Mgoo!! Today we draw feet!

Much giggling accompanied today’s drawing exercise at the Mabinti Centre  The women drew around each other’s feet to create a basis for decorating and designing using ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ colours as they learned them yesterday. The hot and cold feet idea seemed to captivate them and there were some very interesting design choices – including a foot of pineapples!

DSCN0536 DSCN0713Tomorrow we will work with continuous line and draw portraits. The group last week seemed to very much enjoy drawing each others faces and the results were so good that they are going to be used as designs for the various textile products made by the women at Mabinti. The drawings had to be adapted slightly in order to be turned into screenprints so I needed to go over the women’s original lines with a thick black marker. The results though were very well received and the women were very proud to know that they will be used for the Mabinti range. So, watch out for beautiful products soon to be available from the Mabinti workshop….below is a sneak preview of some of the faces.

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Beautiful day; beautiful people

Cleaning the screen

Cleaning the screen

Another successful day at the Mabinti Centre in dar es Salaam. This is the start of my second and last week working with the women there and this week’s group were just as enthusiastic and engaged with the creative work as were the first group. Colour theory was new and fascinating to them and the colour wheel, a magic thing! The womens’ sense of design seems innate and they were making beautiful and complex patterns on a basic framework consisting of six lines and 5 circles. We went on to talk about hot (johto) colours and cold (baridi) colours. Swahili and English got all mixed up with laughter and a truly healthy competitive spirit when we started to play a ‘colour game’ with a whole assortment of tiny textile paint bottles!

After a hearty lunch of rice and beans and Tanzanian spinach I continued to sketch and take photographs of the site and of the people working there. As I sat in the cool shade of the banda, quietly sketching the women as they went about washing up the plastic boxes they ate their food from, and cutting cloth in the outside work space, I felt I was in a place where things – lives – change.

A trip to the supermarket in the early evening was an equally moving experience. I walked  with new found and very wonderful friends, who hail from Denmark, and  they led me through the ‘local neighborhood’ here in Mikocheni. My artist self was intoxicated by the richness and the authenticity of everything that was around me – the people, the smells, the colours, the smiles, the narrowness of the dirt streets (that I have to admit did encroach on my closely guarded sense of  claustrophobia!) and the incredibly stark juxtaposition of the barefoot scraps of humanity who were playing, as children will, in the heat and the dust, and their impeccably clad elder siblings coming home from school in distinctive and immaculate uniforms. Chickens run to and fro in the neighbourhood, many, many  people  sit, chat to friends, or simply watch the world go by outside small, dark houses or bars. They work on cars, motorbikes, bajaji, they sell their fruit, vegetables, clothes or jewellery, they just, simply ..live their lives. We heard “Hallo! How are you?” at every turn. The children repeat it endlessly until we respond and then reply back to us with enormous smiles. “Welcome!” (Karibu) rings in your ears always here in Dar and we heard it no less infrequently here n the nieghbourhood. This was an experience burnt into my memory…. my thanks to Eva and Claus.

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Washing dishes after lunch

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Outside workspace

Successful first week over – new start tomorrow!

The week has gone by so quickly. I have recharged my batteries over the weekend with a bit of relaxation on the beach and now I am ready to start again tomorrow doing drawing workshops with the second group of women trainees at Mabinti. The first week went so well, and I am hoping that this coming week will be even better!

Women trainees at Mabinti in the first weeks drawing class. Joyce, Sada, Husna, Edna and Kulawa

Women trainees at Mabinti in the first weeks drawing class. Joyce, Sada, Husna, Edna and Kulawa

drawing classes at Mabinti Centre, Dar es Salaam

The first drawing class at Mabinti was yesterday and was a great success. It felt so good to be back with the women again especially as they were now so much more confident. The feeling at Mabinti is so very different from that at the CCBRT Fistula clinic. The women seem to have regained their sense of self, and the sadness, though still there, seems to have lifted out of the despair that always lurked in the shadows of themselves.

I am working with half the group of trainees this week and with the other half next week. With such a small group – only five women – it is easier to get to know the individual personalities. This time the smiles are genuine and happy, they no longer lower their eyes and we are equals – as it should be!

The first lesson is about pattern and colour. The thick book full of pattern examples is eagerly accepted and pored over. I show them the colour wheel, I teach them ‘first’ colours and ‘second’ colours. I continuously use my Swahili dictionary and my phrase book to try to smatter my explanations with nouns and adverbs of their own language. I wanted to show respect and they joined in the struggle with much laughter and giggling as I stumbled through colours – ‘rangi’ – and the relation between hot (‘johto’) and cold (‘baridi’). They had fun and so …so very much…did I.

The images below are examples of the work done by the women.

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Drawing from the first lesson

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Drawing from first lesson

The next lesson today was about drawing and decorating feet (mgoo). Much laughter accompanied the drawing around of each others feet and once everybody had their two feet outlined on the page they began to decorate one with ‘hot’ colours and one with ‘cold’. Inevitably hands were next and the designs became increasingly complex. The remainder of the session – which continued for over three hours – was taken up by my demonstrating the difference between shape and form and how to ‘construct’ a convincing three-dimensional bottle on the page. All this was obediently copied but it wasn’t long before I was showing them how to draw far more interesting things – a zebra for example, a giraffe, and of course an elephant. The women just love copying and multi-coloured elephants soon presided over boring wine bottles!!

DSCN0510Lunch was a deep pleasure. I ate together with the whole group, shoulder to shoulder at makeshift tables in the sunshine. We ate rice from plastic boxes ordered in as every day from a local café. I was the only one eating with a spoon, which had been politely and thoughtfully provided for me. I had been prepared to eat with my fingers as everybody else did but I have to admit I was secretly relieved! I felt warmly accepted, I felt real and full of life. I felt as if I was close to something – a way of being – that has become unreachable in the western society to which I am more accustomed.

I teach in the mornings and I focus on my own work in the afternoons. The following images are some of the sketches I’ve made in the last couple of days. Together with photographs I am taking they will provide a basis for studio work when I get home.

Ironing cushion covers in the sun

Ironing cushion covers in the sun

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Sketches

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At lunch

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Sketches

Looking from the Banda to the sewing room

Looking from the Banda to the sewing room