For the last nine years African Well Fund has held a fundraiser to build wells for bono's birthday. Each year we ask his fans to donate to AWF and then leave a birthday message which then gets compiled into a birthday card and sent to him. Being a crafty sort of person and under the impression that a handmade card is always more special than a store bought card, i've made the cards these messages get put in and send them to his management which then have graciously been given to bono.
This year i was more than honored to be able to present the card to him in person along with four other members of AWF! Below is a personal account of the presentation along with photos of the card itself. For a more official account and to learn more about AWF, please visit www.africanwellfund.org.
I built the box out of cardboard i had laying around. I used adhesive as well as good old duct tape. Then layered all sorts of acrylic paint over it. The heart is built out of ouchless cardboard from Gauche Alchemy, as well as the punchinella (sequin waste). Golden Coarse Pumice Gel mixed with red acrylic gave the heart the texture.The clasps and hinges come from Ace Hardware.
All the blue found objects were things from my personal stash of tidbits which includes many things from Gauche Alchemy's Blue Streak Mixed Media Kit. I used Molding Paste mixed with blue acrylic paint to adhere everything.
On the back you can see the sewing pattern tissue paper i glued all over the card. Mixed with Golden Gel Gloss it forms a pretty hard and sturdy surface. Also within the layering on the back you can see peaking through the tissue dictionary pages of text.
The time leading up to the meeting was not without drama. We knew Bono himself had a finite amount of time before having to perform, and as we watched the minutes tick closer and closer to 8pm the five of us got quieter and quieter and more anxious. When we were led to the room Bono was in with other groups of people we sat and watched patiently, at first, as he took photos and talked with the others. This "little" man was larger than life - the aura surrounding him giving off electricity. It was like a caricature coming to life, however he looked exactly the same in person as he does in other media.
As he made his way around the room we could overhear the two handlers moving him from group to group say to his security guard he had to go. This is the moment we started to panic. The card in my hand was feeling heavier and heavier as I became more and more anxious that we may not actually be able to give it to him. As my head started to get a little dizzy, Ally kept her sanity and went over to Bono's security, whom she knew as an acquaintance, and asked him if he could do anything to help. He was very gracious and told us to move into the hallway between the door Bono would leave from and the door he had to go through to get to the stage area. We thanked him for his help and stepped into the hallway. I can't speak for the others but i know i was trying to plan some way to just throw the card at him and make sure he knew it was from AWF. At least we could say we got it to him...
Then Bono emerged through the door.
Diane must've had similar thoughts because she just yelled at Bono "African Well Fund!" (No "we are", no "hello")
He swaggered Bono-style into our semi circle and said "I know who you are... i know exactly who you are... you're the ones who make my birthday every year!" and went over to Ally and put his arms around her as he began to tell us how much our fundraiser every year means to him and the band. How we inspire the band with what we've done and have proven that even a small group of people can enact change.
That's when i chimed in "all it takes is some passion ... some hope ... and a big mouth..." and that's when he looked at me and said "i like big mouths" and that's also when i think he noticed the card i was holding and Ally might've given him a little push in my direction.
He walked over to the card and I. Diane says "Lara makes your cards every year..." and he looked at me and said something like "really? they're great" and i asked him if he got all the cards we send and he said with confidence "yes!" which made me giggle a little bit.
I handed him the card as he actually took a minute to look over the front of it and feel it a little!
As he carefully unlatched the heart and opened it up he said "you're an artist..." which i don't think i've processed yet... my inspiration calling me a creator of art?
oh my ... definitely not processed that yet...
He also said "this reminds me of an american folk artist's work, i can't think of his name ... um ... he was a reverend ..." and then and there I KNEW who he was talking about! I put my hands on the front of his shoulders and said "i know EXACTLY who you're talking about but i can't think of his name either because I'm talking to Bono" which got a little laugh from everyone. But i also said "i'm from Georgia and he's from Georgia - like an hour from my house" and he said "ya! that's him." Of course, 10 minutes later I remembered the name - Howard Finster. And whats really kinda crazy is earlier this year i had made this little mixed media piece inspired by this quote from Finster and didn't connect it until two days after Bono said it! The card was very similar! Whoa....
Then Bono returned his attention back to the card and started pulling out the announcement page. I started telling him that this year we raised $16,000 which is going to four girls schools in Benin.
He then leaned forward excitedly and pressed his forehead against mine. (OMG) I began to stutter that we teamed up with Angelique Kidjo but i couldn't pronounce her name or really speak so Diane stepped in and finished the sentence. Bono said "I know Angelique, she's magnificent" and we all agreed.
At this point his handlers were really pushing him to leave, it was 8:15pm and he was scheduled to go on at 8:45. They called the U2 photographer over who snapped a couple of photos and then they were pulling him away. But, being the audacious soul i am, I yelled "wait! i need a photo!" and he stopped for a moment, i pressed my face against his, put my camera in front of us and pressed the button praying that we were both in the frame, focused and eyes open.
And that was it... he was gone on his way to perform an AMAZING live show in front of Nashville.
It was an amazing experience. It was so nice to know that not only was he aware of African Well Fund, but he respected the work we do and went as far as to say it was inspiring to all of U2. And then to be so engaged with the birthday card...
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