Global happiness comes to campus

A new exhibition, “Happiness Around the World,” showcases the power of happiness. The exhibit is sponsored by the International Students Organization and “HappyHap @ Yale.”
A new exhibition, “Happiness Around the World,” showcases the power of happiness. The exhibit is sponsored by the International Students Organization and “HappyHap @ Yale.” Photo by Zeenat Mansoor.

A new photo exhibition at the Davenport Art Gallery displays the impact a smile can have around the world.

Sponsored by the International Student Organization and “HappyHap @ Yale,” a student group focused on spreading cheer, “Happiness Around the World” is a new exhibition of student photography, which opened last week.

“One of the exhibition’s goals is to showcase in an artistic way that happiness is contagious and can inspire, empower and unite people across countries and cultures,” HappyHap co-founder Sunnie Tölle ’12 said. “Happiness can be expressed in infinitely many ways.”

The exhibit also aims to support SmileTrain, a charity that pays for cleft lip operations for children. The gallery contains a donation box, encouraging visitors to donate any amount toward HappyHap’s goal of $250, the price of one operation.

The show also acted as a photography competition, with select photos receiving special designations. The walls of the gallery are covered with large blown-up prints of students’ winning entries. Each picture is accompanied by the photographer’s description of the image, relating the picture’s story to the overall theme of happiness.

Wanwan Lu ’12, the contest’s first-place winner, captured the image of a child playing in Cambodian rice paddies.

“I was travelling in Cambodia and saw this little girl playing around in the mud and she looked happy,” Lu said. “We all need some positive energy in life.”

Jasmine Lau ’12, another of the contest’s winners, explained that she thinks the source of happiness is in personal connections — the idea which served as the inspiration for her photograph, which depicts Indonesian school children in the destroyed city of Banda Aceh frolicking in pink uniforms and looking at themselves in the lens of a camera.

Lau’s photo is representative of the exhibition’s tendency to highlight moments of happiness in contrast to the adversity of daily life. For example, one photo shows the smiling face of a boy in El Salvador, who is going to school despite incredible economic hardship.

The Davenport Gallery was also decorated in an unconventional manner for the show, with bright colored tapes and quirky shapes covering the floor in a childlike and whimsical manner to complement the tone of the photographs. Blue lines of tape run along the floor of the gallery, cloistering off groups of photos arranged on the ground in scattered collages. The tape is accented by cheerful yellow and red tones, drawing attention to the photos it encloses.

“What I like about this is that it asks Yale students to stop being the overachieving, ever busy Yale students that they are,” Lau continued, “and to actually slow down and do things that make them happy.”

“Happiness Around the World” will run until February 19th.

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