by Merrill Moore
I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone visiting Africa and not being a ‘changed’ person forever. After returning from any significant vacation or trip, we all tend to get back to our busy lives and what had had such an impact on us becomes quite distant as the volume of our daily lives comes blaring back at us. Some of us feel impotent to really affect real change, especially in far away places. That is why on this glorious sunny Sunday morning (very rare in the North West) I am glued to my computer writing about an amazing woman who did just that. With little resources, an everyday person like you and I, has found a way to make an extraordinary difference. After becoming aware of the urgency of the situation in Africa, Aqua Yost created a group of paintings called the White Ella Project. Her goal is to raise at least one million dollars for children’s health and AIDS relief.
Aqua Maureen Yost grew up in a small town between Cleveland and Toledo Ohio. She studied at Ohio State University a few years before moving to Los Angeles where she has been living for the past 9 years. She is one of those amazing creative types who can do it all. She’s studied many disciplines of art her whole life. Dancing, Acting, Singing, Painting and Drawing. “I started dancing when I was three and taught, as I grew older. I think all those forms of art contribute to my painting…. they’re all connected. I remember my art teacher talking to my parents about my work in the 7th grade. I’ve been painting consistently since college.”
After her ‘life changing’ trip to Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia Africa, Aqua knew she had to do something to help. With her creative background there was only one clear path. “I paint…. that’s just what I do, and, I LOVED the elephants. They had such an impact on me that I couldn’t help but paint them. Africa was stuck inside me. I’ve always been drawn to Africa, even before I went, but witnessing the hardships of its people made me want to do something NOW. I had this notion that I needed to wait until I was “established” before I did anything, because I thought that was the only way I could help. You go there and you see all these people that are truly living in poverty, it’s a HUGE awakening. And I thought why am I not doing something NOW? I have all the resources that I need. I have a job, I have a roof over my head, I have clean water to drink and bathe in, I have fresh organic food from the local grocery store, I have an education that is priceless and can provide everything I need, and I even have a little left over to go to the movies.”
Aqua found herself in a situation where she couldn’t afford to buy paint supplies AND eat so she had a choice to either eat fast food or go on a healthful fast. You can see her whirring up her meals in the blender when you watch the White Ella Project documentary. “The fasting was a huge motivation and it was a bit ironic to me that the people in Africa are dying of malnutrition, but not by choice. Here we are in America dying of malnutrition because we make unhealthy choices and most of the time we know it’s unhealthy. I painted everyday, all day because I knew that when these paintings were finished it would provide nourishment and healthcare. I’m not sure what others will learn from the fasting, I can only share my experience and possibly inspire others to help in anyway they can. We are so fortunate to have the life that we have here in the states and I would love to see everyone have a quality life. I do believe it is possible through education and “a little help from friends.” So I’d love to provide that to these people and in order to do that I need to earn MEGA money to make that happen.”
Currently the paintings are looking for a gallery to gain exposure. Los Angeles is a veritable land of opportunity and after watching the documentary I know it is just a matter of time before a gallery adopts The White Ella Project. These gorgeously edgy looking “Ellas” are bound for greatness and so is Aqua Yost.
For more information watch Aqua’s Documentary