We’ve all seen them. The images of bare-footed children so skinny their filth stained clothes would better fit hangers. They wear bottomless expressions of sorrow and hunger, the faces of those forced to live in squalor and filth. Violence and disease surrounds and permeates their lives. These images of the poorest and most unfortunate in the world are often used in order to touch our hearts, move us to cherish and appreciate, push us to extend a hand.

Is there is something other than misery that can touch our hearts, something much often forgotten and overlooked: the power of smiles?

French Artist JR has reminded us of that power by adding a new sensation to that typical sad portrait of poverty in one of the largest slums in Africa.unlikely-art2

Today, after more than a year of planning, 2000 square meters of rooftops have been covered with photos of the eyes and faces of the women of Kibera. With the eyes on the train, the bottom half of their faces have be pasted on corrugated sheets on the slope that leads down from the tracks to the rooftops. The idea being that for the split second the train passes, their eyes will match their smiles and their faces will be complete. -via

It’s through their smiles those living under such harsh conditions can still find a reason to laugh, and that is as heart wrenching and tear jerking as their despair. French artist JR has taken art to a place where education is absent and survival dominates. He intensifies the experience and reality of slum dwellers through the inner beauty and hope of a people who truly live every day, as though it were their last. He brings new light to a worldwide problem by targeting not just our ability to sympathize through pain, but our ability to identify and relate through laughter and joy.

The sheer size of the project is said to be viewable from space, and the clever moving train completing the design of the faces tells us JR has not only given poverty a new texture, color and design, but an all new intensity and awareness.

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