OCES Metal Posters
The series of metal posters located in a communal space in the Hannah House were designed by Bali Wazo, a French graphic designer, and commissioned by the Office of Community Engagement and Service through the online service 99Design in summer 2017. The Office of Community Engagement and Service is located in the western part of the Hanna House on Spring Street. Each poster has an image and quotes from five people who worked for social change: The Dalai Lama, Frederick Douglas, Grace Lee Boggs, Malala Yousafzai, and Rosa Parks. There is a sixth, a mistakenly ordered duplicate of the Grace Lee Boggs poster, which hangs in the office away from the other five. The style of the images is highly graphic with a neutral color scheme of white, cream, and black. All of the individuals pictured are people of color, but the color scheme minimizes the differences in their appearances in favor of emphasizing their quotes and their names. Along the top of each poster are key terms describing that individual’s type of activism, the center contains a portrait and an important quote, and their first name is along the bottom of the poster in large text. Referring to to the activists by their first names establishes a casual tone, perhaps to help viewers feel connected to the individuals. Each poster also includes a quote and several key words describing the focus of that individual’s activism.
The first poster features the Dalai Lama, a quote on the importance of acting today, and describes his role with the terms “educator,” “advocate,” and “environmentalism.” The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader and patron saint of Tibet. He also served as the political leader of Tibet when it’s national independence was in question from 1950-2011, working towards free elections in Tibet. In his portrait, he looks highly respectable with a slight upward angle, but also friendly, with a small smile. His quote refers to the importance of loving, believing, and living in the present. The second poster focuses on Grace Lee Boggs (1915-2015), an advocate for labor and civil rights, feminism, Black Power, Asian American Rights, and environmentalism. Her philosophy is deeply connected to individual experiences, and her quote emphasizes the importance of humanity during a revolution. Her portrait is somewhat more personal, with a closer focus on her face, and somewhat more casual, as she appears to be sitting with her knees pulled closer to her body and her arm draped across her knees, and a few stray hairs are escaping from her ponytail. She has a wide, inviting smile. This casual, personal, and friendly imagery corresponds to her philosophical emphasis on the experience of the individual. The third poster depicts Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), who was born into slavery but escaped, and became a famous intellectual, writer, speaker and political advisor. He is known for being an abolitionist and for his advocacy against Jim Crow laws, but he also advocated for the rights of women and for the Irish. His quote on the power behind revolutions, and his portrait depicts him looking seriously away from the viewer in formal clothing. He is presented as serious, respectable, and perhaps even regal, which corresponds with the terms “scholar,” “statesman” and “hero” that describe him on the top of the poster. The fourth poster depicts Malala Yousafzai, a Nobel-prize winning activist for children’s and women’s rights. She was shot by the Taliban for pursuing an education, spurring her activism. Her poster describes her as a student, humanitarian, and heroine, and her quote is on using your voice for those who are not heard. Her expression in her portrait is serious but kind, and her direct eye contact with the viewer establishes a personal feel. Her hijab references her Middle Eastern heritage. The fifth poster depicts Rosa Parks (1913-2005), who is known for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus and starting the 381-day Montgomery Bus Boycott, which ended the segregation of public buses in Montgomery and spurred anti-segregation protests across the United States. Her quote speaks to diminishing fear, and her poster describes her as an activist, a trailblazer, and a champion. In her portrait, she has a wide smile and looks directly at the camera in an open, friendly image. Her glasses and her age simultaneously command a level of respect.
This series of posters is unique among art at Miami’s campus because the people are not chosen based on their relationship with the university, but simply because of the similarities between their work and the goals of the OCES on campus. They also stand out among Bali Wazo’s body of work, as many of her commission are more commercial in nature. The inspirational tone and graphic style of the posters draw in the viewers and invite us to relate with the subjects and pursue community service and engagement with our community, suiting the space of the OCES office well.