Spotlight On: Artist Hoda Madi

Continuing on with the Expat Spotlight series, this week I introduce you to artist Hoda Madi. Hoda hails from Iran and has lived all over the world, but has called Chile home since 2012. You might remember her from my previous blogs as a sponsor of Ojos Abiertos or as the mind behind the Art Expression programme for children. Here she explains a little bit more about her vision, her art and her passion for Chile.

Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed Hoda! Tell us a bit about you.

Hi! I moved here in 2012 after a conversation with a friend about Chile. I came over when my son was 15 for one month.  Three years later and we are still here, and my son is now at university in Santiago studying architecture.

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Why art?

As a dentist, I feel that I help people by reducing their pain, but if someone just buys a painting I don’t have that same feeling like I’ve done something good in the world.  Being an artist is not just a job. So I started the “Universe of Love” series, so that every time someone looks at a painting they’ve bought from me they know they’ve helped to do some good, somewhere.

What do you mean? Sounds intriguing!

It’s an idea that came to me in Chile. With each painting I try to send love back into the universe so I donate 20% of each painting sold to charity.

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Painting the Atacama desert

What charitities have you been involved with?

Besides Ojos Abiertos, there have been many. One time I gave 50% to the “Si Me Importa” event to rebuild after the 2010 earthquake.  I also regularly give to the Rotary Chile society, which they then put towards various projects.

What is your art style?

I do abstract paintings with acrylic as well as abstract detailed photography. I also like to incorporate the female form and sand from all over the world.

You love Chile, Hoda. How do you show that in your work?

As an amateur astronomer, the Atacama desert has always been my dream place to visit. I have been twice, and it was after a recent trip to the Atacama that I began the “Hidden Colors of the Desert” set. I took photos of abandoned mines –  because on first impression the desert is just sand and sky but there are really so many colors! Afterwards I express these photos into paintings, using sand from the Atacama.  The concept is a different way of seeing something. For example, if I look at photographs from the Hubble telescope and then look through my own telescope, I’m seeing a different expression of the same but through a different medium.

Photos from the Atacama

Why do you like to paint the desert?

Because there is a sense that everything is way bigger than our life as a human on Earth,  It’s the best place to be connected to the universe.

You give so much back.  Why?

Life is a funfair – we’re all sharing a free ride so why not help each other out along the journey?

I’ve already written about your work last year in Conchali. Are there any things that stand out from that time for you?

There are so many! There was a girl in prekinder that the teacher warned us not to push because she was always crying. In the first class we were all singing and dancing the song “Happy” while she sat in the corner alone.  She later came over wanting to take part. Next class she joined in singing with the others and with each class we saw her blossom before our eyes. The teacher told us when we finished how much she had changed.  There was also a boy in Kinder that I remember was so scared, always needing to go to the toilet because he was that stressed. He kept saying “I can’t paint! I can’t paint!!” and he’d draw a line and call us over to check it was ok.  After two sessions we couldn’t get him to stop talking or drawing!

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Sounds like you were doing something really special with those children!

We really were, and it wasn’t just the children either.  In our very first class I remember the teacher shaking her head, horrified by the dirty hands, saying “que desastre!” over and over again. But with each class she loosened up and was soon laughing and painting alongside the children. You could visibly see her relax and become more connected to the children, which made a huge difference with the class dynamics.  Art has the ability to show you another way – it can even make you money.  I wanted to show that to these children, that there was another way for them. I used to see it with my son. He’d come home from school banging the doors and hiding in his room, and he’d never talk to me. So I started to go to him with paper and a pencil and we’d just draw together, not talking, and he would calm down.

What is your favorite place in Santiago and in all of Chile?

In Santiago I love to go to either Barrio Paris y Londres, or Barrio Lastarria. In Chile, it’s all about the Atacama for me.  I can go over and over again and still feel like its my first time.  Pica is an oasis in the middle of the desert that you won’t believe exists in such a harsh landscape, and Pisagua is a small port right at the junction of desert and sea.  The desert slopes down into the town, and almost right to the waves.

What is your goal for 2016?

My goal is to take my Hidden Colors of the Desert work to Miami.  I am going to continue my work with my Art Expression program and I’ll also be going back as a volunteer with Universidad de Chile’s Clinica Cuidados Especiales. In 2015 I worked every week in Independencia with this initiative, as a dentist with special needs patients who come from all over Chile to receive care. This year I shall be working on a project based upon these encounters. I’ve already ordered the canvasses to begin, the idea being that I will paint the beautiful connections I see between patients and their families. It’s not a sad story – it’s not about painting sad art – it’s actually very much about beauty and love. When it’s finished I am going to invite the families of the patients to attend the exhibition, with money going back to help children in similar situations but who don’t have any support around them.

Can you tell us a bit about your time at this clinica?

It can be really difficult but it’s the only time I’ve ever really enjoyed my work as a dentist. The patients are just pure love, and there is a sense of beauty that cannot be described when you see how they are cared for by their families. I remember a time this one patient with Down Syndrome had to have his teeth seen to. He was so scared, shouting and crying and we couldn’t  calm him down. His sister – who had spent her life caring for him – held his hand and sang him his special song and he calmed down instantly. She kept singing the whole time I worked on his teeth. Another time a 12 year old with Crystal Skin disease [Epidermolysis bullosa] was so distressed that general anaesthetic was being considered. I stepped in at the last moment to talk to her. She immediately spotted my funny Spanish. “Why do you talk like that?” she asked me and so I told her that I knew what it was like to be scared, especially because I couldn’t talk properly. I asked her if she would let me see her teeth. She allowed me to and after a while she let me work on them, stopping every now and then when she felt scared or some pain. No-one could believe the change! We are friends now and she’s just like every other teenage girl following the latest trends!

You have so many unbelievable stories! Thanks so much Hoda and all the best for the year ahead. Any final words you want to end on today?

Yes. Don’t fight life. Enjoy it’s opportunies.

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You can follow Hoda on Facebook and check out her website here.

What It’s Really Like To Be An Expat

Before you become an expat you have a million thoughts. What will it be like? Will I make friends? Will it be safe? You might even think it will be amazing (much better than where you currently live), that you will master a second language in a day and quickly fill your Facebook feed with photos of you surrounded by exotic friends, each photo filled with outrageous smiles. You hear that it is very easy to live in Chile, so you arm yourself with a TEFL and think “yup, I’m good to go.” Then you head off into the sunset amidst family who think your an equal mixture of crazy and brave, especially when you tell them “See you but I won’t be back for a while!”

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Moving back to Chile … with everything I own!

Until you’re on the plane and you realize that Spanish spoken in real time is a lot different from those one-on-one classes you’d taken before you left. And then you get off and realize you have no clue what the signs are saying let alone what the customs official is bleating on about. And when you finally meet those hilarious, exotic friends you find that singing a few hundred Shakira or Daddy Yankee tunes won’t actually help the conversation progress very far.

Lets face reality: moving to any new country can feel like a slap in the gonads (or so I can imagine). The euphoria quickly depletes until all your left with is a suitcase filled with all the wrong things and an inability to use even the supermarket correctly (“I have to weigh the veges BEFORE I get to the checkout? I have to pay the packer? But what do I DO with all these plastic bags?!!”). You find that the amazing job you’d envisioned is actually quite demanding and filled with long commutes, rush hour rides and students that never do their homework. The shops are filled with things way to expensive to buy and only God can help you if you don’t want salt on your food.

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Me: having a bad day outside Registro Civil (jokes!)

There’s a cycle that all expats follow that can make you appear alot like you are in need of medication to friends and relatives who’ve never travelled. Your emotions will change like the wind, racing from overwhelming happiness to the worst depression known to mankind. One minute you will be skipping along, marvelling at mountains that they don’t make quite the same anywhere else, and the next you will be crying in the middle of Lider holding three different types of warm, boxed milk that you don’t quite understand the difference between but it must surely be important to warrant taking up a whole aisle!

The language will also take you on a rollercoaster ride. You may find that one day you speak perfectly only to discover that on the next you can’t even process greetings properly. New acquaintances will test you on your ability by speaking really fast nonsense to try catch you out in order to grandly state: “a ha! Chilean Spanish is SO [insert adjectives here]”.  But you will master the Spanish in Chile,  until the day you decide to visit the rest of Latin America and find they speak funny.

No matter how bleak it all seems to get, trust me you will not always be stuck watching How I Met Your Mother reruns accompanied by chocolate biscuits. That’s not to say that there won’t be things that will drive you absolutely bonkers (such as every single time you need to deal with beauracracy in Chile) but you will eventually settle into your new life comfortably, thinking less and less about all the things you miss until eventually they will be only an occasional thought. Through the good stuff and the bad, reach out to the expat community because they are going, or have gone, through the same.  English-speakers can join The Chile Experience while mums can use English Speaking Mums in Chile. Both have been invaluable to me during my several years here, especially the latter because there is nothing harder than being a first-time mother in a foreign culture. All the playdates for Emilio or friendships with expats that I have made, are via this amazing network.  While not everyone has the same experiences, there is an overwhelming sense of comraderie and support that can be especially helpful when you are struggling, whether with homesickness or with health.

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ESM playdate

It’s not always a picnic when you move to a new country, but it is a banquet! A delicious, diverse, overwhelming and (at times) scary feast that works all five senses like no other.  Travel is the best education but also the best medicine, just sometimes it has to get a little worse in order to get better.  You can do it!!

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Valparaiso

The Mummy Rules: A Guide to Raising a Child in Santiago

Just moved to Chile? Or maybe you have a child with a Chilean? It can be difficult navigating the cultural millieu of any country, let alone as a new parent. Allow me to assist you by providing this most-excellent list of the Top Ten things you should quickly learn and accept in order to survive in the Chilean Mummy Jungle.

NOTE: This post is intended to be tongue-in-cheek and in no way is attempting to be derogatory about any Chilean customs. These are merely my own experiences. My partner could easily write his own list about my crazy NZ habits, most likely starting with “Helen, you don’t even wear SHOES in New Zealand!”

  1. No matter how hot it is outside, your child is always cold and on the verge of catching a deadly illness. A trip out of the house should always include snow gear.
  2. Any cough or droplet of beautiful snot is a sign of terrible contamination and requires urgent medical attention. You should thus make sure that your first-aid kit is large enough to store a small elephant.
  3. (continued from point 2) 37.5c is already fever. Intervene immediately.
  4. Breastfeeding past age 1? Toughen up your layers Mummy, your going to take a knocking!
  5. Winter is, and always will be, a hellhole of multiplying germs, particularly if you live in Santiago and your child goes to Day Care. You must get out of the city Mama, or suffer the consequences!
  6. Jardin is a requirement as soon as is financially possible. If your child can walk but does not yet attend, your playgroup mummies will think you so very, very odd.
  7. The staple food of you infants diet (according to professionals) should be sugar in the form of processed foods, or the chocolate that strangers kindly offer your child when you are not looking.
  8. The general requirement for girls is long hair, pierced ears and perfume. Boys must never appear “mamite” or “mamon” by showing timidity or an attachment to the mother.
  9. Your child should avoid crying as much as possible.
  10. Allow total strangers to touch, kiss and hug your child. And then remind you that they are cold.

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A Volunteer Initiative

hoda9We are very happy because we have found our first benefactor! Prominent artist Hoda Madi has offered Organizacion Ojos Abiertos 20% from each piece of artwork sold. This is money – like all donations we may receive – that is purely directed towards buying materials or providing the transportation costs of guest speakers at the schools.  Thank you Hoda!

You can buy her artwork here:

http://hodamadi.com/

If you would like to help us with any contributions, please contact me at: hlcordery@gmail.com.  We are in the process of legalizing and then setting up a foundation bank account with Banco Estado. We will provide to all contributors an email showing where the money has gone. We are not motivated by profit and we are all volunteers.