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

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