Mawulidi's Spirit Crane
I am mesmerized by Mawulidi Diodone Majaliwa's white heron, by its elegance,simplicity and strength of character. It was cut from a single piece of wood taken from Pompanuck Farm, Wally, the caretaker at the farm, cut a tree in chunks and Mawulidi walked silently and purposely through the pile of wood choosing the ones he wanted.
We all helped him load the wood into the car of Francis Sengabo, the operations director of RISSE.
I was truly astonished by the response to this carving when it went up for sale on my blog Thursday evening. Within minutes, scores of people offered to buy it – one generous soul told Maria she wanted to pay $200 and give it to me. At first, I thought it a heron, but after some research I think it's a heron.
By that time, Maria had already promised it to another person who insisted on paying $200 for it, the asking price was $150.
The other three carvings – the Guinea Hen and two blue pigeons also sold quickly. The waiting list for Mawulidi's work was at 40 early Saturday morning and growing rapidly. He touched a lot of people.
This is the second time a heron has entered my life and altered it. I took a photo of a blue heron a couple of months ago and sold more than 60 prints of it. The herons are spirit animals. Herons and cranes look alike, but actually are two different species. Herons are common in Africa, where Mawulidi comes from. Looking through some photos online, it seems to be a heron.
Cranes have thicker necks and are not common to Southern Africa.
I see a heron in this carving. I will ask Mawulidi.
The herons are symbols of balance, and they represent an ability to progress and evolve. The long think legs of the heron reflect that one doesn't need great massive pillars to remain stable, but you must be able to stand on your own.
This ability allows the heron to follow his or her own path, writes Ted Andrews, the author of Animal Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great & Small. There is little stability or security in the life of a heron, they stand out in their uniqueness and independence.
How strange for me to say I feel this strength emanating from this carving. Today, we went to Staples and bought secure packaging to send it off into the world. We are its temporary curators and protectors, it needs to go off into the world, but I will be very sad to see it go.
By now, most of you know Mawulidi's story. He fled the Congo Civil War and spent 20 years of his life in a U.N. Refugee camp with his wife and four children. He was a carver in the Congo, a trade he learned from his grandfather, who left Mawulidi his carving tools. Authorities refused to let him take the tools on plane to America, he left them on the ground.
The Army Of Good bought him some new tools, and he came out to the farm to find wood. He found some here, and then I took him to Pompanuck. He was hospitalized recently for a surgical procedure and when he recovered, he got to work. The four carvings are the first result.
Mawulidi is a quiet, humble man of great faith, otherwise he would not be alive. No one in his original family survived the Congo wars. He belongs here in America, even thought he government seeks to keep people like him out. His story is quite American to me, he has not come to hurt us or take our work. He just wants to be free and for his children to be safe.
Maria and I are going to Albany next week to meet with him, receive additional carvings. We will sell them on my blog, and then meet with Mawulidi again and again to figure out how he can best sell his work. Hundreds of people loved it and wanted to buy it.
A gift like this needs to be nurtured, guided and protected. We will help him become independent, and in the meantime, sell his work.
If you wish to get on Mawulidi's list, please e-mail Maria – firstname.lastname@example.org.
I would love to keep this crane, and I thank the very generous spirit who tried to buy it for me (Maria won't tell me who she is, as requested), but I believe that would be unethical. So many people want it, it's isn't fair for me to buy it. I can get in line like everybody else, even though I sleep with the sales manager. Maria wanted to handle Mawulidi's sales, she declined any kind of compensation.
I won't take any money from the sales either.
We are, with Mawulidi's permission, donating 25 per cent of all sales to RISSE, the refugee and immigrant center in Albany, where so many refugees and immigrants go for help. I am also working closely with the RISSE soccer team to help them get the uniforms and supplies they need to compete. We offer scholarships, small amounts of financial aid, and help with clothing for men and woman, children and adults.
This is inspiring and important work, I am humbled seeing the soul of this gifted artist survive the worst kinds of hardship and suffering and triumph in this way. There is lots of bad and troubling news out there, I am happy to offer this joy.
I don't know how to describe it, but this crane has a powerful spirit inside. I walked it through the pasture this afternoon and showed it to the animals. It radiates strength and inspiration. I don't know what Mawulidi is making this week.
Mawulidi speaks little English, works long hours as a bed baker, and has no computer. He helps to care for four children.
I told him to make what he wants, not what people ask him to make. I have no idea what we will be selling this coming week.
I do know an awful lot of people will be waiting to see it and bring it into their homes. I'll be on the list. I think I'll bring it out to the animals Sunday and let them consider it.
Friday, the Army Of Good launched an urgent winter clothing drive for the refugees and immigrants of RISSE, so many do not have appropriate clothing for the winter, especially the refugees, who came with almost nothing but the clothes on their back and face a difficult upstate New York winter. Many of the children have only flip-flops and sneakers. The children need snowpants in order to play outside during school. None of them own snowpants. Used clothing is acceptable as long as it is in good condition. Sweaters and jackets and winter boots are urgently needed, especially for children. You can donate directly to RISSE or buy or send winter clothing to RISSE. Details here. They have almost nothing and need everything. I hope you will consider helping.