• Angel Truong

Revealing The Gun Violence Epidemic Through Origami

“ If you could save a life by folding two pieces of paper, would you do it?” ~ The Soul Box Project

The Soul Box Project aims to raise awareness of the U.S. gun violence epidemic by counting and honoring victims, offering healing participation, and providing a non-confrontational, non-political way to take action.

This organization is founded by Leslie Lee, a 71 year old grandmother and “artivist” who has made art professionally for more than 50 years, in response to the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, the deadliest mass shooting at the time of the attack.

On the night of October 1, 2017, Stephen Paddock, opened fire with an unclear motive on a crowd of concertgoers at the annual Route 91 Harvest Festival from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel, where he had checked in a few days prior to the concert. At around 10:00 p.m. that night, Paddock fired at the crowd using an arsenal of 23 firearms, 12 of which are upgraded with bump stocks — a tool used to fire semi-automatic guns in rapid succession. Within the 10 minutes period of the open fire, 1,100 rounds of ammunition were fired. The “nonstop gunfire” as described by a witness had concertgoers scrambling for a cover. The deadly attack killed 59 people and wounded hundreds, leaving the country horrified. As the country came together to moan for the deaths of the victims and pray for the wounded, debate over gun control legislation was once again sparked.

In the memory of the fallen, the Soul Box Project makes ways for people to share and express their thoughts and feelings from their own experience and speak out on the matter of gun violence. The project is, in fact, a visual representation of the pain that cannot be fully disclosed by statistics. The pain of having over 65,000 people killed or injured by gunfire in the U.S. according to the Gun Violence Archive.

“Soul Boxes” are hand-folded origami boxes decorated with photos, drawings, written messages, or the name of a person killed. The individual boxes are then connected to one another, side-by-side, as they are hand-tied to mesh panels for display in public places. Each box represents a life. As the tens of thousands of boxes are collectively displayed, they “[reveal] the staggering number of lives lost or torn apart,” says Lee.

On February 29, 36,000 Soul Boxes — one for every person killed by gunfire in 2018 — were displayed at the Oregon capital of Salem in efforts to make gun violence visible in the manner that reveals the true magnitude of this national issue.

“What we are trying to do is have someone walk into these displays and have an ‘ah-ha’ moment. It might mean a person goes home and locks up a gun. Or a mother talks to her kids about the futility of anger and retribution. Or a gun club adds another safety class. Or a voter writes to his legislators. Every one of those actions is a success. We need to appeal to each other on an emotional level if we want the current gun culture to change."

~ Leslie Lee, Founder

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