I also began to wonder: if I went back to Africa, what would I wear? Suddenly, this superficial question became the basis for another installment in the Tools Of Life series. I looked at images of the hazmat ‘moonsuit’ and imagined how alienatingit must be for the quarantined effected by the Ebola virus, for their barred family members, for the health workers, and burial teams who were risking their lives. How could we connect to others from within a moonsuit and still maintain and offer our humanity without exposing oneself unnecessarily to this communicable disease?
With all the creativity in fashion and design, was there a way to enhance the moonsuit by the local communities themselves so that it embodied a positive healing spirit from a local perspective and didn’t simply evoke fear? How could music which is vital to life and healing be integrated into support efforts? Given what I had learned about the role of costumes within tribal ceremonies while working for UNICEF in places like Sierra Leone, it seemed vital to enhance this tool so that it could be adopted more effectively within the culture. After all, in order to prevent the spread of Ebola we were asking people to go against human nature and separate from their loved ones facing the possibility of death - was there any way to interrupt the fear and stigma of the virus so that families could stay symbolically or visually connected?
In watching the growing antagonism and resistance between some communities in West Africa towards the foreign aide coming to fight the Ebola epidemic, it has become clear to me that the sensitivity with which one culture approaches another to support them can be a matter of life and death. The vulnerability of being in this world together, at least from the perspective of global health security, has suddenly become painfully obvious.
I had tried to include this project in a campaign called The G/Love campaign. The G/love Campaign aimed to collect protective gear like gloves that contain a message of love, prayer and support on them. The G/love Campaign is designed to remind health workers, who must go house to house looking for new Ebola cases, that they are not alone, to remind the families visited what the world’s caring looks like, and to allow those of us wanting to help to connect with humanity. The gloves are meant to remind those risking their lives to battle the disease that the unique love and prayers of people around the world are with them as they work. And create space for conversation around protective gear and health precautions that can begin to reduce the stigma around them.
The project didn't catch on, but I still think the idea is an important one. A way to connect with those in sanitized environments with love.
Sponsor a pair of gloves to be customized with a hand written message of love and support by groups of artists and children throughout the month of October. If you want to send a personal message please email it with an image to firstname.lastname@example.org
All gloves will be shipped the first week of November to Shine On Sierra Leone to be added to home kits and distributed throughout communities in the country.
The G/love Campaign was designed as an intervention campaign to provide protective supplies that reflect the compassion of the international community for West Africans combating the Ebola virus.