Here are some of the new pieces I have been working on. They are made from remnant pieces of beautiful grainy leather I have collected here and there. I like to make the linings have a story too–the purple started life as a Jaegar skirt–gorgeous cotton; the green and orange is Tanzanian cotton, a gift from the Principal of the school I taught at in Metangwe. The colours are the colours of the Kenyan sky and soil. Both pouches have removable wrist straps and small leather pockets inside. And both are destined for the shop.
Here are some smaller pieces, also made from remnants, (the small photo on the left shows the reverse sides). The red and black is a great pencil case, the fuchsia and lime a coin pouch. All four of these pieces, and I hope some more, will be in the shop by the end of the week. That is definitely on my list! I have also been dyeing for the wedding rug–and will post results soon. In the meantime, I hope you are enjoying these lovely spring days–here in Ontario, the lilacs are just out and the cardinal’s nest outside my kitchen window brings flashes of stunning colour.
Here are three drawings done by the grade 6 students in Matangwe. It was fascinating to watch them deeply absorbed in the task of representing their homes for an audience of Canadian students. These students do not often have the opportunity to lose themselves in a creative task. The results were amazing–incorporating colour, unique design forms and flights of fantasy which reminded me of early hooked rugs and paintings.
These drawings are evocative for me–I can’t look at them without remembering the sunshine filtered through red dust, the glorious bird song and the earnest, hopeful faces. I am in the process of designing a rug with houses, as I have mentioned here before. I am sure that the drawings of these children will now have an influence on that process. I am just beginning a chair seat as a trial for the rug design–working out colours and shapes–and I hope to base it loosely on these drawings. I love the flower on the roof, the elaborate blocks and the wreath of flowers around the house, not to mention the trees and the figures of mother and cat.
My trip to Kenya has made me realize that gifts come in many ways, and often when you least expect them.
Kisumu, the third largest city in Kenya with a population around 500,000, is on the shores of Lake Victoria. It is a bustling metropolis with much street activity. I made three trips to this city, (not counting the final trip to the airport) to go to the markets and visit the sites. We were lucky enough to make the 60+ minute journey in a truck, but many, many people take a matatu,or a boda boda, or even get there on foot.As interesting and as beautiful as Kenya was, it is ultimately the people you meet who stay in your heart. The students and teachers had a major impact on me–their courage, their determination and their wonderful welcoming openness. Here is the grade six class writing their letters to Canada, followed by a picture of two of the amazing teachers. You may have seen this poster before, but it is worth repeating; it sums up my Kenyan lessons: HOLSTEE – Holstee Manifesto Poster.
The markets and small vegetable stands along the red clay roads around Matangwe have tomatoes, sweet potatoes and sukuma wiki for sale. This last vegetable is similar to chard or collard greens. Sukuma wiki literally means ‘to stretch the week’ and many families had to do just that, especially in the period of drought they were experiencing.Peta Hall, a wonderful local potter and tireless worker in Ghana, served a great African Stew at a fundraising dinner last year. It contained all of the ingredients mentioned above. Since I am missing Kenya a lot, I decided to make this stew today and thought I would share the recipe. I’ve modified her original recipe a bit. Skuma wiki is often served with ugali–but rice or a good crusty bread may be a preferred substitute. (I never did try ugali, even after much urging.)
2 T olive oil
1 large onion chopped, 1 parsnip and 1 carrot peeled and chopped
1 bunch of swiss chard, stems and leaves chopped
1 tsp each ground ginger and cumin
2 cloves garlic minced
2 tsp curry paste
1 28 oz can of tomatoes, low sodium
1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 15 oz can chick peas
salt and pepper and lemon juice to taste
Saute the onions, parsnips, and chard stems until lightly caramelized, about 5 minutes. Add the spices and garlic and cook one minute more. Add the tomatoes and sweet potatoes. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook uncovered until the sweet potatoes are tender. Add the chick peas and swiss chard leaves and cook until warmed through. Season with lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.
I taught school, mostly grade 6 and 8, for three weeks in Matangwe Kenya, a small village which centres on a medical clinic, the school, a community store, a funeral home and a church. My days began by walking down this road, often joined by delightful small children.
The grade 6 students at Parkdale Public School in Belleville collected 50 pounds of school supplies for me to take to Matangwe and also wrote letters to the students. You can see the intense interest the Matangwe students had in reading the Canadian letters. The students were the absolute highlight of my visit; I learned so much from them and their teachers. These grade 6 students are fluent in English, Luo and Kiswahili–they are full of curiosity and eager to learn, all 46 of them.
I spent the last three weeks teaching in Metangwe, Kenya. It was an amazing experience and I hope over the next few posts to share the lessons I learned and the images that are seared into my brain and heart. I took my watercolour travel kit, my Pentel water brush and my Moleskine watercolour journal. Inspired my the many urban sketchers, I attempted to capture the new world around me. The women of Kenya are hardworking, resourceful and talented. I was fascinated by the way they were able to carry water or other burdens on their head, sometimes while talking on their cell phone! Even very little girls are able to perform this feat–you can see them practising in the evenings on their way back from the watering hole.