Kenya, Sanaa Project: Sanaa 101

Today we were up early and on our way to Huruma by 8:30 for our first meeting with the New Dawn Education Center headmaster, Ben Khalonyere. We presented him with our plans to implement an “arts club” for interested students, teach them some color theory and technique, create individual works with them all during the first week, and paint a mural on the face of the school itself during our remaining time. Ben told us that their school had never started an official arts program as part of their curriculum, not due to lack of interest but because arts teachers were expensive and hard to come by. He seemed thrilled by our eagerness to help and excited to share our plans with the students. We scheduled our first art club meeting for 4:30 that afternoon in the church nearby and left him to go explore the village until then.

 

We met with Pastor Sammy at 4:00 to set up for the 25 students Ben had promised to recruit and send our way. The church is made of tin with wooden shuttered windows, rows of plastic chairs and three large wooden tables. We rearranged the furniture and set up paints, pencils, brushes and water on each table. We also had a series of images – a few books on various artists/movements and two-dozen postcards of MoMA masterpieces – to be laid out for inspiration. As soon as the students arrived they began studying the works by famous artists: Matisse, Gaugin, Van Gogh, de Chirico, Kirchner, and Mirò, among others. They passed them around and traded before beginning to directly copy the images they finally settled on. We tried to encourage them to create original paintings and suggested that they just use the postcards for inspiration but quickly began to see how they added their own spin and style to the famous paintings, making each work completely their own. A Rothko was given a floral boarder, a Modigliani woman was painted in a colorful patterned dress, and a de Chirico piazza painted in bright yellows, pinks and purples.

 

We taught them about mixing colors and Darcy circled the room with a palette of baby-blues and oranges to share. Not one of them was willing to settle and paint a dark swatch of a Mirò generic forest green, or leave a slightly tan square of a Rothko white. Some students finished faster and were eager to start a second painting. Others flipped through the books and asked questions about various artists or works. One of our students was a young man named Daniel, a recent graduate of the New Dawn Education Center who dreamt of becoming an artist and came to practice, sitting peacefully in the back row with a pencil, sketching Cezanne figures silently and with great precision. But for everyone it seemed, above all else, to be a fun, relaxing hour of peace and quiet.

 

At the end of the hour, the students reluctantly put down their brushes and pencils and handed over their unfinished works only after we promised we would return at the same time tomorrow to keep painting!

 

Check back soon for pictures!

 

– Alexa

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