meant to them. The day after this photo was taken, someone asked the kids "who painted that?" and they all answered, "all of us!", beaming with pride. For a long time, it had just been a rusted wall with the blue stripes of a cuban flag slowly chipping away. With the help of my professor and study abroad program, we hope to turn this area into a park full of beautiful art and places to sit where the kids can hang out. This mural is the first step in the project!

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Adam Pryor

Adam Pryor Incredible work and thoughts in what you did. Kudos! Do most of these children attend school? How is schooling in Cuba?

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Rajat

Rajat Participatory murals, I like the idea it's like you freeze a moment in time with many souls pieced together.

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Emma Zahren-Newman

Emma Zahren-Newman Rajat-- that's a lovely way of looking at it! I hadn't particularly thought of it that way... and Adam Pryor-- these kids do attend schools. Education in Cuba is certainly a complicated issue. I will look for a good article that might be able to illuminate more than I can

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Vidushi Sharma

Vidushi Sharma This is really amazing. How did you recruit different kids and community members for help? Was it hard to get people committed to getting this project off the ground?

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