The Orenda Tribe is a lifestyle brand empowering young refugees through visual arts. The art pieces are printed onto 100% organic cotton shirts and sold worldwide to help bring more arts and opportunity to youth living in refugee camps and vulnerable communities.
The adorable designs bring a smile to your face as you browse their collection; from paintings of colourful bees, to flowers and fish. The Orenda Tribe works with organizations based in Jordan, assisting young Palestinian and Syrian refugees with building community, support and inspiration.
See below a Q & A with Zaid Souqi, founder of The Orenda Tribe.
I’ve always been a firm believer that art is a universal language, connecting us all as a global community. Why do you personally believe art is so powerful?
Art is a universal language that breaks barriers between people from different backgrounds. Just sit next to other people on the same table regardless of their backgrounds and do any art activity and somehow you feel closer to them, through the simple tool of art.
Art is therapeutic, it is a way of communication, it promotes creativity and makes you think outside of the box, it builds confidence and many skills such as problem-solving, teamwork and many other skills.
Also, art draws smiles on children’s faces and brings happiness into their life. I’ve personally witnessed that during our art workshops with our partner communities.
Art can act as a catalyst for change.
As a child, were you heavily involved in the arts? How did it influence your upbringing?
Not really. I’ve taken art classes at school and my parents saw some artistic talent in me but unfortunately schools in Jordan and I guess in many parts of the world focus more on academic subjects rather than focusing on art which is equally important if not more so in things like building character.
This neglect from schools is one of the main reasons that I decided to focus on art, a subject that is even more neglected in underprivileged communities.
Nevertheless, it is never too late and I am taking art classes now and learning a lot from the talented artists that I constantly meet through The Orenda Tribe.
Art brings soul to life.
Why the name “Orenda”?
When I came across the meaning of the word Orenda online, I thought to myself this is exactly the purpose of the work that we intend to do.
We want to help people find their Orenda while further exploring our own Orenda.
The meaning of Orenda is – A mystical force present in all people that empowers them to affect the world, or to effect change in their own lives.
Tell us about your project work in Jordan.
We completed 14 projects in 4 different communities. In Za’atari Refugee Camp, Gaza (Jerash) Refugee Camp, SOS and a public school.
The projects involved all kinds of art related activities from distributing art supplies and furniture, funding art therapy sessions for children, art education classes and school beautification projects.
Each project brings us closer to the people of the camps and makes us want to do more.
In the school beautification projects you have people from within the camp and volunteers from different nationalities working next to each other to beautify the school through art. Getting to know each other more and more by the day and this is a great example of breaking barriers through art and bridging the gap. Also, when you involve the people of the community, they are changing their own environment, which serves as a tool for empowerment.
I look forward to more projects to come.
It’s been about a year and a half since you sold your first t-shirt. What does the future look like for The Orenda Tribe, with 14 projects now connected to your wonderful organization.
There are two sides that go hand in hand together for this question.
From the business side I see The Orenda Tribe community expanding, people proudly using our lifestyle products and displaying the children’s art. I also hope to one day open a flagship store that celebrates art. A store that promotes artists’ work, offers art workshops, creates events where musicians and poets can perform and artists can talk about art and how it breaks boundaries between people. And sell our lifestyle products in the same place.
For the giving back side, I see a structured art curriculum that combines art for therapy, art education and art skills at the same time. A program that we can fund from the t-shirt sales and that builds confidence and skills in children that promote their creativity and hopefully help them in their life. Something that we can implement in different countries especially since art is a common language.
I also love the community beautification projects and want to do more and more of those. When volunteers and community residents work hand in hand together, you see people coming closer together and you see empowerment.