Monday, September 8, 2008


The following is a glimpse of what it’s like in Kibakwe right now: it’s the midst of the dry season and mosquitoes (and Malaria) have returned, but it hasn’t rained yet, it’s starting to get warmer – 80s daytime, 70s night, people are starting to clean their farms and burn agricultural waste from last season, fierce winds in the afternoons and lots of dust, and everybody’s hoping that we’ll have more rain this year than last. Our biggest challenge in Kibakwe right now is that of water. We are trying to have the intake at the water source up the mountain, rebuilt and enlarged so that we will be able to get water every day of the year without interruption. Right now in Kibakwe is the time of year when the water supply gets cut regularly. Early on it only gets cut for a day and comes back at night, but as we get closer to the rainy season the supply can be cut for up to three or four weeks without a drop. And just because it’s called the rainy season, it doesn’t mean we get rain every day. We recently hiked up the mountain to get pictures of the intake and the supply line in order to inform whichever engineers we choose to do the project. We’re hoping to work with an American in Dodoma that we recently met if his busy schedule will allow. The condition of the intake and the supply line is a little disappointing. There are several leaks in the line, some have been repaired with plastic bags and some are just gushing water into the woods. The intake itself is just a 4’ x 4’ concrete box with the supply line and a cheese grater filter in it. This is what supplies all of Kibakwe with its water. In other news, I’ve recently started going to watch an old woodcarver named Kumwemwetea. I’ve known him for about a year, but only recently have we begun to develop a friendship. A couple of months ago we asked him to carve a few things for us and when he brought them by we started talking about art and carving and if he’d mind if I came to his house to watch him work. Well, he loved the idea and I recently went over there to watch him work. He uses a traditional adze called a tezo in Swahili to rough out the shape, then chisels made from long bicycle bolts, and he finishes with a small curved knife. Finishing consists of sanding and finally coating the wood with hair grease – essentially Vaseline. It was great to watch the old timer work and hang out talking with him about why the Tanzanian youth have no interest in learning this skill. Talking with Kumwemwetea, I realized that he really enjoys doing this. It’s not just about selling it. I found myself thinking, “He reminds me of most other sculptors I know: he’s totally down to earth and unpretentious, he’s telling the kids to shut up and sit still, and he’s working with a cigarette dangling from his mouth.” At that point I realized I wanted to learn about woodcarving from this guy. We’re planning on going up the mountain to cut wood when I get back from traveling and I’d like to get some traditional carving tools made for myself. It’s been so long since I’ve done any sculpture, I think it’ll do me good to start carving with Kumwemwetea on a regular basis. I know I have my creative outlet with the drawing club at the school, but my need for working in 3D is pretty strong. My sculptor friends out there will understand when I say that there’s just something about the transformative aspect of sculpting: of starting with one object that you can hold in your hand like a lump of clay or a piece of wood and then turning it into another, better, more actualized object that you can hold.

The Pictures above are of our water source, a two-hour hike up the mountain from Kibakwe. As you can see the intake is a small square cistern with a pipe attached to it (see photo at left). Pictured with Carla are our counterparts, Madinda and Mama Cocu.

To the right and below are photos Kumwemwetea carving and his finished work. Below right is a picture of him sharpening his knife on a stone he carried from the mountain.

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