The Cradle Project: Remembering Children Orphaned by AIDS

As thousands of delegates to the 19th International AIDS Conference gather in Washington, DC later this month to review progress made in the fight against HIV and AIDS around the world, Aid for Africa and its member organization Firelight Foundation will ask them to remember the children of Africa orphaned by AIDS. This reminder will be in the form of an art installation — The Cradle Project — of some 25 empty cradles created by artists across the U.S. on exhibit at the Washington Studio School, July 18  to August 3.

The empty cradles are symbols of the lost potential of 12 million children whose basic needs are threatened by HIV and AIDS in Sub Saharan Africa.  A range of media was used to create the cradles, including recycled wood, metal, glass, and clay.  Each cradle reflects the artist’s compelling vision.  For example, the “Katrina Cradle,” by Kathy Hughes and Karen Abbond of New Orleans, is made from refuse from Hurricane Katrina.

The Cradle Project was conceived and organized by artist and activist Naomi Natale after a visit to Kenya’s slums and tribal reserves.  “If we can see enough potential in discarded materials to build structures meant to cradle a child, then we believe that every one of us will be challenged to see and help realize the potential of our world’s orphaned children,” says Natale.

The exhibit is cosponsored by the Firelight Foundation, the Washington Studio School, and Aid for Africa. The Firelight Foundation supports hundreds of grassroots groups helping families meeting the needs of children affected by poverty and HIV and AIDS in Sub Saharan Africa.

The exhibit seeks to raise awareness and inspire action, according to Firelight President and Founder Kerry Olson.  “[The cradles] speak to the human heart in a way only powerful imagery and visual art can. Much more than words can say, these cradles speak volumes about loss and also about hope,” says Olson.

What better way to remind the delegates to the AIDS Conference, and the rest of us, of the burden HIV and AIDS inflicts on children—by speaking to the heart.

For a sneak preview of the exhibit and to learn more about the project, view this short video.

The Cradle Project, Washington Studio School, 2129 S Street, NW, Washington, DC 20008  Exhibit hours: July 18 to August 3, 2012, Monday-Friday 10:00am-4:00pm; Saturday and Sunday on July 21, 22, 27 and 28 from 11:00am-5:00pm.  Admission is free.

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Photo credit: Rosemary Barile, Santa Fe, NM “Cradled in My Prayers” Mixed media. 20x12x35 inches


Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson5 years ago

interesting and creative. raising awareness makes a difference

Emma Fogelström

Its a good thing to make people aware of the problems that exist so the fight for change can be more successful

Abbe A.
Azaima A5 years ago


David Nuttle
Past Member 5 years ago

One wealthy Muslim sect has created a number of orphanages, in Africa, for African children whose parents have died from HIV/ Aids. This is the same Saudi sect that trained most of the Muslim terrorists responsible for the horrific terrorist attacks in the U.S., on 9/11 (09 Oct 2001). Several reliable reports indicate that many of these orphans are being trained and indoctrinated as the next generation of radical terrorists. By not acting quickly enough to help African orphans, we may suffer the consequences in years to come.

Sue H.
Sue H5 years ago

Especially powerful message because education and medications are not getting where they are most needed. I would like to know why anyone is still dying of HIV/AIDS?? World governments have not done enough.

Vicky Pitchford
Vicky P5 years ago

good work

Deborah F.
Deborah F5 years ago


Maha R.
Simira R5 years ago

Thank you for the article hopeful it will raise awareness. I am an artist and I am inspired by this art project. I hope this exhibit travels to other cities as well.

J.L. A.
j A5 years ago

the trends in Eastern Europe are worse than in Africa now...still very important...also think about the fact that HIV began in monkeys--and how many other viruses may spread from animals to humans if ecosystems continue being destroyed

Nadereh O.
Nadereh O5 years ago

A very emotional exhibit. It breaks my heart to know that very young children are left to fend for themselves because AIDS has taken their parents. We need more governments to step up and organize groups, possibly volunteers to go over and help durring this crisis.