Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Big Drys and Tsotsi Flies

The water is out again, I am left with no clean clothes, and my bottle of Lynx “Africa” deodorant is dwindling. I am resorting to using excess insect repellent to mask the body odour. No one likes the smell of deet but at least it’s idenifiable…

My dirty feet.

Before we left for Safari some of the volunteers felt they should warn us about the “deadly” Tsotsi Fly, which is attracted to moving vehicles, and is in abundant numbers in East African Safari parks. So after an (always) hairy ride through the African countryside our driver Jacob (or Jacko, as we were all, at the time, mistakenly calling him) pulls up at the check in desk and I feel a sting on my ankle. I look down to see a large fly perched on my ankle seemingly unphased by my shocked reaction. “What the fuck is that?” I politely ask Jacob who laughs and replies “Yes, that is a Susi Fly”. Not quite relieved by his amused reply, I seek clarification “a WHAT fly?”.

“That is the Tsotsi fly”.

Jacob continued to attempt to alleviate my stress by saying things like “no, it doesn’t kill you… straight away”. Eventually, I managed to get out of him, after making myself nausious psychologically, that the Tsotsi fly is only a danger with prolonged exposure and a weak immune system, so some healthy westerner loaded up on immunisations and antibiotics should be able to handle a bite or two.

Other highlights of the Safari were, taking a leak in the open park looking frantically over my shoulders as I tried to drop a litre in record time. Finding a beautiful black centipede in the undergrowth, a courting process between lions, complete with commentary from Caitlin, and the animals in general were nice.

The documentary is beginning to take shape now with some key characters revealing themselves. One of the members of “Present is Absent” (a local music group) described himself as "multi-purpose", which, despite the charmingly broken translation, sums up the approach to creativity here in Bagamoyo. If you meet a drummer he’s not just a drummer, he’s a painter, sculptor, soccer player, and guitar tutor. If you meet a dancer she’s bound to run a stall at the market, study law and make a mean kanga.

The Chuo Cha Sanaa arts festival last week was a great opportunity to see some of the locals I have met performing with an audience. I focused mainly on people from the area so that I can follow up later with interviews and construct a story - the best footage I have so far has come from personal relationships, impromptu visits and local settings. The turn out of visual art at the festival was a little disappointing, the same mass-produced tingatingas and Masai heads that you can find anywhere in Bagamoyo or Dar. This is fine though, the documentary seems to moving more towards the personality and creative approach of the people here rather than the final product.

Art plays a very central role here, especially in Bagamoyo, and is actually a viable career, which is more than can be said for many places in the west. Paintings or sculptures that take a week or two to complete may sell for around tsh100,000 (about NZ$100) which will keep someone fed and clothed for up to 3months. So I am really interested in building the student’s skill levels to the point where they can make a this kind of sustainable living from selling artworks.

Watakuona meme baadaye kidogo (you will see me again soon)

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