We did this mural on the back of the lecture hall at Tana Haik High School. I wanted to honor this amazing ficus tree in the yard. It must have had a 10 foot diameter, and limbs that twisted to cover the whole yard. (You can see it to the left of the building.)
We needed scaffolding, so the carpenter brought wood by donkey and built it on-site.
The kids were asked to each paint a branch as though it had been wrapped with a traditional textile.
One of the kids took me to the market for plastic buckets for paint water. When I figured out I spent 3 or 4 times what I should have, I asked him to please not tell anyone because I was embarrassed. He told me he had no idea how much this stuff costs; his mom does the shopping. That seemed so funny to me at the time. I guess because he was such a smart, cool kid, I didn’t occur to me that he wouldn’t know how much housewife stuff cost.
The first day we painted, there was water from an outdoor spigot that we used. After that, there was no water available. This was another thing I hadn’t thought of. Not so bad, we just used bottled water. Sparingly.
Four Ethiopian artists, two of whom I’ve kept in touch with- Fitsum, second from the left, and Henoch on the right, worked on the mural between teaching art workshops to the kids. We had breakfast and lunch together everyday. After several days, I was feeling like we never got much done because we spent so much time eating together. For breakfast each day, it took an hour to collect everyone from where we were all staying so we could eat together. One day, Fitsum felt sick, so he came to the school late. So, Henoch then left with him so they could go get breakfast together. But he had just had breakfast with the rest of us already. What? I had to ask.
There is an Ethiopian saying, Fitsum said, “Eat alone, die alone.”
Got it. It started to sink in; relationships are more important than work. I relaxed into it. Ethiopia already felt very comfortable to me; I stayed with family and friends who were unbelievably kind and generous, friends were polite in a way that reminded me of my time in Japan, and people were laid-back and crazy-resourceful. Beautiful people, beautiful terrain, delicious food, so much color.
Below is a picture of us having lunch. I had gotten cocky. I had a SALAD. I needed some fresh food; I was wary, so I bathed it in lime juice and vinegar. …Maybe it was this salad. Maybe it was the mango smoothies. But that’s when I got sick (for the next three months.)
No problem. I have better immunity now for when I get back.
So, I missed a day or two to hang out on the toilet; as a result, some of the students seemed to have forgotten design rules I had established (relax into it, right?) So, overall it was a fantastic experience and the kids were proud of we had accomplished. When we first started, the principal couldn’t understand the project and didn’t seem to have too much faith in our idea. That seemed kind of funny to me, as there are educational murals all over the exterior walls of the schools. In the end though, he loved it, and expressed regret that he had relegated us to the back of a building. Hysterical. He says we should come back and do another one where everyone can see it.