In all my time here in Arusha, my father has typically been the biggest advocate for my staying current with blog updates. Since I'm not in Ohio to bring him flowers and a home made breakfast, I thought I would honor him publicly in my introduction to this blog post. For all the love, selfless care and support he has provided me, I am eternally grateful. Yay for fathers!
This coming Thursday, my Columbus parents will join me here in Arusha. I'm so excited to welcome them into the home and routine I have established in the last 6 months. Together we'll make a trip to the Serengetti and Pangani, a village on the coast of the Indian Ocean. We will surely have many pictures and stories to share, which will appear here later.
For now, though, I would like to show you what's been happening in classes in the last three weeks. The projects I initiated about 4 months ago have taken off just in time for me to wind them down. It's too bad in some ways, but I am so appreciative for the experiences I have shared with the amazing people at Umoja Arts Centre, Albehije School, International School Moshi and the Arusha community as a whole. Adjusting to life was a bit rough at times, and it was always the projects with these people that kept me going.
Let me first introduce to you Mama Gideon - a woman who works in a community of weavers in the same neighborhood in which I have been living.
She has been a visiting teacher in the homeschooling class that Shanna (another art teacher at Umoja) and I teach together. Working with natural and man made weaving materials, Mama Gideon creates baskets, sacks, decorative fabrics, and furniture. She kindly volunteered her time to teach our students how to make the checkered bags commonly used in the markets for shopping.
The material is a plastic binding that I have seen used to hold cables or to tightly sinch a package together. The group of weavers who use this material have to first collect it from Nairobi. Before Mama Gideon started our lessons she was working on a giant order for hundreds of these bags. As she demonstrated her techniques to the students, it was clear this woman could work the material while blindfolded. It was such a treat to witness a person at work with such confidence in their trade.
In the most recent project at Albehije, I decided to approach things in a different order. One of the last updates of Albehije showed the students in action wearing bear masks and yellow paper ringlets as they told the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. This time around I wanted the students to write their own story with their own characters. It was a challenge at first, and it seemed like about two weeks passed as I tried to set up the most successful scenario for their creative minds to flourish and produce something they could complete with pride.I landed on the idea of creating costumes first. It was made clear to me that costume was not a part of the student's vocabulary, so that seemed like an appropriate starting place. The students were interested in creating animals, specifically kangaroos, monkeys and butterflies.
The images below depict the students at work:
We began a video recording of the story last Thursday. A clip of the video is soon to come.
The student's enthusiasm for this project has been infectious. One of the great outcomes has been that a few of the teachers at the school volunteered to assist in the making of the costumes. Their interest and commitment to the project gives me hope that in my absence, more arts integrated projects may be carried out in the future.
In addition to the above, I've been working with Shanna and another local artist to creat giant sheets of hand made paper for a sculpture installation to begin next week.
The workshop we've been borrowing.
The installation is a part of Arusha's first ever Arts festival. Since January, I have been a member of the Arusha Arts Collaborative, a group of organizations and individuals committed to promoting arts and cultural activities in the city of Arusha. We decided in February to come together on one big event. The Arts Festival will take place next Sunday and will include performances of traditional East African music and dance, documentaries made by Arusha's Kilimanjaro Film Institute, and an outdoor art installation that visitors will be able to walk into.
I'm SO excited to get started on the building of the installation. More pictures and updates of that project to come...