Friday, December 28, 2007

Day 97 Kibera

This entry begins a few hours before I leave Tanzania for Kenya with a fellow volunteer Amy, who spent 6 months volunteering in Kibera at the beginning of the year.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Day 95 Christmas Wishes from Kibera

The shift from Bagamoyo, Tanzania to Nairobi, Kenya 5 days ago has been considerable, quite apart from the 18 hour bus ride across the border. Nairobi is a City of extremes, Three out of our last four days have been spent walking into Kibera, the second largest slum in Africa, which holds over a million people.

This is the view from the School of Hope: an NGO School 25 minutes walk into Kibera. The teacher at the school, Gabby, is responsible for teaching over 88 students, and providing them with one meal every day, and even though we are visiting well into the “holiday” season, Gabby is still looking after close to 40 students. I am interviewing him this week in order to make a promotional video for the school to gain much needed financial support for this literally life saving project.

On the other side of the coin I also had my first real Matatu ride the other night. Now in theory a Matatu in Kenya is the same as a Dala Dala in Tanzania, a broken down minivan that holds up to about 30 people. But oh no, this Matatu was red and black with underlighting, mags, a spoiler, red interior lights and a black light that made my white shirt glow, not to mention two flat screen TVs playing music videos in synch with pumping hip hop through a pair of 8 inch subs - all for the grand fee of 25ksh or 50c (NZD) Weaving through scattered and disorganised cars into the city centre in the middle of the night was one of the highlights of my trip so far, my naki roots involuntarily showing through here.

As for departing Tanzania, I felt it was a good time to leave, with the year drawing to a close it felt like a natural break. And it was nice to think that some of the students will go on to become teachers in the new year. We spent the last week or so working on a large painting project together which reflected the perogative of the studio, about the plight of street children and practice of child labour, and the importance of education in breaking the cycle. We worked through every stage beginning with drawing the setting out at one of the villages markets called Magu Meni, which caught the interest of many of the children there, and was something I wished we had done from the start. We went right through to enlarging and finishing.

All the students got involved, and I felt it was a good end to the year and could potentially make for a good end to the documentary aswell. You can see the painting in progress in the previous vlog.

So Merry Christmas and I hope you are all well, I am looking forward to seeing you all again soon, only one week to go now.

Day 89 Final Project

Above is a timelapse of a collaborative project with the students at AMAP. The painting is 11x3 feet and will be used to promote the school and bid for sponsorship at the student's exhibition early next year.

Day 82 Serious Manizzle

So I've managed to complete the music video with a few days to go until I leave for Kenya. If you are interested in contacting the band you can visit the studio's website at

They are planning to release an album in the new year and I will be continuing to work with them to help get their music for sale over the net, if you're interested purchasing the album I'll continue to post details about the progress made and how you can get a copy.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Day 72 Iringa

Travelling to Iringa to visit an arts program for people with diabilities called "Neema Crafts"

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Day 50

The Serious Manizzle pulled together a blinding performance for the shoot the weekend before last when we shot their first music video. Unfortunately, lacking the ability to be in two places at once, I was unable to shoot both the video and the “making of” the video which could have been quite a fun doco in itself. Though with some quick “to camera” sections, some outtakes and a sneak peak at the edit in progress you might get an idea of what it was like to shoot a music video in Africa. With no occupational safety and health authority to speak of, the serious men performed from a converted motorbike taxi for about 4 hours, don’t ask me how they managed to stay on… oh wait…

I'll be sure to post the completed video when it is finished, and hopefully try to get it screened in New Zealand!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Day 44

This interview was filmed during the festival as part of a video workshop I was running with the students at the Chuo Cha Sanaa College. We worked through scripting, interviewing, shooting, editing and uploading. All the footage was filmed by the stidents.

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)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Day 25

On Wednesday on the way back from work I ran into Matiga, our neighbour and local musician and asked if I could film him playing one day. He immediately took me to a small collection of houses where he and some other musos jammed for me. The video is a quick edit of one of the songs. I plan to use some of the music in the doco, and go into the role of music in the cultural and artistic landscape of Bagamoyo.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Day 20

The budding video editor towards the end is Hansi, the son of the Elisa the maid. He is this cute at all times, I'm getting him to give me dancing, drumming and swahili lessons.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Day 15

As part of the documentary filming I am trying to pull together some sound-bytes about Zukri, the volunteer organisation. Amy is one of the other volunteers, and in this segment she talks about three boys that she is looking after during her 6 month placement.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Day 13

Apparently regular blogs might be a stretch, the internet has been down here for the last four days, but hey, this is Africa. So it is two weeks since I left New Zealand, I am starting to look at Bagamoyo with familiarity now and have to remind myself to film those things that seemed so new and different to me in the first couple of days. I have found many subjects for the documentary, and have begun shooting interviews this week.

Regarding my own art practice I am being courted for portraits by patrons of the bar opposite my flat, so there is no shortage of subjects. One subject I will paint is Asma, a daughter of Saidi, and possibly the most beautiful child imaginable.

Saidi has a good bunch of students at the African Modern Arts Park (AMAP). Everyone is different and has a different approach but all are keen to learn to master drawing and painting. It has been two months since their last volunteer and it looks as though they are rediscovering some skills that they developed then, they all seem to be on a steep “learning curve”, and I plan to keep up the momentum.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Day 1

A make-do first blog, due to some baggage "complications". All sorted now though, and I have some new pics already for the next blog.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Tanzania Vlog 16

This weekend I am having a play with some sample masks sent to me to try out for a class while I'm in Africa, turned out to be an interesting problem-solving activity. Check out their website if you're interested in these masks for youself, here: Maskworx

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Tanzania Vlog 15

If you'd like to check out idn or John Badcock's site, just click the links.

Tanzania Vlog 14

This one is for die hard fans only folks, picture me reading broken Swahili from a piece of refill for four minutes on the subject of art, form, context and originality. Not for the faint hearted, or the short of attention span.

And anyone out there that might speak some Swahili, please feel free to correct me on my numerous mistakes, mispronunciations and inaccuracies. And for those of you english speakers out there, I have no interest in your feedback regarding the the art-wank I am spouting, I very rarely spout art-wank and when I do one quickly learns why I do so rarely.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Vlog 11 Malainin Lakhal

A couple of weeks ago I attended a seminar with speaker Malainin Lakhal a journalist from Western Sahara. He came to speak about the struggle of the Saharawi people and the Polisario Front against the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara. I have cut down the 1 hour seminar to 10mins for the purposes of the vlog, and have posted it with the kind permission of Mr Lakhal.

My reasons for attending the seminar were to increase my awareness of the political landscape of Africa in general, I found the speech interesting and relevant to New Zealand trade policy. I am not very well informed about the issue and currently hold no strong views about the topic, I am in favour of self-determination but by posting this video I am simply presenting the view point of Mr Lakhal, I do not mean to advocate or denegrate these views.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Cradle of Humanity

Why Africa?

I find it difficult to answer what the attraction is to Africa; it's probably a combination of things.

Perhaps it's just different, most people I know visit Europe, Asia, South America or the Pacific Islands. Or perhaps it's that the proliferation of World Vision ads has eventually got to me. My parents sponsor a child in Zambia, and I guess that had an effect on my outlook. But I think probably it is due largely to my interest in human history and evolution.

One of Tanzania's many languages is Sandawe; the oldest known language in the world, there are 40,000 Tanzanians that still speak the language, which is characterised by various clicks. The Sandawe people also have the greatest known genetic variability, a sign of long lineage.

Homo Habilis fossils were found by Louis and Mary Leakey in the 1950s within the Olduvai Gorge, close to the Tanzania-Kenya border. The Homo Habilis (Handy-Man) fossils date back over 2,000,000 years, and were characterised by an increase in brain size and the first known use of stone tools.

For these reasons East Africa is known as the "cradle of humanity". Tanzania is also famous for its Mount Kilimanjaro, the Serengeti Plains, the Island of Zanzibar, and its abundant wildlife.

For whatever reason I feel drawn there...

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Blog History

Starting Out

All signed on, and going public,

During a sort of 1/4-life crisis last year (right on time) I came up with the idea of traveling to Africa to volunteer, and as you will know, times of crisis are the best times for making epic and impulsive decisions.

Actually volunteering has been something I've wanted to and expected I would do for years. Sometimes one just needs a little push over the crest of reason. So I'm signed up to teach art in Bagamoyo, Tanzania with the Global Volunteer Network from October to December 2007.

Art? Don't they need AIDS relief, ethnic and gender rights, immunisations, orphanage managment, logistics...?

This is the main question that has been voiced or implied by those I have told so far, and it's a fair question to ask. To be honest it's a practical decision, based on what I think I can offer, and manage, based on my skills, finances and travel experience (very little).

During my stay I will be shooting a ..ary about "Art in Africa" which I am using as a vehicle through which I can apply for support from my employer The Learning Connexion and other arts funds. The theme of art, while being an interesting angle from which to view Africa, and complimenting my own sensibilities and skills, is also an important theme for gaining much needed financial support.

Bagamoyo is home to the Bagamoyo College of Arts, one of very few arts institutions in Africa offering theoretical and practical training in art, and is growing as an internationally recognised college. This makes Bagamoyo one of the major arts centers in Africa, and although I will not be working at the college itself I will be teaching at the grass-roots level, which I'm assuming is to create a follow on effect over following generations.

Despite extraordinary poverty (Tanzania is the 4th poorest country in the world, with an annual GDP of $600) arts are still able to flourish. I am planning to learn more about the place of arts in the development of third-world countries, but at the moment I only understand arts' utility as creating a trickle-down effect from an arts based economy, I'll understand if you think this sounds vague and little new-agey... but I'm confident it's not.

I would love to hear from anyone who has anything to contribute concerning the trip, thoughts, advice, warnings, philosophical positions, money... or any other sort of support.

Tanzania Vlog 1

Africa Blog 1

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Tanzania Vlog 2

Tanzania Vlog 2

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Tanzania Vlog 3

Tanzania Vlog 4

Thought I was going to get to go to the precinct and answer some questioning but instead ended up on an administrative goose chase over the phone, and delivering my application 5 minutes up the road to the Post Office... enjoy.

Tanzania Vlog 5

An interview with my brother's girlfriend Gemma Bayley about development in third-world countries. During the interview Gemma makes reference to Margaret Mead an athropologist who severely misrepresented her research subjects in Samoa. Gemma also mentions the films City of God and Tsotsi. Check the links for more info.

Tanzania Vlog 6

Tanzania Vlog 7

Bungy jumping. Vital preparation for Tanzania...

Tanzania Vlog 8