Marie and my task this trip was to teach design and sketch classes to the women of the community in Iganga. The time spent with them blew away my expectations. Each day got better and better as we connected with them more, saw them develop into artists, and then as we gave them gifts to expand their program.
Marie had brought a suitcase full of art supplies, and I had brought a bag full of sewing supplies. It seemed like meager gifts for such extensive need, and quite indulgent, to be honest. I must admit that my initial thoughts sounded something like this....."why would these women who have lost husbands, are sick with HIV, can't afford to feed or school their children, and are barely making it through life even be remotely interested in drawing and sketching fashions?" Our team had graciously helped drag the heavy suitcase through dirt roads and on and off crowded buses, but we found out later that they had secretly been cursing it the whole time. Ha!
We started our first day talking to the 20ish women about how important it is for us to be creative. Then we showed them current fashions from around the world. This lead to where we find inspiration...in nature and works of fine art. We had them choose artwork they were inspired by and colors they loved. They went around and shared why they had chosen what they had, and how they could translate some of the ideas into garments. At that point, we were excited that they had been open to our sharing of new things with them, but had no idea how interested they'd be in the whole class.
The next day Marie, pure genius, handed out tracing paper and line drawings of different clothes...skirts, sleeves, pants, dress shapes, etc. Then, step by step, we showed them how to draw freehand and make sketches of the clothing they wanted. It was amazing how consumed they were by it. Several of the older women don't know how to write and had never used a pencil, but here they were quietly drawing in their sketch books and going farther and farther...adding color, attempting faces and hands. We were simply blown away.
Marie had to leave soon after, but I went back 2 more days. One day was spent shopping with Pastor Sarah for the 4 machines we donated to their program, and the fabric, scissors, and other supplies they would use as well. Then the next day, i went to their class, where Sarah implemented what we had taought the previous week, saying, "You are the designers of this community now. It is your responsibility to design and the first project will be designing the uniforms for the children of the orphanage." She walked them through it and they all took about 2 hours to draw their own ideas for the dresses. They came together, had a group discussion about what would be most practical, cost effective, etc, and chose a design to start making. This will hopefully be a way to make some money to put back into the program. Next year we will return to see all the children wearing the designs these women have chosen and then made!
Some of the women had pages full of drawings they had done in the 4 days since our classes. They were thankful to have something to think about and a way to use their brains besides digging and cooking. So encouraging!! I feel like I could go on and on about what those days were full with, but i will stop here with just a taste. The suitcase went back to New York just as heavy as it came, but it is now full of african fabric for Marie and I to design with ourselves. We have lots of plans for how to help these and other women of other communities. It will be alot of work, but so satisfying!
Published by Tara