Saturday, November 15, 2014

Oasis Game, Warriors of the Heart

Last post has been ages ago. In between we moved house and our daily routine collapsed.
That's fine with me. I did some sketching but had no ways to be online, which was not bad at all. I'll post them later.

Last week a youth organization from Chitungwiza organized a game. It is called the Oasis Game, and it aims at engaging communities to make changes that matter, with the resources they have.
In contexts were people expect the government or NGOs or donors or the prince charming, or a psy to solve one's problem, the game brings people to speak about their dreams, and challenge them to make them come alive.
Chitungwiza is a populated town on the outskird of Harare. Probably the second most populated city in the country. Not really a residential town, a bit like Joburg's Soweto or Alexandra. People dream of water, playgrounds for kids, less potholes, refuse collection, electricity... Nothing fancy. Most of things we consider as a right, then hold someone else responsible for it. When that body is not fulfilling its responsability then what? You can wait, you can be frustrated and angry, or you can make changes happening at your level.
The game was held and facilitated by the youth from the leadership program of Kufunda, coached by four south african Warriors of the heart (Kufunda's website / or the Warrior of the heart website  here). The Oasis game last for a long time, in this case it was shrinked to a week, so that the facilitators can listen to dreams, harvest them and build moments of celebration and action.
I had the opportunity to "crash" the game in the middle, last tuesday.
I invited a friend from Mozambique who heads an NGO focusing on community-empowerment and who asked me to help him designing a new project on youth participation. So instead of doing the job, I thought that it could be good for him to see alternative ways of working, based on participation, collective leadership and focusing on positive change.
We accompanied the facilitators during the day. As a white man in an environment where stereotypes are strong, I kinda thought sketching was the perfect way to pay attention and do something that is not expected of me. Perfect.
This is the short story of the day. 

From early morning, the team worked on harvesting the infos gathered during the last days. They build a tree whose leaves were dreams of the people, and made lists of citizen with talents: a gogo who can sew, a young slam poet, a group playing marimbas, schoolkids that can dance on the latest zim dancehall tunes and many others. 
From there, they organized a gathering, to promote talents and share the dreams.

No one ca have a party without guests. 
So, back to the community, talking to people, telling them, "hey, at two today we are inviting you to come for a talent show, how cool is that?"
They were all speaking Shona, words I do not understand, so they might have said something different or better, but I don't have any clues about that.
They just went to the people, spend the time needed to have a chat, and send invites. They dodged conflictual confrontations (if you pronounce the word change here, people think that you talk politics and are from the opposition. And people remember that it is not always a good thing to be associated with that), frustrated young men, drunks, people frustrated and asking for things to come. My two yellow leaders were doing well. Here they are at the market, chatting to a nail and screw seller. The guy in red came from another conversation. He was angry. Graduated but no jobs. 

After a couple of hours in the blaring sun talking to people, it's back to the meeting point, making a hell of a noise and cheering. the three ladies above were walking holding each other in front of me, was kinda difficult to sketch and walk, but they were really beautifull and to me summarized the spirit of the day.
Then the show started. As often, the first curious heads are the kids, so a kid dance was launched. Two steps to the right two to the left, turn and clap.
Lots of fun, more noise, and more people coming.


When the tent put for the shade was overflowing, four kufundis stepped up on stage. There was no real stage... but, as my 4 year old says, it is a pretend-stage. I got to be backstage (whichin a no-stage situation is an bit of a snag).
They started to sing something that must have been a welcoming song.
They definitly did not sing any fuck you bitch or You're beautifull type of tunes, people were not twerking neither, the public was happy, laughing and clapping, which is a good sign.
Positive vibes.  

From there, many young people came and showed their talents.
It was Chitungwiza got talent, without any judges - probably because there is no starbuck coffee or fresh diet zero coke available here, so why bother with a judge if not to display an add? Maybe next time we'll ask Chicken Inn (100% zim taste we luv), Irvine (feeding my family for the last 30 years) or Econet (You don't need a friend you need a buddy) and Chitungwiza got talent will have 4 judges eating chicken and waiting endlessly for their call go through the busy network.

It was cool.
But then I had to leave, to attend a meeting I ended up missing, so I went for pizza that took an hour and a half to get and got to chat with an art student who was also waiting for an hour and a half and who never saw a sketchbook.
When I got my hawaian pizza (a kids favourite) and got home, the children were Shrekked out and ate like donkey. I took a bath and coloured the sketches.
Cool day, cool people.
Thanks Aurther, Richard, Irvine and therest of the Kafundis for the day and having me with you.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Shoko's sketching marathon.

Shoko Festival, once a year and very different from the other festivals in Zimbabwe. This one focuses on words, weather slam jams, hip hop, conferences and workshops pushing for alternative ways of living (upcycling etc.), comedy night, street art etc. Good. 
What was a bit unfortunate was that the festival happened the same WE as 4 other events, and the public was much less than expected. 
But hey, got an entry as an artist so I was happy. The initial discussion, literally 2 weeks ago happened this way: 
"hey, do you also do some form of art at Shoko?"
"Yes, we'll write and spray paint on a wall in Chitungwiza".
" Would you be interested in having something during the festival?"
" Yes, cool."
" Can I just, euh, do some quick sketches of people?"
" ... that when added make another picture?"
" Sounds cool". 
Then I received my badge as an artist in the festival. A first. Been a VIP, been a backstage banded guy, even managed a press band once, but this is a first as an artist. coolio. 
So, I found a piece of wood that could fit in my car (2.2*1.2 m),  build my stencils, sprayed my background, wrote my words and painted the face.

Then I took my Black & Decker (c) jigsaw - a tool most useful to make small stuffs, such as shields and swords for the kids, or cut bamboo.
Armed with the saw, I cut the board in 36 +/- equal pieces. It was bloody. The board did not like it. Not one little bit. It eventually gave some characters.
With my boards, looking like Moses coming down his mountain with the tables, I headed towards Shoko.
Then I had to start socializing and asking people I did not know if I could take 5 minutes of their time to quickly draw their faces.
I was rather surprized not facing more refusals. People wer generally happy about it, bringing mates and taking pictures. I had a great day, I met a whole bunch of people, drummers, poets, artisans, beer artists, passionates, travellers, and even Miss Zimbabwe.

Here are the 36 portraits, made with uni-posca on each boards.
Straight paint on paint, no erasing, and no shading + colourfull background... It was tricky and definitively a first for me.
I also learned that the Montana pink is getting powdery when dry and cloak up paint markers.
Sometimes I felt like I nailed my model in only one sets of lines and colours, and some other times I had to use different colours, just to be able to see something.
It also did happen that I just could not get it right enough.
Obviousely because the person was moving, talking, asking questions, chatting to his/her friend, etc. I have to blame the world.

I really had a good day.

Oh and I also got sketched, last line fourth from the left. hat and glasses, surrounded by two charming ladies, that's me by Option.

Slowly during the day I re-assembled them.
To resume, I had a piece of wood, gave it some shades and colours, wrote words of infinite wisdom, sprayed a face on it. Then I washappy. So I chopped the whole thing and used each board to draw a quick face of 36 strangers. I likedthe changes, the dynamism of the work and the different speeds, states of mind and energy needed to work on it.  
Now I have no idea what to do with my 36 plaquettes. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Criminal, guilty of sketching, said the police.

Maputo, great city, great people.
Just one major glitch -apart from the traffic jams and go-slows- one can be arrested for sketching crime (banged up abroad with 50gr of watercolours, for immoral behaviour).
I was in Maputo for a job last week and, jumping on the opportunity that my last meeting for the day had been cancelled, I decided to draw one of the landmark of the Mozambican capital.
A modern-style church made like an origami. Very interesting thing.
I checked the place around, made sure that I was not getting in the way of passers-by, nor facing any governmental buildings and started my lines, ink and watercolours.
I was just doing my thing, in the afternoon, just chilled.

There stopped a black and white single cab full of cinzentos, the beloved police in charge of order and security.
Four conflict-resolution experts jumped off, and the car went. Tightly holding their AKs in an unobtrusive and comfortable way, nozzles facing me, they came to give me the comfort a lonely man need and surrounded me.
I was so happy to meet art-loving policemen, and- who knows- possible fellow sketchers!
Damn I was so wrong.
"Papers!", "Where is your authorization? ", "what you do is illegal!", "What are you doing here?", "You have to come to the esquadra for a fine", "It is going to be very expensive", "you are going to prison", "Don't you know you cannot take picture and make movies here?",  "It is illegal!", "Do you plan to put a bomb!",
bla bla bla. The bomb thing was way over the top. Never heard anybody saying I sketch so I bomb. Unless they mean photo bomb or spray cans. But the police officer was not open to semantics. 

They just wanted to chat and ask questions, talking shit, making you feel shit and unease, and playing the bully. They sure know how to do it.
So, I kept on sketching, told them that it was my hobby and the conversation went around these lines:
- No-one needs a despacho to do their hobby 
-you don't need an authorization for drinking beer in a bar, not even from your wife
and that my drawings were surely not good enough to cause any harm, etc.  Just the usual chit-chat, testing limits and trying your luck.
It took a good half an hour to have them off me and get the "authorization" to finish the sketch. We exchanged numbers, promised to go and visit each-others and hugged.
It is easy to lose your temper in such situation. Then they win. Keep calm and treat police with the most unnatural respect, whether a US immigration officer, a French gendarme or a Mozambican cinzento, they all play the same game, the same way, with different tools.
They need to feel that you are afraid, that they are right. After all, it's their job to respond to extra-ordinary behaviours as a sure threat, because people acting different are, indeed, trouble makers. So if you look different, contest rules, disagree, stop when people walk, draw in the street, or whatever... if you are outside the ideal mould, you will meet men in uniforms more than once. And you’ll have amazing philosophical discussion in ethology and social behaviours. Generally police officers around here are always ready to talk and understand your perspective. It does not happen that way everywhere.

To be fair, I have to admit that I knew there are warnings in taking pictures in Mozambique. One cannot take a picture or movie of a strategic public buildings (police stations, army barracks, airports, ministries, etc.). But the extend of "strategic building" is up to interpretation. And so, it seems, the interpretation of a picture/ movie.  A friend of mine had a similar nonsense taking a picture of a monument celebrating the freedom fighters (

That's the story of how I escaped years in prison and absolute impoverishment to finish the sketch of Polana’s church. Good that I escaped prison, it's never nice to have a criminal record whilst hunting for work. 
Had I known, I would have chosen a subject a bit more flamboyant and controversial than a church… something really revolutionary, illegal or socially involved. 
Anyway, apart from that police incident (and another one involving a friend of mine a couple of days later), it was really cool to go to Maputo and stay with good friends there, see their kids growing, drink a respectable amount of 2M, meet theirs mates, really nice.
And work went fine as well. I did an evaluation of a project that measured and worked on the discrimination and stigma people living with HIV/AIDS are faced with ( Really interesting, and I had the incredible opportunity to meet activists that are giving all their energy for their cause. Always inspiring.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Mana Pools Game Count

Every year, national parks and some conservation societies are organizing the count of the WILD animals in parks. I had the opportunity to go to Matusodona National park earlier in August, and Lou and I joined a group of happy counters for the Mana Pools Game Count earlier in Septembre. 
couldn't post the cartoons because I was in wilder Maputo right after.
These counts are organized by societies that are doing a tremendous and great job,... but seem not to be actively recruiting new members. Most of the members are friends of a friend of a friend. 
Everyone needs a friend. 
So last year a friend of a friend of a friend called Pat, had a neighbour who had a friend who was involved in the count. 
Pat is very social so he talks to his neighbour, probably sharing a glass of wine or two and talking about the best car on the planet, the land rover defender. From that discussion they spoka about the Wild, and from the wild about the game count. the friend of the neighbour, reaching the end of the bottle invited Pat to come. That is how new members are made.
Coming from the frozen plains of Marple Country, he was immediatly interested in joining in. Any opportunity is good to see something else than a raccoon or a moose.
He was then introduced and accepted as a full endorsed member by the Wildlife and Environment Society of Zimbabwe - WEZ for the fans of abreviations. 
Being a very social person, he thought that making a group to walk together was wise. He was right, as some of the WEZ members are very interesting caracters (who happen to also be from my -not so- distant family) who are strictly respecting the "drink enough" rule - fearing dehydratation more than they fear a rabid hyena.
So Pat and crew bravely went. And they really enjoyed it. So they decided to do it again. And to take the recruitment of new WEZers to a different level all together.
A year later, the guy gathered one massive crew of 6 groups of 6 (=36 people), and because there are not enough Canadians in Zim, he was not that picky about where the people came from. As long as they were friends of friends, you know. And I happen to be the dad of a friend of his son. Bingo.
We were from 14 different nationalities. 
We joined the 200 other counting fellows. Who were at first excited to see newbies, then a bit puzzled, then relatively wary to see so many new faces speaking with weird accents, but still pronouncing "Yes" in some heavy "Yaa" or  knowing how to appreciate good biltong . 
The organizers were lost in translation. The members of the society, speechless, not really sure how to deal with these.... FTs? 
And because Pat is a very social person, who likes good things, he managed and organized the 35 FTs in  Glamping... (Glamorous Camping for those uninitiated), Gourmet meals (with 14 nationalities, each had to out-do the other), wine and whiskey, but above all an incredible experience of walking in the bush, counting all the animals you could see: Impalas by the hundreds (that is the main reason why you should be over 14 to do the walks), elephants charging French runners or old bullies, kudus, lions on the hunt, and many others. Just amazing. 
And the group just chilled. It was completely amazing. You really need more Pats in the world, to put people together, have a Norse Viking to make a Mechoui, some Israelians to feed the planet, a Chilean and Guatemalan missis to prepare mexican food, and millions of other fun things. 

People really enjoyed each other's company, and talked (loudly) into the still night over GnTs and Wine and Mauritian Rhum and... I guess these substances don't only keep the doctor away, but also the hyenas. Good to know. Mental note. 
Funny thing as well, a fake swiss-greek, but real belgian who was in my group of happy walkers happened -obviously- to have been my senior of 5 years in college. And a scout of the 35ème BP. Same Same. I had to meet the guy in the middle of nowhere, reading a GPS and counting buffalos. Last time that happened to me I was sharing sushis in Kinshasa. Cannot wait for the next time.

Thanks for all who made that trip amazing, respect.
Next year I'm back there, for sure. 

(c) Yaron C.
(c) Yaron C.

New school year is starting

Second of Septembre and the end of the long, long, extended holidays. Yeah said the Parents, Yihaa said the kids. first time in a whilethat they were up and running before sunrise.
The car went, and then came silence. 
Biiig silence. 
The type of silence where you cannot not even hear a shout, a cry or some lego crushing on the ground. 
To top it Zesa was down, no power, so not even the rumble and hiccups of the fridges.
Silence from 7:30 till one. 
Then came thunder, and I realised, hearing the three chatting about their new teachers, friends and things, over-shouting each other, that silence was gooooone, and that they were, indeed starting a new year.    

With the beginning of classes, comes new projects too. Did a small study of one of the weirdest creature, walking on his hind legs, full of scales, snot nose, eating termites, and rolling in a ball, theeee pangolin!
Also pretty much endangered.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

I am looking like an depressed donkey (self-portrait in a mirror)

A quick colour palette view of the one I use, I have no idea of the colour code or names, the names were written under/ on the side of the small cups but since I glues them in that old pencil case, I have no way to read them again. It is the largest palette I have ever used. I had to fill the space.
I also enjoy very much my water filled pentell brush, it changed the way I sketch and the material I carry around. But on the other way it has limited my washes and stopped me from using big water-filled brushes.
I also got a new pen, with permanent ink, but still not water proof. I am still looking for a fountain pen or nib-system with a reservoir that can accomodate china-ink, or a brand of water-proof black ink in cartridges.
Fountain pens are nowhere to be found in Zimbabwe, so that makes it trickier... I cannot rely on the expertise of art-shop owners, or try things out before I buy them.

 I got an old self-portrait I made 20 years ago, and realized that I have not done any since, so I use the time that was given to me by ZESA, the zimbabwean electricity company that is kind enough to create the needed time out from our electricity dependency, se we can focus on other things.
So, during one of their numerous power shortage, i got a mirror and indulge in looking at me for at least half an hour.  The result is bloody serious. I look like I am going to blow my brain off in the next half an hour. Luckily it is not the case.
Ptoblem with power shortage is that you cannot listen to a stand up comedy show or humourist whilst drawing, and althought I am incredibly fun and entertaining, I still find it hard to make myself laugh for 30 minutes straight.
Or maybe the main reason is that I am bloody lazy and know that if I smile or laugh I'll have much more to draw, with all the crevasses, radiators, wrinkles, teeth etc. So I try to keep it simple and botoxed to the max, looking an absolute stuck up arse, hahahaha, serves me well.
I'll need to do better that that one soon.