GEORGE NEWS - A huge honour recently befell digital artist and humanitarian from George, Michelle Benjamin, when Houston in the USA honoured her with a citation and 1 December was named after her, to be celebrated in this county every year.
Benjamin, a highly respected and recognised artist globally, was honoured for her dedication in providing funding to disadvantaged people around the world.
She does this through donating the proceeds of the sale of her art works, literally sowing all the profits from her art auctions into the lives of poor and disadvantaged people.
She has also raised large amounts for the cause of the rhino through her art auctions in London and South Africa.
Benjamin received the citation after being invited to Houston by Harris County Precinct One Commissioner, Rodney Ellis.
She was hosted by various universities and schools, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner's office, the Houston Museum of Fine Art, and Ellis's office. Ellis, who is considered to have one of the largest private collections of African art in the world, is a keen collector of Benjamin's work.
Earlier this year, he bid on and bought her artwork of Nelson Mandela at an auction in Dallas, where the mayor of Cedar Hill also bought one of her works.
The artworks went for US$500 each, which the buyers paid directly into Knysna's disaster fund.
Benjamin's artistic talent has paid for the education of poor and vulnerable children, made the dreams of terminally ill children come true, helped feed lions in a Ukraine Zoo, made it possible to save rhinos, provided funds for a safe house and shelter for abused women and children, provided funds for a city devastated by wildfires and will provide lunches for children who are denied lunches in Texas schools.
Her work is followed in over 70 countries and she has collectors in South Africa, Europe, Eastern Europe and the United States.
She is currently working on an art project entitled Life Near the Mountains.
This is a series of artworks in which she is telling the story of her life in the beautiful Western Cape.
Benjamin also exhibited a piece, The Walk of Freedom, in Art House New York's Peace De Resistance Exhibition this year.
She created the artwork, a scene in Blanco, George, during 2017 and launched it on Human Rights Day in South Africa.
It will soon be auctioned in Dallas at an opening bid of US$10 000.
All proceeds will be donated to an initiative to end lunch shaming in North Texas schools, a phenomenon where students from underprivileged homes are being denied lunches in their school cafeteria.
Benjamin has also partnered with the United States Fish and Wild Life Service (USFWS) and her goal is to raise US$1-million for the African and Asian Rhino Projects under the wing of Dr Meenakshi Nagendran of the USFWS.
The Michelle Benjamin Foundation's Mossel Bay iPad Project was launched in Texas recently.
This will enable Benjamin to teach digital art to underprivileged children at the Bartholomeus Dias Museum in Mossel Bay.
Three of her artworks of Nelson Mandela will be auctioned by Commissioner Ellis in Houston to provide funds to buy 60 iPads for learners who will be part of the project.
Benjamin has exhibited her artworks Spanish Dance and The Walk of Freedom at two of the world's most prominent art exhibitions, Art Basel in Miami (December 2016) and Frieze New York (May 2017).
She has been exhibiting at a very prominent gallery in Chelsea, New York and has auctioned five artworks in New York City, where she has fans, followers and collectors.
Benjamin exhibits her digital art four times a year in New York. Her Blue Rhino artwork was exhibited on a 25-storey billboard in Times Square.
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