Kiboko Projects

Art, Education, and Cultural Exchange Projects

Non-Fiction - Art/Photography
186 Pages
Reviewed on 07/13/2022
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Author Biography

Mark Scheflen

Visual artist, photographer and founder of Kiboko Projects in 1999. His work involves the building of collaborative relationships between educational, art and community institutions throughout the USA, Africa and Russia. Through teaching workshops projects are designed, and develop into a cultural exchanges. Participants use different mediums such as creative writing, art, digital photography and video. Projects result in a collection of photodiaries, face masks, exhibitions, dance and short films. The finished products capture individual, social and cultural themes.

Jill Raufman

Executive Director of Kiboko Projects, has directed projects nationally and internationally using models which have resulted in successful cultural exchanges between groups in the USA, Kenya, South Africa, and Russia. Jill has documented through interviews, video, and photography such projects as the Youth Project USA-Kenya, which have been exhibited in New York, Nairobi, and St. Petersburg. She is currently the Associate Director of the Global Health Center at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She holds a Master of Public Health degree from Hunter College in NYC, as well as a MS in Nutrition in Public Health from Teachers College, Columbia University.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Justine Reyes for Readers' Favorite

Kiboko Projects is an umbrella for several cultural exchange projects that spans the three continents of Africa, Russia, and North America. Since 1999, the organization has developed and expanded its program with Mark Scheflen as the Artistic Director and Jill Raufman as Executive Director. The Kiboko Projects provides children, teens, and adults from many different communities and backgrounds a cultural exchange of art and education. By simply creating visual art and telling their stories, the participants in these projects have been able to help one another see the differences in their respective cultures while also accepting and embracing those differences. Within the pages of the Kiboko Projects, readers will find photos of beautifully painted masks with anecdotal stories and poems attached to them, as well as photographs and other art made by past participants of the Kiboko Projects.

Kiboko Projects by Mark Scheflen and Jill Raufman showed me the ever-growing importance of art, education, and communication in our modern-day society. There are still people willing and wanting more than anything for the world to heal and develop into something much better than what it is now. It all starts with empathy. One particular mask stood out to me. It was a mask created by Maureen W. from Moi Forces Academy in Kenya in 2003. It depicts a split society, one half embracing change while the other denying it. Amid the two halves is a sliver of orange. The orange represents people trying to make progress, but they aren't quite there yet. This piece resonates with me even now (nearly) two decades later. Kiboko Projects is a must-read and an eye-opener.

Kimberlee J Benart

Art is an international language that can foster understanding and tolerance between different cultures. An excellent example of this is presented in Kiboko Projects: Art, Education, and Cultural Exchange Projects by artistic director Mark Scheflen and executive director Jill Raufman. The stated goal of the program is for “children and adults in different countries to share their stories and learn about each other’s way of life through a cultural dialogue using creative media such as masks, photo diaries, and video.” Initially sparked by a collaboration between Mark Scheflen and a bishop in Kenya to develop a small youth project for a local community, the scope broadened into an international effort and expanded to include several locations in Africa, the United States, and Russia. Narratives and photographs document the individual projects.

As a former Peace Corps Volunteer and a sometime resident of Africa who held art classes with neighborhood children and youth, I found Kiboko Projects by Mark Scheflen and Jill Raufman to be a fascinating presentation and an inspiring story. The initiative shown by the authors to develop, fund, and carry out these projects on three continents while fully employed in their business and professional careers was exemplary. The photographs of the participants and their artwork, especially the masks, are utterly engaging. I can see why museums and public spaces welcomed the exhibits as they convey so much about different cultures and life experiences. Whether you have an interest in art education, international cultural relations, community and youth development programs, or anything in between, there is something wonderful about these art and creative expression projects from different places and cultures that will inspire you.

Emily-Jane Hills Orford

Have you ever made a mask? Did you create the mask by plastering your face to get an exact (or at least a close to exact) imprint of your face? And then you painted it with all sorts of colors and symbols that you believed reflected who you are? Masks are certainly one way to present your own social identity. But there are others. Many of us were tasked at school with writing daily journals. A more creative educator may have chosen a different way to record life’s daily happenings, like making a photo diary using still pictures, video clips, bookmaking and so much more. Recording thoughts, dreams, and hardships that define us is a form of expression, one that defines who we are and helps others appreciate us for our unique qualities.

“Our face is our most social self; it tells who we are in relation to our community, culture, time, and place in history.” So true! The opening lines in Mark Scheflen and Jill Raufman’s book, Kiboko Projects: Art, Education, and Cultural Exchange Projects, attract readers to an adventure in creativity that will have educators and childcare workers exploring another realm of possibilities. The authors developed this project of art exchange between countries, both physically and social-economically worlds apart, to bring creative young minds together in a visual world that uniquely defines them. They called it the Kiboko Projects: “Kiboko means “hippo” in Swahili and was inspired by some hippos I saw in Botswana.” Their book documents some of the work the young people have done, and the stories they’ve shared through creative expression, primarily masks. The authors tell their story, then share the stories of some of the young people they worked with, as well as wonderful illustrations of their work. Art really can, and does, bring the world together in more ways than one. I found this a fascinating read.