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...


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


Mawewe & the Teachers

Mawewe high school is where I decided to hold my photography classes.  The kids there are old enough to grasp not only the technical side of the camera, but the ideas behind things like composition and story-telling.  Every day this week, I meet David at 8:30 a.m. and he brings me to the gate where I transfer to a car on the other side and drive through the washed out dirt roads at four miles an hour.  It takes about twenty minutes to arrive at the high school, the roads get a little better the farther along we go.  As we ride, my driver tells me in an irritated voice, "Ishhh, we need TAroads he'a.  Takes for evah to get thru."  I say, "TAroads?  What is that..?" He points to the road, "TA roads.."  and I get it, "Ahh, 'tar roads', yes, the roads are so bad here!"  "Weeei" he says in agreement.  

When we arrive, I am met by Mr. Sibuyi, a tall, handsome gentleman who runs the schools here in Dumphries.  "Afsheein, how are you?  I am Steve" he says with a beaming smile as he shakes my hand.  We walk into the library, which was donated by Pride n' Purpose, and he tells me the other teachers will be here soon.  David and I had decided the day earlier that it would be a great idea to not only teach the kids, but also teach the teachers so that they had tools to continue the program once I was gone.  (Why hadn't I thought of this before?)  I was a bit nervous, knowing that I would be the center of attention soon, and would have to know what the hell I was talking about. I didn't have much time to prepare materials, as it was a last minute change, so I was really just winging it.  Ten teachers filtered in over the next fifteen minutes, every one of them with eyes glued on me, waiting to see what I had to teach them.  

It was sweet, and surprising how much I realized they did not know about technology.  On the drive back later that afternoon, David explained to me, "For their whole lives, black people were told that if we touched something important, it would break.  It is engrained deep, they are still afraid of technology and haven't had any exposure to it."  It all made sense now why they looked at the cameras like space ships, holding them very lightly as if to say to an invisible presence "See, I am not really holding it, so don't worry, it will not break!".  

I showed them how to turn the cameras on, and walked around the table helping them find the 'on/off' buttons.  I watched as their eyes lit up with accomplishment when they saw the screen illuminate.  They murmured to each other in Shangaan, and I saw a few giggles from the women as they watched the 'live view' image appear.  Next was teaching how to hold a camera.  I held their hands in mine and placed our hands on the camera together with a firm grip, index finger on the shutter button.  I could feel the resistance against mine, as they still wanted to hold it so delicately.  To make a point, I said, "You must hold it firm with both hands so that if one hand lets go, the other is still holding it steady." "Otherwise," and I knew I had the strap around my wrist but they did not notice it, "if you let go with one hand, (I yanked one hand away so that the camera fell)...it'll DROP!"  All ten of them jumped as they watched the camera fly out of my hands towards the floor. The strap caught it, and they all sighed relief, smiling at me.  They got my point.  They took some photos playfully, then asked "So, how do I see the photograph I just took?"  I drew a picture of an arrow with a box around it and asked them all to find it on their cameras, and so it continued... After the teacher class, Steve found me three wide-eyed students. Dressed in their school's blue and white uniform, they walked shyly into the room and introduced themselves, and from the very first look, I knew this was going to be great!

I love this first shot, they look so intimidating and serious!  Makes me laugh!!  And, by the way, these are all shots that my lovely teachers took on their first day.  Sheesh, I love them!