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.