By Irene Kai
In September 2015, I visited Banksy’s Dismaland at Weston-Super-Mare in Somerset, southern coast of England with my daughter. Since Banksy sold out all the tickets within two minutes online, he took pity on his fans and decided to sell 200 tickets each day for a three-hour pass at 1pm and the show closed at 5. We flew into London, rented a car and drove two hours to the site and stood in line at 6am for the gate to open at 1pm. We got in.
It was amazing to experience, in person, one of the best up-to-the-minute contemporary art exhibits in the world. My daughter said to me that we are not coming all the way to England just for the three hours experience then fly back home and we should take a side trip to Wales since we have a car. I agreed.
Wales is beautiful; we decided to tour the Snowdonia National Park and drove deep into the Snowdonia Mountains. With dusk approaching, I had to turn the car around to get back into town. I turned the car into an outlet behind the mountain and suddenly there stood a two-story high glass monument with a flame near the top and the words World Peace Flame were etched on the glass. I just came off the most impactful art exhibit a couple of days ago and Banksy’s theme is social justice, so very much aligned with my own focus. Now the shock of encountering the World Peace Flame monument. As I stared at the flame, a realization rose up from my heart: I am the flame of peace, peace begins with me. I had a deep desire to share that experience with the world. When they encounter the flame, they too can be the flame and to ignite the flame in others’ hearts.
I went into the building next to the monument and learned about the history of the World Peace Flame. Seven sacred flames from five continents united in Wales to form the World Peace Flame. The Asian one was from the eternal flame at Gandhi’s memorial. The lady offered me a candle which was lit from the monument. I brought it back to Ashland and relit it a week later during the inauguration of the Ashland Culture of Peace Commission which I have Co-Founded. I was determined to install a World Peace Flame monument in Ashland.
As with any project, when I am deeply inspired the first thing to do is to decide on the medium, then research and collect reference materials, and try out everything on hand to get the best outcome. To build a monument in a city takes the buy in from the community, the city, and generating the money to build it. I had neither experience nor skills to do any of the above. I had no influence in the community or the city; I was a nobody in Ashland. But, I have a vision and the passion to bring it into form.
For three years, I knocked on doors, talked to anyone who would listen to my idea of a World Peace Flame monument in Ashland. I leveraged my nonprofit status to open doors and rally the community. With a lot of hard work, persistence and grace, the Ashland World Peace Flame monument was installed, and the flame was lit on September 21, 2018 in the Thalden Pavilion, the Sustainability Center on the Southern Oregon University campus. The World Peace Flame in Ashland is eternal. A class of Ashland Middle School students volunteered to be the official Flame Keepers. They refill the oil lamp with recycled biomass oil every Friday during the school year. Peace is eternal.
Co-Founder, Director of Development
Ashland Culture of Peace Commission