Happy Birthday Dan!

Posted by on Sep 18, 2013 in Dan Eldon Legacy

This year, we have decided to celebrate your birthday by granting a very special wish.

On Thu, Sep 12, 2013, six days ago, Nora Graham wrote: 

Hello from The International School of Tanganyika in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania!

My name is Nora Graham and I am a secondary school art teacher here at IST. I thought I should write and let you know how Dan Eldon is influencing IST students.  Every year for the last 6 years, grade 10 art students study the life and artwork of Dan Eldon. This past week students completed their research and now they are into the art making stage. Each student creates a “book” (it doesn’t have to be in the format of a book) with about 10 pages that represent different aspects of their lives, while incorporating the elements and principles of art and design http://www.istafrica.com/.

IST students really connect with Dan Eldon, as their lives are not so different from students at ISK. I’m just marking their research now, and I thought I would share with you some thoughts from students:

“Dan and myself have a few things in common – we both love art and photography (especially collages) and we both are adventurous.” Inaara

“I feel as though I also connect with him because I live in Africa just as he did and some of his journal pages I connect with, for example, “Kizungu zungu” because this reflects Africa in a way I can also explain. I really like the way his journals are a journey of his life; everything he experienced in his whole life is in his journals.” Cayla

In response to New York Skyline (journal: NY and Beyond, page 8)

“I believe the redrawing of the skyline shows Eldon’s view on New York. He is the leopard strolling through the streets of New York. Just as the leopard is in a competely foreign environment to him in this large, urbanized city, Eldon is lost in the unknown…Here in Tanzania, at IST it is normal to have many different people of different cultures, who have different skin colors and speak different languages. I feel normal here, I feel like I fit in. However, when I go back to

Germany, I often experience the same struggles as Eldon: Firstly, I am not used to being just the same as everyone else (in terms of skin color, cultural background, etc.). I feel like I lost what makes me special, what makes me stand out when I am here in Tanzania. At the same time though, I notice that I have differentiating views from others, and am sometimes viewed as a “stranger,” the one who lives in Africa, and has giraffes in the backyard. It is hard to adapt quickly to those two very contrasting worlds. I therefore understand the problems Eldon seems to be facing in New York quite well, and can feel with him.” – Paula

“What I really find interesting about Dan Eldon was his use of mixed media in his journals, since the media helped strengthen the emotions and atmosphere he was trying to convey. I also really like the variety of his journal pages, and how each one tells a different story even though they are part of one life. Most importantof all, is that with his journals and photography he was able to communicate his emotions and the subject’s emotions too.” -Sakina

 “In my opinion,Dan’s work gave viewers his memories, the good and the bad. Dan Eldon had a vivid imagination, inspiring others. His ‘legacy’ seems to continue to grow in the world through his ‘spirit of creative activism.’ ” – Neena

 “When I went on the website [daneldon.org] I kind of felt how he felt. When I saw all of the different art works and photographs he had done/taken I felt I could see what he did. Not sure how to explain it…. I felt really sad when I found out how he died.” – Christian

 “What I find most interesting about Dan Eldon is the compassion he had towards the community. He saved a young Kenyan girl’s life, raises money for a family and as a photojournalist he visited many places, trying to bring a smile on many peoples’ faces through his activistic job. I admire his risk taking skills as he had taken many risks with his life, visiting Somalia during the war. He took the challenge of doing his job and risked his life for others.” -Krunali 

Students are captivated while learning about Dan. They use his work as inspiration for their own work. My current class is involved with an Artist Trading Card exchange with a class in Rochester, Michigan, USA. Both classes (Tanzania and Michigan) are looking at Dan Eldon’s work and have created an ATC using his mixed media, layering approach. Here are a few ATC examples

A few ATC examples:

image (2) image (1) image


I am also wondering about the Dan Eldon pop up exhibition.  What would it take to get it to come to Tanzania? Perhaps it could do an East African tour and stop in Nairobi as well?

Every year when I teach this unit, I am touched again by the life of Dan Eldon, his art, his photographs, and how he was able to give back to his community. My students and me feel a connection to him and hope to give back as he did.

Best wishes,

Nora Graham

Secondary School Visual Arts Teacher

Creative Arts Department

International School of Tanganyika


Dear Nora –

In celebration of Dan’s 43rd birthday, we are sending the Dan Eldon Pop-up Exhibit to Tanzania!  It is teachers like you, Dan’s art teacher at ISK, Lisa MacKay, and Debbi Bovio in Rochester Hills, MI. that continue to spread Dan’s message of compassion through your amazing work with students.

“It is meaningful to see what can be gained from the many sources in our lives. A teacher can influence and change lives. These children may not be fully aware yet, but Debbi is planting the seed for a love of learning. She is increasing their awareness of world concerns, and prompting them to act with” Universal Loving Kindness.” Bravo to Debbi. Her students are thinking globally, and have been given an opportunity to react with integrity. Thank you for sharing this story.” – Una Jackman.

We also have two dear friends spreading Dan’s message of compassion in Tanzania.  Bill Slate, a photographer who decided to make a difference in Tanzania on a film shoot (http://theslatefoundation.org/aboutus/leadership), and Matthew Clough – a mountain climber whose business (http://www.stonecloth.com/)  supports children’s education in Tanzania.  We realize that the Dan Eldon Pop-Up Exhibit may not be the best fit for these schools in small villages, so for…


We are going to work with Bill and Matthew to provide books and art materials to these schools.  We are so grateful to have Bill and Matthew supporting these villages, as Dan did in his beloved Kenya.

But wishes usually come in THREE…

Dan’s father Mike Eldon and his colleagues at the DEPOT  – Dan Eldon Place of Tomorrow – have also worked with young people in Tanzania through the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) events, and have welcomed young Tanzanians to their Uongozi Bora regional youth leadership and citizenship program.  To recognize their amazing work with young people, the Dan Eldon Pop-Up Exhibit that we ship to Tanzania will have a permanent home at the DEPOT and can continue to travel through East Africa under the guidance of Mike and his team.


Yesterday, Debbi wrote:

I am a high school art teacher in Rochester Hills, MI.  Through my website, http://studentatc.com/ AND https://www.facebook.com/ISTartroom, I have made arrangements with Nora Graham, an art teacher in Tanzania.  Our students will be exchanging Artist Trading Cards (ATC’S) that reflect the passion Dan is renowned for.  I am quite grateful to Nora for contacting me and sharing information about Dan.  Nora mentioned in an email today that she had corresponded with Cynthia Young about our upcoming exchange and Cynthia was pleased.  I want to let ALL of Dan’s amazing supporters know that my students were captivated when I showed them one of the video’s about Dan today.  I wish you could have been there to witness the mesmerized looks on their faces.  Enthralled.  Inspired.  Motivated.
Tomorrow we will go to the computer lab to do individualized research so they can make more personal connections to Dan’s legacy and apply that influence into their own work. (Note: Our computer labs are in heavy demand so I have to book one weeks in advance…what a bizarre coincidence that the day I happen to book it is Dan’s BIRTHDAY!! Wow!)

The assignment: Research the life and creative works of Dan Eldon.  Create an ATC promoting a worthy cause that you are passionate about.  Combine the elements of found items,  ready-made or pre-printed materials with handmade designs to convey your personal message; I can hardly believe I knew nothing about Dan until Nora brought this to my attention.  The timeliness is quite ironic.  I have been trying to create a project that would correlate with a story I told all of my students a couple of weeks ago about my mother, a WWII nazi war camp survivor.  My mom was a victim of so many atrocities and saw so much horror in her life.  I have felt compelled to share her story in hopes of keeping knowledge and compassion instilled in the minds of our young people who have, fortunately, never known such agony.  I don’t want her story to be forgotten simply because she is gone.  Perhaps she and Dan have conspired in heaven to bring me to your website.

I plan on taking plenty of photo’s of my students’ work before we ship them off to Nora’s kids.  I will post the images on our district website with a link to daneldon.org AND https://www.facebook.com/danieleldonart.



Happy Birthday Dan!

Your noisy spirit continues to inspires us…