No longer a moto-taxi novice!

No longer a moto-taxi novice!
No longer a moto-taxi novice! It can be exhausting but it's great fun!

Sunday, 26 June 2011

More about Imigongo

Sanding the dry cow dung paste to get a smooth finish.

Basilice is always on hand to make sure I do it right!
On  my second visit to the Imigongo workshop after two weeks, I found my picture carefully stored  away, dried and ready for the next stage.  Using a tiny piece of coarse sandpaper, Basilice showed me how to carefully smooth the curving ridges to remove the fuzz of organic matter and any imperfections.  There were a few places where the base plywood had cracked or the ridges had not stuck properly to the wood. "Ntakibaso [natchibaaso] is a word used a lot here in Rwanda - "No problem", said Basilice and proceeded to pick off any loose bits of wood with her finger nail and the end of one of her keys!  Just like paper clay, more cow-dung paste could be applied over the damage and left to dry out while working on the rest of the picture with the sand paper.

Once a satisfactory finish was achieved, the dust was blown off (no masks, of course!) and a first base layer of ochre coloured undercoat was applied and left to dry over lunch time.

This is the dried and sanded smooth picture ready for the first undercoat.

This is the picture after the first coat of paint.
These are some of the earth pigments used for the colours and a piece of Aloe Vera which gives a black juice after two or three weeks.
 Once again a delicious meal at Basilice's home.  At least I had been able to get some chocolate and some prints of the photos of the  women workers last week in Kigali which I was able to give out earlier that morning, so I didn't feel quite so bad. 

After lunch we applied more undercoat and then Basilice showed me some of the raw materials used for creating the colours.  In this photo you can see the different colours of earth they use and a piece of Aloe Vera leaf, whose juice turns black after some three weeks.  Basilice insisted that all the colours they use are natural, local pigments but I still have not got an explanation for the greens and blues - I'll explore that question further on some future occasion. They get a good range of colours by mixing the basic ones together, as you saw in the "Drummers" picture on the last posting.

On my third visit week later, the picture had thoroughly dried out but there were a couple of blisters in the base plywood, which we had to scrape away and repair again.  In the photo you can see two repairs.
Beginning to add colour, but also repairing some defects.

At this stage of beginning to chose and apply colours the paint dries very quickly so it is possible to apply several coats in succession, or change colours fairly easily.  The paint is really smooth, like top quality poster paint yet has a much harder dried finish.  I hope to find out more about the paint making process on a future visit.

Basilice has two cows and a calf.  I didn't ask if this was the source of the cow dung we had been using.

Basilice and son, Brice, in the banana plantation

At lunch time I asked Brice, the youngest son to show me the family cow behind the house.  Basilice has a small farm out there, with two cows, a calf, chickens and sometimes a goat or two.

Beyond that are banana plantations, maize, beans and cassava plots.  She told me that her husband, who had been a lawyer in the Department of Justice had been a wealthy man, with several properties and many cows on various small holdings.  He died in the genocide and since then she has been trying to build up and get back some of their property, while working for the Imigongo co-operative.  There are two or three secondary students who lodge at her house, as well as the older son, Fabrice and the younger one Brice.  She also has workers who look after the livestock and the plantations.  It's amazing how many Rwandans have managed, through hard work and resilience to rebuild their lives after the tragic events of 1994.  Of course it is more difficult to know the stories of those who remain traumatised by their experiences and have not managed to recover from the ordeal.  Chatting on the bus recently I have come across three young people who are studying clinical psychology and who say that it is a very popular subject and that there is a big demand for their skills in health and education.  There is still a lot of work to be done repairing the psychological damage of the genocide, which affects even the next generation born since that time.

After lunch I really enjoyed choosing, mixing and applying the colours to my picture after repairing the damaged areas and you can see the result so far below.  I still have to give it all another coat of paint and then carefully paint the fine black lines which divide the different elements of the design.

The black lines still need to be added, and I may yet change some colours.
I was delighted to discover that one of the women artists had decided to copy my design and she had begun to make the picture.  I just hope I manage to finish first!!  

Unfortunately this Saturday, the last in the month is "umuganda" when everywhere is closed to allow people to do community work, such as working in the public garden areas, tidying roads or helping to build or maintain schools.  Next week I will be in Butare on Saturday, so I will have to wait a while before getting the picture finished!