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Nellie

michael_warren_nellie_muganda

“Hi, my name is Nellie.

I come alive whenever I see this album. It brings me back to my teen years which were sheltered and happy. I first bought the album when I was 13 and collected photos up until the time I left Tanzania to come to America. The year was 1974 and I was eighteen.

I was young and laughter was always present, especially when most of these pictures were taken. My mother and fathers pictures are in there and my brothers and sisters. And my one niece at the time, I was her idol so where I went, she went. I had one best friend that I really, really miss. We lost touch when I moved to the States. She went to England and then became a doctor in New Guinea. And I just don’t know how to find her. I’ve tried but this album remains my only connection to her.

America is my home now but Tanzania is still my true home. There are things about Tanzania that I miss sometimes. The people are genuine and they’re honest and when they tell you something they mean it. They’re not fake and they follow through. But the US has given me the opportunities that I could never have in Tanzania because in the states I could reinvent myself to do whatever or become whomever I want to be. For me to be able to work with McCartney or whoever in Hollywood, it’s — it’s just an amazing thing that I would never have had in Tanzania. Like when I’m watching the Oscars and can point out how many people I know that I’ve touched. It was like, oh, I know him or oh, I know her, so yeah, that’s pretty amazing. So I love this country for giving me these chances for success.

I still get impressed by all of this. My friends say I’m still too innocent and even at my age right now I’m thinking, oh my God, yeah, they’re right. But it’s my childhood in Tanzania that has given me a spirit that those I work with are attracted to — it’s why John probably wanted me around, and McCartney, and why they turned me on to other people. It allowed me to succeed, absolutely, Yeah.

Other than this ebony necklace I am wearing, not many things are still with me from my childhood in Tanzania.  The beads have a healing quality and are thought to be protective and symbolic. The wood of the ebony tree is very beautiful and it never rots, it just doesn’t. It will always remain the same. Like the feeling I get seeing the people in this album each time I look.”

Tidbit:
Nellie is a makeup artist based in San Francisco and has worked with many of Hollywood’s most notable actors and some of the world’s most iconic musicians. Where she mentions McCartney and John in the story, she is referring to her time spent with Paul McCartney and John Travolta respectively. These days she spends most of her time working on projects with Silicon Valley’s brightest innovators.



Christian

“My name is Christian.

I grew up watching movies. With my parents off to work I would just stick inside the house and watch everything I could. Then I got into collecting and now it’s an obsession.

One girlfriend was afraid the money I’d spend on collecting wouldn’t leave us enough to feed the kids we might have.

We don’t date anymore.”

Tidbit:
Christian’s current career path is as a writer. He is exploring making short films and writing a feature film script.



Michael

“My name is Michael. I’m an artist.

I am working on a project as part of the post peace process in Ireland and as part of that I hope to engage thirty thousand people or 1 in 10 who live in the border region. I’ve sent out a series of prompts asking people to respond with what is basically an “I Am” poem so things like “I am”, “I regret”, “I need”, “I see” and “I hear”.

Their responses will be engraved onto stones, a couple of which are with me today.

One of them “I need to leave the countryside”, is a common, very common, response to people living in rural areas there. And you get the flip side of that from people in the cities who “need to leave this country” so people feel really at home and disconnected from home. They long to stay in a place they need to leave. I’m just thinking of this installation as a way of creating some dialog around how we locate ourselves in this concept that we call home and how we can all be in the same place and be ok with it.

Another response I was really struck by, came from a young woman who said in hers “I see through my big brown eyes-I am an Irish girl”.

I think the second stone I brought goes right to the core of the whole project, “I hear best when I listen”. For me as an artist, sort of listening to or taking the pulse of what’s going on in the community is the source for my work so that one has some meaning to me, personally as well.”

Tidbit:
The following is from a press release about Michael’s project. It might be helpful to fully understand the scope of the installation. When completed it will be three years in the making:

This project is titled “The Tonnes: A Meeting of the Waters.” It is a cross-border peace-building public art project in the troubled boundary area between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The project will facilitate a creative dialogue among communities along the River Foyle in the Northwest border region of Ireland. There are three phases:

“In Phase One we will invite communities to make handmade books and participate in writing workshops in order to create a communal archive and an anonymous epic poem about their private recollections, experiences, and prayers during and after “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland.

In Phase Two, stones engraved with these writings from Phase I will become cairns all along the riverbank.

In Phase Three the cairns and books will be gathered from the communities and loaded onto a floating installation of copper and reflected water which will journey from the town of Strabane in the border region to the Atlantic. The stones will be dropped overboard at the mouth of the river in a gesture of reconciliation among diverse communities.”

Michael is the founder of Medicine Wheel Productions.