Cancer survivor uses handbag art to heal
As a survivor herself, and as the granddaughter of four Holocaust survivors, Yali Derman makes art to heal.
Sales from her colorfully-designed handbags — Yali Carry On bags — benefit KIDSS for KIDS, a foundation that supports Child and Family Services at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
Derman, a survivor of childhood cancer, who was born on Yom Kippur, kicked off a recent special program at the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center about the arts and being a survivor.
“Celebrate life with exuberance. Fight to survive. Know how to live,” she said. “For although it is hard work to do so, it is also an art filled with miracles and blessings.”
Her father’s mother, the late Lisa Derman, was a key reason the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center was built. Lisa Derman was the founder and past president of the Holocaust Museum & Education Center having died nine years ago this month while telling her story at a festival.
“Grandma Lisa used to say that the Nazis raised killers but that she (and her other grandmother) raised healers,” her granddaughter recalled.
Yali Derman said she stays true to her legacy as an artist and a healer by studying to become a nurse. But her healing also comes from her art — from the handbags that she designs with such color and creativity.
She explained how the 18 colors in her bags symbolize the vibrancy of life and the peacock design represents people facing challenges no matter how difficult they are.
Derman learned her art as a child cancer patient. She took the bandanas that covered her hairless head and “defiantly made purses out of them,” she said. “The bandanas are a symbol of transforming a negative experience and turning it into something positive.”
Regardless of challenges in life, she said, “we must all be designers of our own lives.”
That’s not only her mission but a legacy left to her by all four of her grandparents.
“All of them were outspoken leaders,” she said, noting that they took their memories and experiences about the Holocaust and used them to teach post-Holocaust education to the uninformed.
“This was their art,” she said. “The art of survival.”
Yali’s Carry On handbags are available at the Illinois Holocaust Museum. Sales from bags that are bought here also benefit the museum. For more information, access www.yaliscarryon.com.