girl using elephant wooden block

I was apart of a great campaign called “Rally to Save Lives’ held by the Canadian Blood Services ( They are doing many events across Canada to reach Canadians in all communities and planned an event on Saturday June 18th at Guildford mall to inspire, educate and celebrate south asian culture. I was so amazed and thankful to have been approached to work with Canadian Blood Services. They are so organized and know how to be informative, engaging, respectful and fun all at the same time. I was asked to lead a public art project incorporating the blood signal (the logo/symbol generated for this campaign.

I had many ideas exploring the many designs, themes and symbols in south asian culture. I knew it was going to be taking place in a mall from 11-4pm and many families would be participating. I started with the concept¬† of drawing figures or a family scene or dancers something that represented many people ‘rallying’ in a larger group celebration. I kept thinking I needed to pictorially represent this and I was stuck with how do I get strangers who may only have 10 minutes to spare to paint a figure or feel confident to paint a hand or ‘make things look real’? I was thinking of people adding a dab of paint each to do an abstract mural of sorts but it may get messy.¬† If I had more time … some one-on-one I know everyone has the ability to be creative and paint better then what they think they can. But I kept thinking this space and time frame and event needs less time commitment but the same sense of accomplishment. The participants need to feel like they were part of making something beautiful but not have the activity so easy that kids should only do it.

Thinking about what types of art that need many hands to be created or where there is no worry of making a figure look ‘right’ and has south asian roots. That’s when the idea of beautiful indian wooden block stamps came in. Textiles are so integral to design and art in India and many south asian cultures. Whether as rugs, in clothes, bags, covering of many sorts it fit perfectly. Everyone would get a chance to pitch in but not worry about drawing or painting anxiety. I got wooden blocks from a great store in granville island that supports/works with artisans in India who hand carve beautiful designs out of teak. ( ). I could have got them all there are so many great blocks. The wooden blocks I used were leaves, flowers, circular and oval motifs and elephants.

The art project I led was a community mural. I used ribbon to border the top and bottom and used some as vertical dividers. I played with the blood signal logo and concepts for the word ‘rally’ and I loved the wholeness of a lotus. The symbolism of a lotus is a bridge between the water and surface/air. With the logo as one petal, the center petal, it is being rallied by all the pedals around it creating a full bloom. I felt that would be a great way to represent the concept that was needed here. So I painted the lotus… which I was hesitant about as I wanted more community involvement but I know looking down at a blank mural is intimidating for the public and I couldn’t be sure how many would participate in that scenario. I am aware of the lack of understanding and education in the south asian community to donate blood. To make the process inviting I made a plan of how the wooden blocks would be used, the colours and where they can be stamped. The plan which I printed out for reference was a great guide. So many came in and changed up the plan and made their own mark! It was awesome. I love the elephants under the lotus flower.. kinda like a dancing herd.

The Canadian Blood Services ran a great event with a ‘find out your blood type’ area, free samosas, live dance and singing performances, great inspiring life stories of the importance of donating blood and a cool inspiration board to sign. So many came out and participated and many watched from the upper floor in the mall as well. I had a great team with me and we got everyone we could to pick a block, ink it up, press it down on the mural and then use a wet one wipe to clean up. We had over 130 impressions placed on the mural with over 100 participants. Some kids loved it so much they couldn’t stop! Every impression was so unique with variances in pressure, orientation, ink consistency and yet they all worked together. I was equally impressed with the participants.. strangers to one another.. staying longer just to make sure that the next person placed the wooden block ‘just right’ as it continued the border or pattern beside theirs. Many inquired where it will go from here so they can go there and show their friends which impression they did. It was really great working with people of all backgrounds and ages.. all be truly surprised they could do this and that it would look good even if they touched it. They felt ownership and I was really happy as it was their artwork and their effort that made it successful. It is a community mural in creation and will be in exhibition. It’s home is still being determined.

The samosas were good, the dancers were excellent.. many groups (Shiamak Davar’s Indo-Jazz Movement and Shan-E-Punjab Arts Club) danced to great songs. Wonderful music by Moving stories/speeches by kris Naidu and Aliya Kabani. I found out I was O positive and am dedicated to give blood. I am very fortunate to have been part of this event and to have met really great performers, organizers and Surrey residents and saw how passionate and hardworking the folks at Canadian Blood Services work to get the message out. It is in us to give!


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