Helga Hošková-Weissová: An Introduction

“Draw what you see,” Helga Hoskava’s father told her 70 years ago before they were separated in the Jewish concentration camp, Theresienstadt. Now a renowned Czech painter, Helga passed on the passion born from her father’s words to her son and then her granddaughter—celebrated cellist Dominika Hoskava.  Despite coming from a long line of secular artists and a non-Jewish mother, Dominika surprises her family by converting to Judaism and moving to Israel in an effort to reconnect with her heritage.

To learn more about The Ripple Project: One, please click here.

Ripple Project Vignettes: Benjamin Graham: Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, USA

The first meal I ever shared with Fayaz was over a year ago. I was an intern at the International Rescue Committee and Fayaz had just arrived in Washington DC via Afghanistan, carrying little more than a green card and a suitcase. As an intern, my primary responsibility was to help resettling refugees adapt to life in America, and on one particular afternoon, this meant driving with Fayaz to a social services office in northern Virginia.

We spent the afternoon filling out food stamp applications and sitting through inconclusive interviews, all of which left us annoyed and hungry by the end of the day. On the drive back, I thought it would be a good idea to introduce Fayaz to the most American of cuisines, a value meal at McDonald’s.

Up to this point Fayaz had taken to America rather easily, navigating the DC metro system and applying for a credit card by himself, but he was completely stumped as he stood in front of the McDonald’s menu. I advised him to stay away from the Big Mac for a while, and that the grilled chicken sandwich would be a safe choice for a beginner.

Eying the sandwich suspiciously, Fayaz took his first bite; chewed slowly – paused – and then spat the food back into its bag. “You didn’t tell me there was pork on this!” he snorted, pulling a translucent strip of bacon from his mouth with his thumb and index finger. I apologized and explained that I didn’t eat at McDonald’s often and I hadn’t known that the grilled chicken sandwich came with bacon. I had also momentarily forgotten that Muslims don’t eat pork.

Fayaz wouldn’t take another bite, but he did enjoy the fries. As he munched, he explained to me that there weren’t any pigs in Afghanistan, except maybe in a zoo, and their certainly wasn’t any bacon. I was fascinated that he could be happy in life without bacon, but he assured me it was possible. I continued to ask more questions about his country and his home life, all of which I knew surprisingly little about considering the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

This would prove to be the experience that propelled our relationship past the realm of just work, because a few weeks later, after my internship ended, I got a call from Fayaz inviting me to an Afghan restaurant. I had introduced him to American food, now it was his turn to return the favor. We kept in contact over the next couple months, sometimes meeting up for Afghan food, but never going back to McDonald’s.

I didn’t stay in DC for long, and after a stint working for a newspaper in Nepal, I began making plans to move to New York. I was already in the city, going down my list of acquaintances and moving from couch to couch as I hunted for apartments, when Fayaz called. It had been several months since we last talked, and coincidentally he was now living with a friend in Brooklyn.

When I asked about his couch situation, he said that he didn’t have one, but that I was welcome to stay with him and his friend for the entire month if I was okay with being a little cramped. I was okay with it.

-Ben Graham

ben@therippleproject.com

Interview with Holocaust Survivor Ela Stein Weissberger

Ela Stein Weisberger was 11-years-old when she landed the key role as “the cat” in the children’s opera, Brundibár, performed by and for Jewish prisoners in the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Ela is the only performer alive today who acted in all 55 performances, and she continues to devote her life to telling the story of Theresienstadt throughout the United States and Europe. Ela shares the tales of her survival, her role in the opera and the lengths to which she has gone to preserve the stories of those who did not survive.

We are currently working with Ela for both Series One and for Brundibár: Beyond Imagination

To learn more about The Ripple Project: One, please click here.

To learn more about Brundibár: Beyond Imagination, please click here.

Samosaman

We recently interviewed Fuad Ndibalema aka. Samosa Man in Burlington,VT.

Watch our video above and take a look at the Samosa Man website: http://www.samosaman.net/

Eugenie Mukeshimana spoke at screening of Valentina’s Nightmare

You are warmly invited on Friday June 25, 2010 at 7:30 p.m. to The South Orange Vailsburg United Methodist Church, for a TRULY INSPIRATIONAL evening of Storytelling in honor of all the Rwanda Genocide Survivors in their own VOICE!

On the evening of  June 25 a special community gathering was held at a Haitian church in New Jersey featuring a presentation and testimony from Rwandan genocide survivor, Eugenie Mukeshimana.

There is great importance for Eugenie and other survivors to share what they’ve experienced through storytelling, as this is the primary means of documenting history in the villages of Rwanda.  Eugenie’s voice is a story of survival but she also speaks on behalf of nearly 1 million Tutsis who were killed by their Hutu neighbors during one of the darkest chapters in contemporary human history-the Rwandan Genocide of 1994.

Eugenie and her daughter

Eugenie and her daughter

Eugenie’s presentation began with her introduction to the documentary Valentina’s Nightmare, filmed in 1997 by BCC journalist Fergal Keane.  The film displayed devastating images of the aftermath of the genocide while tracing Valentina’s experiences and reflections after finally being discovered by UN troops, near death, with the fingers severed off her right hand by a machete.

After screening the graphic film, Eugenie shared the trying chain of events leading to her own survival, each experience illustrating the fact that her presence today is nothing short of a miracle.

Valentina Iribagiza

In her quest to escape the genocide she did what ever was required to survive — from being hidden under a neighbor’s bed while she was eight months pregnant, to cooking dinner for a soldier who has been ordered to kill her.  Eugenie and thousands of others had to act like the cockroaches that they were cruelly referred to as by their killers – hiding constantly only to come out at night to quietly relocate.

When Eugenie tells of the events that led to her survival she speaks plainly and simply, she is aware there is no reason to sensationalise her experience nor does she try to paint a picture of what happened to the millions of Tutsis who did not survive.  The story she shares is of what she alone had to do to guarantee her and her unborn daughter’s survival, a story which continues with her present life in New Jersey.

Student Reactions

We recently met with some students who were participating in Project DUMBO 2010, a course offered by Elmira College,  where seven art students live in a loft in DUMBO for a month while touring the city, visiting artist studios and gaining a better understanding of the New York art world.   The students were lead by their teacher Marc Dennis, whom we are currently working with on the film Mirrors which is part of The Ripple Project: One . Please read what some of the students wrote of their experience below.

The below was posted on the Project DUMBO 2010 blog.

Last Friday we made a studio visit that was a little out of the ordinary. We met the people behind The Ripple Project. You can technically define this as a studio visit because we did see some of their behind the scenes work, but it was also a test screening for their project. We’re one of the first groups to see their work in progress and it was an intense, emotional, thought-provoking experience.

The project goals are multi-faceted but one of their main objectives is to help explore how stories and experience change throughout the generations and what we can draw from all of these experiences. The video we were shown, “The Binding of Isaac” is the first video from the project and serves as a good introduction to the project. It really helps to relate the viewer to Isaac’s story. That connection provides a much bigger emotional impact than the dry, sterile numbers and stats that most of us are taught in classrooms.

The Binding of Issac

After seeing that video, the members of the Ripple Project showed us some of the footage they have shot for projects that are now being edited. This was interesting and fell more in line with what we are accustomed to on the trip. While still just as heavy emotionally as the short film, we were able to see a filmmakers approach to their piece. One member, Liron, kept emphasizing the difficulty of expressing an entire story into one piece, or one painting, an interesting concept and something to consider in the artistic process.

The stories of the people this team has traveled to film and try to portray through this project are absolutely incredible. The discussions that accompanied this raw footage and introduction to the project taught us all a lesson on perseverance and the strength of the human spirit.

-Tim Goodier

The following  two testimonies were sent to us after a second discussion was held between the students and Dylan Angell of the Ripple Project.

I’ve always heard various individuals talk about “the power of art.” I never
really understood what these people were talking about. However, after
having the opportunity to watch different parts of The Ripple Project, this
phrase, “the power of love,” suddenly became clear to me. Watching the
footage of various Holocaust survivors who had become artists was extremely
emotive in part due to the realization that these people lived through
unimaginable horrors, but did not let the events of the holocaust define
them. Rather they went on to create art and new lives. I do not know how
each individual found solace in their art making, but I do believe it is due
to the act of making art that these people were able to live fulfilling
lives after the tragedies they witnessed and lived through. At least to me,
The Ripple Project attests to the inherent power of art to heal, connect,
teach, express, and communicate.

– Katya Harris

Artist Fred Terna

Upon meeting with the group from the Ripple Project to view their video I was rather moved by the project as I feel most people will be. I think what really makes it more meaningful is it gives the individual stories and their impact upon their life and their families. It simply makes it more personable and relatable as an individual in today’s time that has not gone through these experiences. It is not the typical documentary style and I think this really is what gives it more meaning. I was touched by the experience and felt I came away with a better understanding of the lasting impression the events have left on individuals and their families. You commonly hear about these things but it is hard to understand the reality of it. The video really puts it into a format that makes it personal. I felt that I had gotten to know the individuals in the clip and could relate them to people in my own life. Overall I think it is an excellent and moving project that will help people to understand the extent of the tragedies suffered by thousands of individuals.

-Kathy Henton

Jean Paul Samputu

We are excited to announce the involvement of Jean Paul Samputu as a cultural and artistic mentor for our Brundibár: Beyond Imagination summer program.   Please take a look at his biography below.

Bio:

“Jean Paul Samputu has established himself as one of the most prominent African artists on the world stage. A winner of the prestigious Kora Award (the “African Grammy”) in 2003, Samputu travels the world as a cultural ambassador for Rwanda, bringing to his audiences not only traditional African singing, dancing, and drumming, but also a message of peace and reconciliation. A survivor of the genocide in Rwanda, Samputu takes us to the most positive place of humanity through his spirit and graciousness. More than a talented and inspiring musician, Samputu is a model for anyone who wants to make a difference in this world today.

Samputu began singing in a church choir, and was influenced by traditional and contemporary music, including Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, and Lionel Richie. After winning the Kora Award for Best African Traditional Artist in 2003, he arrived in the US in 2004 for Ten Years Remembering, an event commemorating the 10th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda. He continues his efforts to educate young people about genocide through panel discussions and forums at colleges and universities across the country.”

Wikipedia

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPHWw3g8B_Y&feature=related

Video created by Dreamfish

Vignettes – Halloween, Lower Manhattan 2012

 

This short film is in no way trying to give a sense of the scale of destruction that Hurricane Sandy caused NYC- compared to Redhook, the Rockaways and other parts of the city the destruction cause to lower Manhattan was comparitively slight but residents still had to endure days without power or access to basic needs as most businesses were closed beneath 34th street. This is simply a document of some of the things we saw while biking around 2 days after the storm and an attempt to capture the strange quiet mood that engulfed the city. -Dylan Angell

Directed by Dylan Angell Camera by Daniel Terna Edited by Joe Morgan Music by Jeff Tobias

Executive Producers Liron Unreich and Michael McDevitt

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