Batik by the Crazies

– The crazies are out of the hospital.

That’s what Upendo – expert batik maker in Kigamboni, Dar es Salaam – said about our “freestyle” techniques of applying wax by hand in various imaginative ways, patterns and layers, as she taught me and Polish artist Ewa Kolkuska about her craft.  We experimented for two long days with sponge stamps, brushes and dyes. The collaboration was great fun and the process enchanting since we could never predict what the pieces would look like when the wax came off.

Back in Nairobi we now begin  creating a new line from our own batik.  Let’s see what we make of these.

Photo: Lars Johansson

Turkana

Long bus trip to Turkana but worth it for the humbling experience and the inspiring beadwork.

Turkana girls start buying beads at young age and when they have enough they make their own necklaces. These necklaces don’t come off but when they get married  (thanks in part to a good necklace making them attractive) they remove all the beads they’ve accumulated during adolescence and give them to the mother of the husband. Then they start all over again, but this time with different colours and patterns. For the married woman the necklace is not just about beauty but a symbol of wealth. It is never removed but for certain ceremonies they add other, special necklaces.

I have a long neck and I wanted to wear one of these so I asked if I could buy one. They said that is impossible. You cannot wear another woman’s necklace. But, they said, if I buy my own beads they can make me one. One day I will.