Benjamin Eveslage reaches out to the world with an art brush.
The 2009 Seaholm High School graduate recently traveled to Africa to participate in a unique arts program involving young orphans who lost their families to ethnic strife. Eveslage, 21, now a student at Oakland University, taught them the fundamentals of coloring, drawing and weaving.
“There are about 300 kids at the orphanages,” he said. “Many of them arrive as infants and stay there through high school. Most of them came from the north, which is much more unstable than the southern part of Nigeria.”
The December trip lasted 30 days. Eveslage worked with students at the Stephen Centre International in Abeokuta and Bema Homes for the Less Privileged in Abuja. He stayed with local families and traveled designated safe roads.
“For the most part it was safe,” he said. “It grew worse between Christmas and New Year’s. There’s a history of religious tensions during holidays and we were hearing about some tensions in the north.”
During his last four days there was a nationwide strike over the rising cost of fuel. Half the population in Nigeria lives on roughly $2 a day.
Two local artists accompanied him. One artist gave lessons in acrylic, water color and tempera painting. The other, a professional textile designer, worked with older students on the African traditions of tie dye, screen printing, and batik. The intent was to empower the older students so they could create their own prints and sell them on the street.
“There’s just a lot of street people and vendors,” Eveslage said. “At times it’s like a bombardment of people — everyone’s hustling and there’s always lots of commotion.”
Eveslage believes the art lessons provide the orphans with a sense of individuality, something they might be missing in the orphanage. A number of the children are still traumatized