Musician and long-time Tostan supporter, Karien de Waal, used her artistic talents to creatively raise awareness and support for Tostan’s mission. By means of a year-long art project that collected the faces and signatures of numerous celebrities, Karien hopes to not only raise money to support Tostan’s programs, but also to get her community as excited about Tostan’s work as she is.

Based out of Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, Karien has had many opportunities to interact with world-renowned musicians who regularly come to her school to perform.  Hoping to do something to garner support for Tostan within her community, she began drawing these celebrities as they visited the Berklee campus and had them autograph her canvas. “The idea was to get as many famous people to sign on one canvas as possible,” said Karien. Signatures on Karien’s canvas include such musicians as Chucho Valdes, John Mayer, Emilio and Gloria Estefan, India Arie, The Eagles, and many more.

Taking her outreach one step further, Karien contacted many of the musicians she had drawn to tell them about her project and about Tostan’s work. “I decided that for each celebrity that I drew, I would write them a letter to tell them about [female genital cutting] FGC and the positive work Tostan does through education. I kept it in the tone of your organization, focusing on the solution, rather than the problem.”

Now that her masterpiece is complete, Karien’s goal is for this canvas to be auctioned off, with the proceeds directly benefiting Tostan.

In addition to creating the drawing, Karien also hosted an art exhibit at a local coffee shop, Pavement. Confident that this exhibit would gain lots of attention, she created a poster and distributed media materials, including an introductory video about Tostan. “Pavement is the most popular coffee shop on the block and I wouldn’t be surprised if around 4,000 customers go through there a week.” At the end of the three-day exhibit, all 50 copies of the DVD had been taken, and word of Karien’s mission was quickly spreading throughout the community.

Although her canvas is finished, Karien’s mission to spread awareness of Tostan is certainly not over. She has numerous plans for future projects that will incorporate her many talents as a musician, artist, and community supporter. “I can get people to buy into the cause to make a positive change,” explained Karien, “because I truly believe in your work.”

Story by Kate Brendel, Tostan Development Assistant in Washington, DC

Karien’s artwork will be auctioned off to benefit Tostan. To find out more information, contact Elizabeth at