The Cradle Project

empty wooden cradleTwo brothers, eight and eleven years old from Kibera, Nairobi, are a memorable pair. One can sculpt anything from the small ball of clay he carries in his pocket for a small fee. His older brother builds small airplanes that actually fly out of scrap metal. The boy’s talents were well known in their community. Photographer Naomi Natale learned about the two boys when she traveled to Kenya to document the stories of children who had lost their parents and were living in slums and tribal reserves. The two brothers had recently gone missing and their community feared the worst. Naomi tells this story in The Cradle Project, a fundraising art installation designed to call attention to the plight of the estimated 48 million children orphaned by disease and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.

More than 500 cradles were designed for The Cradle Project exhibit in 2008. It was a tremendous effort by artists who used scrap, found, and discarded materials to create empty cradles. The cradles represented the lost potential of orphaned children. Children like the boys who’d gone missing in Nairobi. The cradles were displayed in one space against a towering backdrop of slowly falling sand that also stood as a symbol of lost potential.

All the funds Naomi and The Cradle Project raised were granted to Firelight Foundation, to support our work with grassroots organizations that serve as the safety net for vulnerable children in their communities. It was a project that made visible the empty cradle with a baby shirt insideimportant work happening on another side of the world.

This July, at the World AIDS Conference in Washington D.C., The Cradle Project will be exhibited once again. Many of the cradles were sold, but there are a few that remain. The project will bring attention to the incredible impact of AIDS around the world, the losses it’s led to as well as the hopeful efforts of African communities to care for their children. For those of you who will not be at the AIDS Conference, The Cradle Project book exhibits 76 of the original cradles and is still for sale here.

Firelight Foundation will bring policy makers, journalists, and community leaders to The Cradle Project exhibit at the World AIDS conference to bring attention to the important work of African grassroots organizations and the many children they help to care for.

You can support The Cradle Project by sharing this story and telling others about the tremendous work happening on the ground in African communities to protect children and support their vision for a hopeful, thriving future.

You can also hear from Naomi Natale  in this short video about her vision for The Cradle Project.