Home life & a gallery show

It's amazing how connected you can get with a person or a place in such a short amount of time.  I've never been one to like trips where you jet in and jet out quickly, but have always chosen the travel plans where I spend a long enough time to know the ones around me, get a lay of the land, and begin to feel at home... I can't believe I've only been here in Ulu for two weeks because it feels like I am part of a family here.  I only have a day and a half left, but if I think about it too hard I'll cry, so I will just keep cherishing every sound, every humid breath of air, every warm hello from the faces I've come to know and love.  

Today was my last class at Mawewe, and the first time I had to say goodbye.  I think Mr. Sibuyi thought I was a little nutso because I just kept thanking him, and I think I shook his hand and smiled at him half dozen times in my last half hour there.   (David, please tell him I'm really a normal person!)  Nthambi, Mavis, and Gerald met me in the library this morning, as did my sweetest Mpilo, and we went over things like formatting the memory card, making sure you wipe the lens with a soft cloth every so often, how to upload photos to the laptop, and encouraging the creation of a photo club.  Then, from my backpack,  I pulled out a huge stack of photographs from our week together and spread them all over the table, their smiles beamed as they sifted through the papers giggling.  I could hear their excited chatter in Shangaan as they taped the photos into the frames I brought them. It was really pure magic seeing their faces illuminate as their friends funneled in the room pointing and commenting on their photographs.  I thought I was going to have to surgically remove the cameras from their bodies, as they kept them around their necks the whole day, periodically grabbing friends for a snapshot or posing someone with flowers.  

Even with all of this, I have to admit that my favorite part of today was when I got to see the photos that the three of them took after school when they went home.  We gathered around my laptop as each one explained to me who was in the photos;  "That is me with my dad" "That is my friend, and my mother", "This is my baby niece, In English her name is Beautiful, and her second name is Thankful.  Her brother's name is Smile", "This is my grandmother making marula beer", I got to see a glimpse of their life, finally.  I got to see their personality, their family, what is important to them.  And, it was all possible because of a camera.  Isn't it beautiful, that a small piece of technology can be the thing that brings you together and breaks the barrier of different worlds.  Looking up at their sweet faces as they smiled and proudly explained their photographs to me is what I came here for... Nothing can beat how special it felt to be a part of this journey with them.  There are now three more angels engraved in my soul. So blessed, so blessed, so blessed.   

 

Here are some of Mavis's photos from her evening with the camera...

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The following are images from our nice little gallery show today in the library!

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The Fantastic Four!

Let me introduce you to my young photo prodigies, Mavis, Nthabisang, and Gerald.  I have been with them for three days now, and they are slowly stealing my heart.  We've had so much fun wandering around Mawewe finding photo subjects and playing with our cameras.  They are super sweet, eager to learn, and they are taking their photography course very seriously.  I absolutely love watching them in their elements, composing shots, posing their teachers, sharing what they have shot with their friends.  It's so cool to see, and I am so grateful that Mr. Sibuyi hand picked these three lovlies for me.  

Then there is Trevor.  I met him when I first arrived at Mawewe last week, he was tutoring a girl in the library.  He impressed me with his cobalt blue suit and deep pink button down shirt.  Every day he has been dressed to the nines, even though it is hot and horribly humid out.  I learned that he recently returned to his community after spending six years abroad in China at University.  He wanted to come back home to teach the children of his town how to excel in life and share his knowledge, yet he still has grand plans of more studies and changing the world.  When I told him what I was doing here, his eyes lit up and he wanted to be a part of it.  This made me feel so much better, as I now had someone I knew could carry on the program once I leave.  I've been giving him more detailed lessons about photography, as I know he will be able to relay the information well to future students.  

One of my teacher students Ntombi and I were standing out under the tree chatting today, and she looked at my shoes and said, "You must give me your shoes, I love them, you must give them to me...!"  I looked at her and smiled, and if they were any other shoes, I would have taken them straight off and passed them over, but they were my espadrilles from CapeTown and were my favorite shoes of all time.  Now, yes, I did feel guilty and selfish in not giving them to her, but I did promise that next time I came I would bring her some.  This pleased her and she said, "When are you coming back?!"  I asked her size, and jotted a mental note to get some espadrilles for Ntombi in a size 7.  Just then Trevor jumped in as well with "And you must bring me my nice camera!"  I looked at him, smiled, and motioned for him to follow me, leading him back to the library.  Reaching into my camera bag, I wasn't planning on leaving my G12 here, but this definitely felt right.  This camera was for Trevor, my gift to him for taking care of my program for me.  "Here, this is from me to you, I hope you enjoy it and learn a lot with it!"  "Ahhh, I will be taking five hundred photos today with this!"  He said, his smile wide and wrapped me in a hug.  He tells me, "The kids, they really love this; they are so motivated to learn and think this is the best! Thank you so much!"  Even though tomorrow will be my last day with Mawewe, I feel that I have at least created inspiration, and that, along with my heart felt hugs, is priceless.  

 

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Sundowners

It's so beautiful, sundowner time.  I pull my chair out in front of my thatched roof home, pour a heap of ice and some white wine into my favorite goblet glass, and just feel the breeze, watch the sun set behind the koppie (hill), and listen to the local music start to sound from the round of staff housing across the way.  Birds swirl above, sprays of chatter and occasional bursts of laughter fill the air, and I sit in complete adoration of where I am in this special place in time.  The sisters have left this afternoon for the lodge above, so I am alone in this place tonight, as I will be for the next week ahead.  I find peace and a good solitude in it, able to sit and write, edit, think, ponder, appreciate... I miss my ladies (and young gents), but I am happy to have this time for my mind to release, and to sit in my own thoughts for awhile.  There are plenty of people surrounding me in this village, about thirty some-odd tiny homes, so I feel very comforted and safe.  

This morning I went along with David Khoza as he took some lodge visitors around Dumphries to show them what Pride & Purpose does in the community.  There were a couple women and their daughters from Brazil as well as an American newlywed couple from New York.  We visited a few schools, played with the kids, and learned a lot about this area, its history, and the people.  The rest of the day I spent in my new home editing photos and catching up.  The following is a little collage of some of my favorite captures from the past week.  I hope you enjoy... And, thanks again for following this journey, it means a lot to know I am writing to friends.  Much love, s.  

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Kids will be kids...

I wasn't expecting to begin the project yesterday, it just naturally happened.  While interacting with them and taking their photos, they all want to see the picture on the back of the camera.  They pose, then run to you and grab at your camera to see.  I showed them that the little arrow is the button you push to see your photo, and instantly had twenty little fingers all over searching for it.  They see their photo, giggle, squeal, and then run back to take more.  I found myself turning to one child, Danelle, and putting the strap around her neck.  I showed her where the button was to take the picture, "Push here" I said, she said "La", which I gather means "here", and within two seconds, she had it down.  She looked at me with wide eyes that she now had control of the camera, smiled, and ran to her friends to take their photos.  This happened with about ten children, then I ran to my bag to pull out my little green camera (which is about 1,000 times less expensive!) and let them pass it around.  The following photos are what they did on their very first day of taking photographs.  It was so fun to see them pose like little models with their friends, I saw their attitudes come out as they tried to put their most serious faces on to look cool.  Turns out, kids are kids, no matter if they live in the big city or in the bush.    

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