seeing a dream come alive: Mwanzart Studio

30 03 2013

The road God takes us down is so often a really interesting journey!  Often dreams can be so deeply buried that it can only be the Creator’s touch to find those dreams and to breath life into them.

One such dream is my interest in art.  I always admired art growing up, but was never really good at it and so never put effort into it while in school, and then after that there was never time or money to give to such pursuits.  Until I met Deon.  After I was able to stop teaching I had time to explore some longings of the heart and art was one such dream.  I could join some art classes and learned a great deal from Gerda at Weltevreden farm (Klay and Co). Being part of a class in such a creative environment and trying to suck up as much knowledge as I could filled my heart with gladness. 

But then we started traveling.  Mbale in Uganda is not a place to find a new art teacher, and although I made an effort to get something going, I could never get into an art community there. While in Hoedspruit I had the chance to continue lessons with Anne on Raptor’s View, and these encouraged me to try new media and to attempt new styles. 

When we saw our new house in Bwiru, Mwanza, I got excited: there is a perfect space for a studio as part of the house, and I knew I had to do something about it.

So all of this year I have been getting equipment made, traveling as far as I can and investigating all options near and far to get materials( there are no artists’ quality materials here, and we learn how to work with what we have, but then also send in a few items with any willing body travelling from a place where art supplies are available.)

Within the last 2 weeks we have finally started real classes with real bodies, getting going and being creative. Wow! What a blessing!

Mwanzart kids

There is a great abundance of things to inspire art here, but there are not many opportunities for western styles of fine art to be learned, especially by adults.  I have a kids craft group, a group for intermediate children and a group of ladies, each class once a week.

It is so special to be part of a person’s journey in discovering skills, seeing beauty unfold and delving into the self.   The benefit for me is that I struggle to do any activity alone: I love classes, community, working together; and this encourages me to be disciplined in preparing for classes and to do my own art too.

It is a wonder to me to know that God cares about our dreams and longs to see them fulfilled, if we entrust our lives and plans to Him.  He has also amazed me in seeing how He adds new abilities and talents where we are willing to be faithful to Him.

So now I get to be a part of people’s journeys, seeing awesome growth along the way and the most exiting creativity and skill, especially from the young ones coming into the class.  Seeing smiley faces, pigment-smeared fingers and a gladness to be creative… what a rush!


an incomprehensible request

18 03 2013

We are beginning to get used to things we simply do not understand.  When we first went to Uganda we worked out that in every situation there would be at least one thing that simply made no sense. Figure out what that thing is, laugh about it, and we could somehow cope.

That philosophy has changed slightly now in Tanzania. Presently we try to find one thing that DOES make sense…

Last week Deon received a very odd request.  We are rather used to saying no to all the appeals that are made to us: lighter skin generally means you are seen as a ‘purse” in these parts. pigment purses

We had a new one last week:

Deon had been in to a vodacom shop to get some money (through M-pesa, a great way of getting money from the company). We do this every few days, and he thought nothing of this visit.

Later that evening, Deon received this sms:

“Good evening Dad how a’r you doing my name is Anitha I would like to join with u’r family.the first day I saw you in M-pesa shop and I was the one working in. but sorry my english is not good at all.” (sic)

There were three or four nightly messages after that, the most peculiar being “yummy night my parent’s with God blesing!”

How does one compute all this? There was laughter, disbelief, my obvious derision at weak English. 

Our first thought was of a rather regular trend of local people seeking a pale-male husband with wealth to share.  Yes, looking for a sugar daddy, as the first message seems to suggest. 

As I had not been into the shop with Deon, I sent back a message indicating that I am Deon’s wife, he does not need a second wife, and that we are not in the market for extra adult members of our family. 

Obviously this did not work as we received further messages wishing us ‘yummy nights’ and other good night wishes. We followed on with ignoring messages and a flat out “go away” from Deon.

I am not sure exactly what the correct response to such requests is.  I know in this case we did not feel like a complete stranger from a city across the country from where we live would be a great addition to our family.  I have considered adoption of a child, but an adult at work was not ever on the list of prospective adoptees. 

We laughed about it for a while, were a little frustrated at the attitude we see so often here… and surely taking a customer’s number to seek your own benefit is a form of harassment? We are sure she did not want to be in our family so that she could make us cake for our birthdays…

Consider for a few moments how you would have handled this matter.  I wonder if just one of you would have phoned that girl right back and said, “Hey!  Yes!  We were looking for another adult family member! In fact, bring the whole bunch of you over! Come over right away, I am longing to meet you!”


And yet, this is the exact situation we are offered with a Father far above any earthly Father’s limitations. 

Where our natural inclination is to laugh at the ridiculous request we received, the spiritual invitation is to make the exact request.

John 1:12 promises “To all who believed Him and accepted Him He gave the RIGHT to be called children of God.”  (NLT)

If Anitha were to go around signing herself as Deon’s daughter, we would be most upset.  But we have a RIGHT (btw, the only RIGHT the Bible speaks of!) to go around name-dropping.  “My Daddy says…”  “My Father is…”  How amazing is that?

What an unimaginable concept in the natural world, yet we may call him any affectionate name we can think of. “Abba” was a warm name for a father, speaking of intimacy and a close bond, in the time of the new testament.  We may use “baba”, “pops”, “dad” to come close  to our heavenly Father. (Romans 8:15, 16 speaks of a spirit of adoption, so that we can call out to Him, with love, in a relationship with Him.)

1 John 3:1 says:  What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it—we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are. (The Message)

Wow.  How very unlike this  western world’s standards.  I can send the request: Good evening,  Dad, Father God.  how a’r you doing?  (Jesus would have encouraged a “hallowed be Your name, perhaps?) my name is ___ (fill in the blank)  I would like to join with u’r family. (I have heard the benefits are out of this world…) 

And then just chat.  Tell Him why you would like to be in His family.  All you need to do is believe it, speak it out and then go share about your decision with all  the brothers and sisters out there.

With all the firm trust seen in Anitha’s first text message, and the complete reliance of a child, we are guaranteed of a Father’s love and care if we reach out to Him, to aks Him for His father heart to be shown to us.

Galatians 4: 6 Because you are God’s children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into us to call out, “Abba! Father!”

Go read a bit more in Galatians 4 about this tremendous privilege.

What, in our natural world seems unfathomable is oh-so-ordinary in God’s kingdom.

Now Deon and I  just need to  work out how not have have 76 347 adult Tanzanian children…


look-worthy; both on the big scale and the small

16 03 2013

Deon had a business trip to Longido area planned and because we missed each other far too much when he did the last trip alone, I went along.  As is usual, the acronym RFA applies in Tanzania: we had to be ready for anything: to change date of return from four days to a week, to move backwards-forwards-to-fro several times at short notice, to stay in some rather basic accommodation and to each day, after driving on the roads, be immensely grateful to still be alive.   (Driving on Tanzanian roads is very very good for saying prayers and a life of faith.)

We both really love the environment around Longido.  The terrain is a lot like the wooded bushveld we feel at home in in SA.  There is not much development in the area, only Maasai settlements sparsely spread across several miles.  I have an idea that there are some dreadful differences in wishes for rain: the Maasai long for rain to fall to provide grazing for their herds, and the geologists are dreading the impending falls as this means they cannot access the area they need (through a very muddy river bed) or work out in the field at a critical time of investigation. 

The scorched earth dried up within moments of any rains that fell while we were there, but this is not yet the onset of rainy season!

Sculpted acacia trees oversee all the movement across the brown swathes of  dry earth below them.  From the destructive masses of domesticated hooves of goats and cattle, to the  less invasive wild feet of genurek, dikdik and zebra that pass below, the acacias infuse the atmosphere with dignity, determined endurance and beauty.

Rocky koppies (little hills) dot the horizon and some ridges pass lines across what is obviously the same kind of terrain as the Serengeti.  One passes through similar plains on the road from Arusha to Longido, and the mustard-scrubby brush dotted with thorny bushes is similar in both places.

Those not willing to pay the silly-exorbitant fees charged by the authorities to get into Serengeti can enjoy some of the blessings of the wilds here. One does not see the great numbers of wild one sees in Serengeti, but we were not disappointed by the large numbers of giraffe we saw the one day in particular.

We saw zebra, impala, dikdik (left above) and some other kinds of antelope.  I was longing to see the elephant that had been spotted on the site just the day before, but they had moved further on their migration.  It was such a lovely sight to see my first Lesser Kudu, the fine dude on the right above. We are familiar with the greater kudu, rather common in many SA parks. This is the shy cousin and is not keen to be seen at all. The markings are more marked and the horns smaller than its bulkier Greater Kudu cousins.  This sighting was a special privilege!

While Deon was out digging holes for surveys and ensuring that line cutting was being done correctly, I took time to note the small things.

Colours composed as only the Master Artist can arrange, with designs so carefully crafted just a single look is never enough.

A range of textures that Intelligent Design is far too inferior a term for description.

Homes that some find so welcoming yet I would never want to vist at all!

IT was always with a twinge of regret we made our way back to town,at the base of Longido Mountain, at the end of each day.

There was some business to take care of in Arusha town too. The delight of some treats we cannot get very easily in Mwanza (raspberries, biltong, fresh roses, good coffee…) and the lush prettiness of the city made dealing with the crowds and horrible traffic bearable.  The lodge we stay at there has a lovely pool too, which makes Deon smile! 

And then back to Longido.

Donkeys, Cheerful greetings from children, different birds to the usual,  gorgeous sunsets with mountain backgrounds…

And another trip to Maasailand comes to a close. 

We realise again and again how privileged we are to see such amazing places, to experience the things we get to live through and even to grow through some interesting challenges in dealing with people we see every day.

launching: a barge called marge

2 03 2013

The last few weeks have been rather busy. Deon was away, we have been working hard on getting the art studio going and everyday life here in Mwanza takes a lot more effort than living in a developed-world city. 

This week we have rejoiced when we have had electricity. A friend posted an article from Holland as the population is complaining that electricity outages increased from 23 minutes to 27 minutes for the whole of last year.  That would be delightful!  Our ‘suburb’ has had power out far longer than it was on for this week. I got excited when the power came on at about 6 this evening, but it has just gone out now again, about 1 1/2 hours later. The average has been power on for a short while between 6 and 8 in the morning, and then power off for the rest of the day, with a welcomed showing some time in the night again.  Of course, we learn to adjust. Up till now the situation was better than in Uganda so we do not have a generator.  That is being strongly reconsidered this week!  We run like crazy things to run the washing machine when there is power (friends talk of running the machine at midnight!). There is a bustle to get laptops and phones charged when we hear a humm of current through the house. We try not to open fridges when the power has been off for several hours, to keep the cold in.  And then when there has been a Tanesco reprieve for a few hours, we open the fridge doors and stare in wonder at the joy of a shining light!     TIA.

IT has been warm and sunny without a single rain shower in about 2 weeks.  This calls for serious pool parties!  What fun!

The pool water is swimmable throughout the year and there are a number of pools around town.  We need to find the cheapest, cleanest and most private one, and we think the Mwanza Sports Club offers a good place to swim. 

The biggest joy was getting Deon’s pet hobby launched yesterday. When Deon lived in Mwanza about 7 years ago he shared a boat with a friend.

We found the boat again, in need of much repair. After several months of deliberating, and then about 6 weeks of concerted effort from numerous hands, this boat hit the waves again yesterday!

She has been renamed  “Marge” (can you figure out why?), now has a roof for sun protection, and we are sharing her with a great family we have met here in town.

So, from the original removal of rotten planks, completely replacing some of the wood and floorboards, through to sealing her all over again and many visits to check on her progress… with lots of Deon’s own hard work put into her, especially getting her roof on and balanced well… it was a totally happy man who arrived at the unofficial launching yesterday.

About a month ago:

And the final product:

Then it was the struggle to get her onto the lake. It was clearly a situation of all hands on deck.

Bit by bit planks were laid in the path before her and she was pushed and pulled, tugged and shoved, to get her to the 35 meters from dry land to her new territory.

And then she was at the water’s edge!


And she was in!  All the workers who had been a part of building, painting, working on her for all these weeks, and now pushing her to the edge climbed in to their pride.

Engine was brought and fitted:

And then before we knew it:

She was full of bodies and was chugging away.

And the proud new owners stood watching from the shore in sheer disbelief!

Well, they did return, Deon assumed a positioned he has longed for in all the time I have known him.

Riding in HIS boat, on wide open waters, with all the freedom and fulfillment Deon finds in this.

We look forward to hosting friends and family to discover Lake Victoria with us. There is so much to learn around this beautiful part of God’s world, and Marge gives us a great opportunity to get out and see it all.

I just love seeing my man’s face with this kind of smile… winner!