October 21, 2010
I feel very privileged to work with Becca Schaefer (see the earlier blog about her and Amanda Batson, my project assistants), art teacher(extraordinaire)at Rasor Elementary in Plano, Texas. She is leading a wonderful part of Renewing Material, hundreds of her elementary students are contributing to a "Talking Mural" exchange with students in Masaka, Uganda. This will be the 2nd mural exchange between Texas and Uganda, the first took place in 2008. If the 1st exchange is any indicator, this one will be impactful for all involved.
The theme of the mural is Renewing Material: Nurturing Environment. The way the mural works is that students begin by responding with vocabulary that expresses how they feel about the theme, then they explore and add images to illustrate their responses. Becca sent me a few words that her students came up with, I thought I'd share a few...Mia (9) wrote Keep the World Healthy, Quentin (10) wrote Make a Change.
The canvases will fly with us to Uganda this November and then completed at various schools in Uganda where they will remain. While in Uganda the students at the workshops will create and contribute to one large mural on barkcloth (a renewable resource from Uganda) that will then be completed and kept at Rasor Elementary.
Becca has done an excellent job teaching her students so much about Uganda and Fred Mutebi's artwork that they feel a part of this place across the globe!
October 19, 2010
Bark Cloth Europe (www.barktex.de) is a German/Ugandan owned company who, for the past 10 years has been diligently getting bark cloth into the hands of artists and designers across the globe. Oliver Heintz and his wife Mary Balongo work both in Uganda and Germany to explore the potential for bark cloth in contemporary art and design.
It has been great to get to know their work and business over the past few years. I had the privilege of meeting and interviewing Mary in 2008 at their home in Masaka. A few days later, Mary joined us at a dinner hosted by the US Embassy, bringing all those involved in bark cloth into one place for great conversations. The dinner was a great forum to see how unique each person's approach to bark cloth is - from researchers to designers to educational organizations. Bark Cloth Europe is unique in its approach to getting the material into as many hands as possible, thus increasing awareness and demand for this material. Their manipulation of the surface with dye, bleach, stitch, rubber, etc is opening this material to new uses.
Oliver and Mary are working with me on organizing works for the exhibition in March at UNT.
You have to take notice of the jackets they are wearing, one guess as to what it is...
October 15, 2010
Bark Cloth has found its way into the hands of design students at Parsons, care of Oliver Heintz with Bark Cloth Europe (blog to follow). They have been challenged to with work with the material to create products that are designed with a focus on sustainability. I have enjoyed fielding questions from professors Erika Doering and PJ Carlino over the past few weeks - questions on the history, culture, uses, and material itself. I had a great opportunity to answer questions from their students on Monday, courtesy of Skype.
I am eager to see the results and to include their work in the exhibition in Masaka in a few weeks. One of the goals of this exhibition is to show where bark cloth is being used around the world; the fact that a group of students are engaged in transforming it is very relevant. Because I can't physically take their work, we will have images and material samples to travel to Uganda with us.
One of the questions I asked the students is how much the culture will factor into their design - is it relevant to acknowledge where a material comes from? I look forward to their answers.
October 6, 2010
I was just reviewing video interviews for the exhibition at UNT in the spring and thought it was time to begin sharing more incredible designers and artists with you. One of my interviewees was Rene Malcorps who founded a company called Art Nature Design in Eindhoven, Netherlands(www.artnaturedesign.nl and www.kingskin.nl). This unique company's approach to design reflects their desire to build the environment and economy of Uganda through sustainable design.
I first met Rene in Kampala in 2008 where he was leading a bark cloth design workshop at Makerere University sponsored by UNESCO. In the interview he expressed his desire to make a difference as an artist and designer, enriching the lives of the people involved in his business by bringing opportunites back to Uganda. His ambition is "to create a long term economical and ecological system that is based on the balance between men and nature."
We are responing to the leading of Rene, Fred and many more artists and designers whose focus on the environment is reflected in their actions - one of the goals for our project in Masaka is to organize a mutuba tree planting in the community.
Rene working on technical support for Bark cloth improvement in Uganda. Image from BiD Network.
October 3, 2010
We are excited to include Ivan Yakuze as a visiting artist for the exhibition and workshops this fall in Masaka. He is a talented artist whose work is in collections in Africa and now in the US. I first met Ivan in 2008 when he sat for an interview about his work. He is an inventive artist whose skill at applique and whose eye for composition yields beautiful works. I enjoyed hearing about his use of symbolism and how that reflects both his culture and his person.
During the exhibition in Masaka, he will share his works with the community, discussing why and how he uses bark cloth.
Ivan will also be included in Material Evolution at the UNT Art Gallery in 2011. Here is a preview of his work. I am only including a detail from his piece, Cowrie Shells. You will have to attend the exhibition at UNT to see more....