Check out the new page (click on link above) for a slide show highlighting the NY show!
The Drawing Out Obstetric Fistula 2016 exhibition is now open!
I am in New York, the work is hung, and I am preparing for the launch night – it kicks off at 7pm tonight and we are looking forward to a great evening. Being back in the city is strange for me as it harbours many memories. I lived here while studying at the New York Academy… it has been an emotional few days for very many reasons and on very many levels.
I will post images of the whole show, and of tonight’s event, once I get back to the UK…in the meantime here is a ‘teaser shot’ shot of part of the show on the wall at the Kimmel gallery.
My grateful thanks to everyone who has worked so hard to help me realise this exhibition
The Drawing Out Obstetric Fistula exhibition in New York is finally official! (see below).
The show will bring together two bodies of work for the Drawing Out Obstetric Fistula project: the first series of drawings completed after my visit in 2014 to the Fistula Clinic at CCBRT in Tanzania, and a second brand new body of work completed after my second visit to Tanzania last year. As you can see from previous posts on this site, we were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to exhibit the first series of drawings at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in London last year. This show was kindly sponsored by Johnson and Johnson who are again sponsoring this second, much larger exhibit in New York, which is this time being organsed and hosted by the Kupona Foundation and partners. My sincere thanks to all those, too numerous to mention here individually, who have made this possible – and of course to all of the women themselves at the fistula clinic and The Mabinti Centre, who taught me much and with whom it was my privilege to work.
The exhibition will continue at the Kimmel galleries for six weeks from May 23rd.
Such a wonderful place…the two weeks have gone by far too quickly!
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.
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!!
Lunch 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.
Here is a clay head that I made as a piece for the current exhibition at the Waterloo Teahouse gallery in Cardiff. It is based on some of the drawings and portraits in the show. My thanks to all those who are continuing to support the exhibition as it runs to the end of the month, your feedback has been very encouraging and sometimes very moving. I am looking forward to seeing some of you there tomorrow evening when I and Professor Alison Fiander will be giving a talk and inviting discussion about the Drawing Out Obstetric Fistula Project. For those of you unable to attend I will post a transcript of Alison’s talk here on the site after the event.
I am looking forward also to traveling back to Tanzania next month where I will be visiting the The Mabinti Centre. I will be running creative workshops with the women there who are learning how to build new lives for themselves, having undergone fistula surgery. I am hoping to create another body of work when I get back for an exhibition next year in the US.