31 Oct 2013

Mfuwe Litter Elephant

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Here is an update from Pam Guhrs-Carr about the Litter Elephant project:

Every resident in Mfuwe encounters elephants on a daily or nocturnal basis. They cross the river out of the National Park at night to feed on the vegetation in the GMA and also the villagers’ mangoes or millet crops. There has been a huge human population increase of late. With it has come shops, trade and plastics.

Elephant dung and plastic bags together is not an unusual sight in downtown Mfuwe. Godbish and myself both noticed an increase in the litter on the road between his village and mine.

An elephant sculpture made of recycled materials together with some sort of campaign event seemed an obvious solution to some local sensitization programme.

I made a proposal to the NGOs and lodges in Luangwa and while all of them thought it was a good idea no one came forward with the funding. When I told Claire she supported the idea through the stART Foundation and immediately procured the funds to commission Godbish to make the elephant, and also enough funds to buy the materials – mainly steel bars and wire mesh.

The plan was to include the kids somehow and we decided to let Godbish make the skeleton structure out of steel and we would include the kids to attach the plastics, and allow them some creativity in choice. Although the lodges responded to our request for hard plastics such as broken buckets, it was actually the children who collected the most – they instigated their own collection going around the village garbage heaps and shops for pieces they were to use.

I drew the elephant out on the sand, and Godbish and some of his helpers bent steels.

There are many children here who have benefitted from the Eastern Province branch of the stART Foundation from previous projects (see attached page of the Mfuwe children’s quotes), so there were lots of kids standing by eagerly armed with foraged plastics from villages and shops for more recycling art as soon as they heard the news that the stART Foundation was involved in another project. These kids had such enthusiasm and energy – the workshops were considered a hugest treat form them and worked so hard and consistently.

For the workshops I picked them and their plastics up in my bakkie from the congregation point at Godbish’s village to my Kapani studio area each day. We had three days over the long weekend of Heros and Unity while they were on holiday from school. They have taken a proprietary interest in the elephant and have volunteered after school time to finish the job. They have had some creative ideas (eg the tail made of patta-patta shoes and old bike tyres, the ‘eye sockets’ made from a bottle or light bulb inside a plastic base etc.

These are a core of children who have been involved in the stART Foundation art workshops from the beginning. They work keenly and skillfully. For the elephant Godbish has them organized like a well-formed army. There are little production team groups working in tight synchronicty, then passing things on to the next team, then swapping round. I had very little to do with the whole creation of the elephant. I just helped with the drawing and proportions. It was Godbish’s commission and was much more labour-intensive than either of us had imagined.

A quick note on Godbish: Godwin Bishedi is the local sculptor and has pieces at National airports in Zambia. He is a staunch supporter of stART and has participated in all the stART Foundation workshops so far. He is responsible for identifying a number of the kids who are keen on art and have always come from neighbouring villages to watch him work. He has been a great art teacher to them and works very hard on the extra mural art programmes with the kids organizing them into groups and getting amazing results from them.
His family village and mine are both under Chief Kakumbi.
Godbish is currently working with me on a collaboration of sculptures and wall-hung drawings made out of the heartwood of mopane.