Teaching in Africa

Thank goodness life is not picky. Everyone seems to have good and bad experiences ranging from the heights of joy to the unending depths of sadness. With all of this character building, each person eventually finds a way to cope and survive the bad times, waiting for the good to come back around.

In my last post, Barbara Hughes shared her methods for healing from childhood sexual abuse by giving us a look into her art studio. She showed us how the creation of healing sculptures and paintings helped her get her pain outside of her mind and body. By forming her emotional pain into physical works of art, Barbara has lessened the impact of her childhood terrors.

Barbara Hughes, artist and healer.

 

In addition, Barbara also has reached out to gather community where she lives in Tennessee and traveled to Tanzania, Africa, intent on healing others in pain. Barbara has found that by enlarging her circle, she could continue to heal herself by helping to heal others. And, while Barbara was in Tanzania, she observed and celebrated the culture by painting and sculpting the beauty of the people she met.

Maasai Women

 

In 2010, Barbara taught in Tanzania at the Msalato Theological College. She taught Art and Spirituality to a group of African men and English to both men and women. As an accomplished artist, Barbara found the Tanzanian people and culture to be an endless resource of inspiration. Upon her return to her Tennessee studio, she began to sculpt and paint the "Women of Tanzania," a show installed at Shenanigans Gallery, Sewanee, TN from April 1 - 26, 2011. The sculptures and painting in this post are all from the "Women of Tanzania" show.

The sculpture of Maasai Women, above, depicts women from a Maasai village Barbara visited. Although the Maasai are a very patriarchal society, Barbara found the women to be tall and magnificent, regal in their bearing. Her sculpture shows them wearing the traditional red cloaks worn by both Maasai men and women.

Here, Maasai women are singing. Many villages
have Mother's Unions that gather to sing, dance
and drum at worship services.

 

Barbara fell in love with Tanzania after spending six months there in 2010. She went there to teach at the Msalato Theological College in conjunction with McCann's Mission in Msalato, Tanzania. McCann's Mission is working toward, and accepting donations to build, the anticipated Msalato Women's Center to offer wider outreach.

Another well known organization, the Mother's Union, is an International Christian Charity supporting families worldwide, with a well recognized presence in Tanzania. As the Mother's Union web site explains, "In 83 countries, our members share one heartfelt vision - to bring about a world where God's love is shown through loving, respectful and flourishing relationships. This is not a vague hope, but a goal we actively pursue through prayer, programmes, policy work and community relationships. By supporting marriage and family life, especially through times of adversity, we tackle the most urgent needs challenging relationships and communities."

Matiki is a member of the Mother's Union,
from the Wagogo Tribe in Tanzania.

 

Women who belong to the Mother's Union meet regularly for fellowship and worship. The Mother's Union in each village will gather to sing, dance and drum and also to discuss issues of the village. Matiki, Barbara's portrait of her above, is from the Wagogo Tribe. Even though the Tribe is a structured patriarchal society, the women of the Mother's Union are very powerful. Barbara comments that, "Not much gets by these women."

The Mother's Union, founded in 2000 in Tanzania, has
accomplished much in changing lives for the better
with their Literacy and Development Program.

 

When Barbara saw this video about the Mother's Union, she said, "I was really moved by the young husband having turned around his thinking. Domestic violence and extreme patriarchy is typical in Tanzania. I worked with some Mother's Unions in introducing Al Anon, for families of alcoholics. Alcoholism is rampant. We did two trainings about the disease concept. Once built, the Msalato Women's Center will be working with the Mother's Union as well."

The Mother's Union was founded in 1876, in England, by a mother of three, Mary Elizabeth Sumner. She was aware of the burdens and responsibilities that can swamp young mothers. The Mother's Union was specifically founded as a society for support of women in their role as mothers. Mary believed, "...that good parenting was more than providing for the physical needs of the child, and she believed that the primary responsibility was to raise children in the love of God."

Barbara's friend, Eunice, helps her fire clay sculptures
made by students of her Art and Spirituality class.

 

Barbara taught an Art and Spirituality class at the Msalato Theological College in Tanzania. In the photo above, Barbara, Eunice and some students from the class are in the process of firing clay artwork. Barbara shares that, "We placed the clay pieces on a flat stone and built the sticks around them. Then, Eunice ignited the sticks and they went into a roaring flame and fired the pieces."

She continues, "In this firing I was helping to finish the figures my Tanzanian students had made in the Art and Spirituality class I taught. Here we see two of the five wonderful men who took to the class like ducks to water."

Woman Dancing

 

Barbara tells us that, "The joy of the people is really something to see. Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in the world. They have had years of drought and yet, they know how to laugh and dance to enjoy life."

When looking at Barbara's artwork and then at slides and videos of Tanzania, the magnificently dyed fabrics of the clothing make a lasting impression. The beauty of the colors and patterns swirling with each movement become a visual delight. The prints on the fabrics are distinctive to each group of people and each region in Africa. Most of the garment fabrics are hand dyed by women of each village.

Brightly colored hand dyed fabrics celebrate the women's song.

 

To effectively translate her impressions of the Tanzanian women into the hard media of clay sculpture, Barbara softens the visual effect by leaving off the shiny overglazes one usually finds on kiln fired clay pieces. Her sculptures, Woman Dancing, Woman Begging  and the Maasai Women, show only  the colorful matte underglazes to better depict the feel of the fabric.

Woman Begging

 

Barbara's sculpture of a Woman Begging has a story. Barbara explains that, "My sculpture, Woman Begging, is of a woman who stood outside our little house and just waited without saying anything. We gave her food.  She seemed to epitomize the suffering of these people."

Easing the suffering of others is now a big part of Barbara's life. Remembering her own pain and moving through it, she is reaching out spiritually, but also financially, to help lessen the needs of others. Barbara sets aside a portion of the sale of her artwork to benefit the Msalato Women's Center in Tanzania.

An informative article profiling Barbara's work and her show, Women of Tanzania, is offered by Rev. Diane Moore, a prolific writer of many published books and of the blog, A Word's Worth.  Of interest to BlogHer.com fans of Isabel Anders, Rev. Moore has written a mystery novel with BlogHer's own Isabel called Chant of Death.

For more information on Barbara Hughes, visit her website.

A portion of all artwork proceeds are donated to the
Msalato Women's Center in Tanzania, Africa.


To give to the Mother's Union
East Africa Famine Appeal, click here.

For a delightful peek at Diane Moore's and Isabel Anders's book,
Chant of Death, go here.

 

NaBloPoMo March 2012

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