September 20, 2005

A global gesture for peace finds home atop a Yukon mountain (from September 21 issue of the Yukon News)

If you could view Earth from a perch in outer space, you would see half the planet bathed in the sun’s light and the other half draped in darkness.

That’s how Swedish artist Lehna Edwall sees the world, though, these days, things may be slipping out of balance.

Edwall perceives a disturbing shift among the planet’s residents, as terrorism, war and tragedy tip the scales toward darkness, away from light.

Last Friday, Edwall and 13 other members of a group called the unitehopeproject started an international effort to right things.

Atop seven mountains scattered around the world, including the Yukon’s Mount Nansen, near Carmacks, seven identical ‘hope’ angels that Edwall cast from concrete were erected in a global ceremony.

“I do not want to be political. It’s just a peace message,” says Edwall from Stockholm, Sweden, on Tuesday morning.

“I just want to spread the message of hope and love and peace. I hope we can change the way we’re looking at the world, and on ourselves, and realize we are one planet.”

Six other angels were raised Friday, on mountains in Russia, Australia, Mali, Peru, Hawaii and Vana Vana, a small atoll in the South Pacific.

Edwall was finishing touches on an angel sculpture last year. Then, without warning, in March 2004, Europe was rocked by Al Qaeda’s bombing of the Madrid, Spain, train system.

In the end, 191 people died and more than 1,500 were injured.

“I was working on the sculpture of an angel; I worked on it for over a year before the Madrid bombs,” Edwall says with a slight Swedish accent, which resembles German, but is less harsh.

Madrid caused her to suspend work on her sculpture.

The bombings also led her to re-examine it with a new, less-abstract perspective.
“Suddenly my angel had a different meaning,” she says on the unitehopeproject website.

“I just realized I wanted to do something to sort of manifest all the good things in the world," she says. "I stopped there, so all the angels look exactly the same.”

The hope angels stand 70 centimetres high. From a distance, their meagre size, graceful wings and featureless faces makes them look lonely and vulnerable.

But up close the angels have a surface that appears cast from stone.

The angels project inner strength in spite of their fragility. In a way, they are the perfect metaphor for our existence in today’s world.

“Now,” Edwall says abruptly of our planet, “I think we only focus on the bad. The only thing you see on the television — if it’s about the hurricane in New Orleans, they never tell a story about the mother who found her daughter, they just tell a story about the mother who lost her daughter.

“We need to focus on the good.”

To fund their construction, Edwall casts the angels in sets of two.
One hope angel is sold privately. The proceeds from the sale pay for the second statue to be placed somewhere on the planet.

In the end, Edwall and the unitehopeproject hope to continue dotting the planet with the concrete angels until 49 of them stand.

Why 49?

That’s the number that creates, in unitehopeproject’s opinion, the best geometry of hope, creating 42 intersections that could lead to new locations for still more angels “projecting love, hope and light around the world.”

It doesn’t really matter how long the statues take to go up, “as long as we are working, spreading the message,” says Edwall.

“If we think nice thoughts, more people are going to think nice thoughts.”

She hopes to attract people interested in placing angels during their travels, and will send an angel to anyone willing to place it and document the ceremony, she says.

However, she will not pay for airfare or accommodations.

Edwall chose Mount Nansen because it is part of the Mackenzie mountain range, which she has heard stories about and seen pictures of.

All of the locations the angels were erected at on Friday were atop mountains and were chosen for their nature and peacefulness, she says.

Mount Nansen was the perfect spot for an angel in the Yukon, she added.

Two women travelled to the Yukon from Sweden last week to place the angel on Mount Nansen.

They were in contact with the territory’s lands branch to find an appropriate location, says its manager Michael Draper.

“They wanted to know if there was any requirement for land tenure in order to erect a statue in this spot,” he says.

There were no special requirements, and the government gave the two help finding a good spot for the angel.

“We felt it was a low-impact activity,” says Draper.

“We wanted to make sure it wasn’t affecting anybody’s mineral claim or was a settlement land parcel.”

The unitehopeproject is a non-profit group composed of artists, lawyers and other creative professionals, says Edwall.

It is growing all the time, and through the angels, will build a body of artistic gestures that will be documented on the group’s website.

A documentary and book are also planned, says Edwall.

These days, “after September 11” has become a less-than-eloquent line people use to hint at a less certain, darker world.

And since that fateful day in 2001, we have added the bombings in Madrid and London, a tsunami in Asia that killed thousands and a hurricane in New Orleans that exposed the cruel divide that still exists between rich and poor in the United States to our worries.

Perhaps, against that anxious backdrop, Edwall’s angel can spread some needed hope.

“There are going to be a lot of bad things happening in the world — there always has been,” says Edwall.

“But, if we just focus on the bad, we will not be able to see the good.

“That’s my point.”

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