Kenya, Sanaa Project: The mural begins!

We have started the mural!!

The entire front surface of the New Dawn Education Center, about 80 x 20 feet had been cleaned and primed by a local Huruma painter by the time we arrived at the school Tuesday afternoon. We spent that afternoon talking to the students, form by form. Headmaster Ben brought us to each classroom, introducing Darcy by her new Swahili name, Tausi, which means peacock, is much easier to pronounce, and never fails to rouse giggles from the students. We explained why we were here to those students who did not already know, and told them we hoped they would feel free to approach us with any questions about art, or if any of them were particularly curious about or interested in our project. They applauded and cheered and called out “Sanaaaaa” for Darcy’s camera. Before leaving that day, we handed out 160 Sanaa Project t-shirts, one to each student, so that they could all – even those who had not chosen to participate in the art club or mural painting – be a part of our project.

The next day, Wednesday, we arrived around 3:30, an hour before the students are finished with classes, to start taping up the outline of our design. The students peered through the windows of their classrooms. Some were wearing their Sanaa t-shirts, prepared to start painting. Some held up recent drawings they had done for us to see, or came to discuss their ideas for the mural. We had decided to start with large blocks of bright colors — an abstract interpretation of a sunrise, with a lot of orange, New Dawn’s school color. This, we hoped, would be a simple way to start the process and would give the building a cheerful but clean look right from the start. From there we hope to incorporate the students’ individual ideas and skills: Harriet loves to paint flowers, so perhaps she will add vines and flowers to the columns. Isaak does good lettering, so he can be the one to write the words “New Dawn Education Center” along the second story. Daniel’s eagle was so impressive, maybe he would like to do a silhouette of a bird over the orange sun. But that afternoon, we started slow. The students painted with great care, up and down, up and down, making sure the colors reached into every corner, along every windowpane. The colors were so vibrant that, although we only had one hour to work and the front was only half-way colored in by 5:30, the building was transformed already.

Before heading home, we stood at the bottom of the stairs leading to the school building’s main entrance and visualized the final product. I had been nervous about starting, but excited, after all this time, to get the colors up and see the students involved. We have come to realize how they value the building and the time they are given there. They put on their mustard-yellow uniform sweaters every day and walk, some from miles away, taking care to look neat, keep their notes in order, perfect their handwriting. School is not a chore to them but a privilege, and we hope that the respect and love they show for the building can be expressed through their mural.

Alexa

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