Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Prints for sale

I've decided to sell my prints to help raise funds for Malawian flood disaster relief.

You might have heard in the news that Malawi have suffered terribly from floods in the last couple of weeks. More than 200 people have died and 120,000 people have been displaced. Blantyre has been badly affected, as has the Chikwawa district.

Chikwawa Primary School is twinned with Auchtermuchty Primary School, so I travelled there to teach workshops, and show the exhibition.

14”x10” foam-backed participant print        £50 (£20 to Malawi)

A4 unframed Jenni Gudgeon print              £45 (£20 to Malawi)

A4 framed Jenni Gudgeon print                 £90 (£20 to Malawi)

To order prints, please email me at jenni@redcabinstudio.co.uk

My images

Dunino Tales

The base photograph shows a stone carved face in Dunino Den, Scotland. Dunino Den is an ancient and sacred pagan site where people still leave offerings of coins, ribbons and flowers. The den (meaning a small wooded valley) is full of carvings and strangely eroded stones.

The etching is inspired by the story of the Chewa Creation Story (The Chewa people are the largest ethnic group in Malawi, and Chichewa is the common language).

In the beginning there was Chiuta-God who lived above in the sky and below him was the earth, waterless and without life.
One day, the sky opened and the Chiuta-God, the first human pair, and all the animals descended onto a flat-topped hill in the mountains of Dzala-Nyama.
After their descent the soft surface hardened and turned into rock. The imprints of their feet can still be seen.
Plants grew, and God, men, and animals lived together in happiness and peace.
One day, man accidentally invented fire by playing with two twirling sticks. They warned him to stop, but he did not want to listen.
In the end the grass was set alight, and there was great confusion.
Among the animals, the dog and goat fled to man for safety; but the elephant, the lion and their companions ran away, full of rage against man.
The chameleon escaped by climbing a tree. He called out to God to follow him, but Chiuta-God replied that he was too old to climb. In the end the spider spun a thread lifting him up on high.
Thus God was driven from the earth by the wickedness of man. As he ascended, he pronounced that henceforth man must die and join him in the sky.

Tartan Gecko
The base photograph shows the roof of the café at the Majete Wildlife Reserve, Malawi. It was taken while we were waiting for our lunch to arrive, and the lizard was so well camouflaged that I didn’t notice it till it was pointed out to me.

The etched tartan pattern is inspired by my family’s tartan of the Gordon clan (through my maternal grandmother). The colours aren’t matched correctly because of the limited palette while etching.

Garden Flags

The base photograph shows the autumn colours of a plant in my garden in Dunshalt, Scotland. Its leaves are green during the spring and summer, but turn this glorious red for the autumn before the leaves fall off for winter.

The etching is inspired by the Malawian flag, which was officially adopted on 6 July 1964 when the colony of Nyasaland became independent from British rule and renamed itself Malawi. The rising sun represents the dawn of hope and freedom for the continent of Africa (when the flag was created, lots of countries in Africa were gaining independence from European rule). The black represents the indigenous people of the continent, the red symbolises the blood of their struggle, and the green represents nature. 

 I chose this photograph to etch my flag design onto because of the red, black, and green of its colours.

Fabric crab
The base photograph shows a crab sitting on a layered and multi-coloured rock. It was taken on a beach near Pittenweem, Scotland. The stones in that area have amazing colours and shapes and I have photographed them many times.

The different etched patterns come from fabrics that my husband brought back to Scotland on his previous visits to Malawi. The picture was etched more than six months before I travelled there myself, because I needed an image to promote the project. I felt that these fabrics were the most tangible link to Malawi that I had at that time.

Chitenji Ceilidh
The base photograph shows a wall of chitenje’s being sold at a stall in Zomba market, Malawi. A chitenje is a garment similar to a sarong, worn by women. It is wrapped around the waist; used as a headscarf; or used as a baby sling. They are known by various names across Africa.

The etched figures are ceilidh dancers. Ceilidhs are Scottish social evenings where people dance to traditional Scottish music. The men usually dress in their tartan kilts, and the women add a touch of tartan to their outfits too. Women often wear flowing skirts which flare out when they spin around.


William's Stone
The base photograph shows the William’s Fall at Zomba Plateau, Malawi. The plateau really reminded me of Scotland, especially Falkland Estate, where I often photograph. The illusion was shattered occasionally when I saw a tree fern or heard a baboon.

The etching is inspired by the history of the stone of destiny, or stone of Scone (pronounced Scoon). This block of stone was used in the coronation ceremony of Scottish, and later English and British monarchs. There are a lot of legends and myths surrounding the stone, and it is believed to be the stone Jacob used as a pillow when he had his dream vision about a ladder reaching from earth to heaven (Genesis 28:10-22).

Before being taken by the English to London in 1296 AD, the stone was kept at Scone Abbey near Perth. A lot of Scots believe that the stone taken by the English was a fake, and the real one was hidden by the abbey monks. If so, it has never been seen since.

Wild Beasts of Falkland
The base photograph features Falkland Estate, near where I live in Scotland. It is a beautiful, magical place that I have photographed for many projects. This tree always makes me smile because the branches look like arms.

The etched animals are copied from Malawian wooden animal carvings. Some of these are drawn from carvings that have been brought back from Malawi by my husband, but for others I had to cheat and find them on the internet.

Spiky Saltire
The base photograph shows a thistle growing at the roadside, just outside Blantyre, Malawi. I saw the plant out of the window of the car we were travelling in, and the contrast between the blue of the thistle and the red of the soil was enough to make me shout out to stop so I could race back to photograph it. The thistle is Scotland’s national plant.

The etching is based on the history of the Scottish flag, which is called The Saltire. It is also the symbol of St Andrew, Scotland’s patron saint, as he is said to have been martyred on such a cross.

According to legend, in 832 A.D. King Angus led the Scots and Picts (northern tribes) in battle against the Anglo Saxons (southern tribes). King Angus and his men were surrounded and he prayed for deliverance. During the night Saint Andrew appeared to Angus and assured him of victory. On the following morning a white saltire against the background of a blue sky appeared to both sides. The Scots and Picts were heartened by this, but the Anglo Saxons lost confidence and were defeated. The Saltire has been the Scottish flag ever since.

Zomba Dragon
The base photograph features a tree I found on Zomba plateau, Malawi. The tree’s shape reminded me of the dragon figureheads from ancient Viking longboats, and I spent a while photographing it to get the angle just right.

 The etching shows a Celtic dragon and knot design. The Celts are a race of people from Scotland, Ireland, and other places, and Celtic knots are complete loops without any beginning or end. They vary in design from the very simple, to ones that are incredibly complicated, and have their origins in the mosaics of the late Roman Empire. They started being used in Ireland 1,500 years ago to decorate early Christian manuscripts and other artwork, and are still popular today.

The use of only one thread highlights the Celt’s belief in the interconnectedness of life and eternity. The constant interlacing under and over symbolises the physical and the spiritual crossing of paths, expressing permanence, and the endurance of life, love and faith.


Culross Dancers
The base photograph shows Culross Palace, Scotland (pronounced Cooross). The palace is a distinctive yellow colour which contrasts well with the red pan-tiles on the roof. Pan-tiles were brought back to Scotland as ballast on empty ships in the 17th century to provide cheap roofing material, and are a major tourist attraction in the coastal villages of Fife.
The etching is inspired by the Gule Wamkulu or Great Dance, which is practiced among the Chewa people living in Malawi. It is performed by members of the Nyau brotherhood, which is a sort of a secret society of initiated Chewa men. The Gule Wamkulu (pronounced Goolay Wamkooloo) is performed at weddings, funerals, the installation or death of a chief, and at the end of the initiation procedure to celebrate the young men’s integration into adult society.

The dance is symbolic as a medium between the ancestral world of spirits and the mundane present, and it conveys the spectrum of life’s emotions and actions.

The dancers wear costumes and masks made of wood and straw, representing a great variety of characters from the world of the spirits. Each figure plays a particular, often evil, character representing different forms of misbehaviour in order to teach moral and social values to the audience. The dance’s aim is partly to entertain and partly to scare the audience. Characters include wild animals, slave traders, spirits of the dead, and recent figures like the honda or the helicopter.

The Gule Wamkulu is thought to date back to the great Chewa Empire of the 17th century, and despite efforts of Christian missionaries to ban the practice, it has survived by adopting some aspects of Christianity. Nowadays Nyau societies, and the Gule Wamkulu, are still very much alive and Chewa men tend to be both members of a Christian church and a Nyau society. In 2005 UNESCO classified the dance as one of the 90 Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Scolawi News 6-1-15

2014 was an amazing year for me with memories I'll treasure for the rest of my days, things I've learnt which will help me with future projects, and people I've met who have inspired and assisted me.

The I love Scolawi exhibition was taken down from Rothes Hall, Glenrothes recently and is presently all packaged up, waiting to be exhibited in various places next year including the Westgate Medical Centre in Dundee, and hopefully somewhere in Edinburgh.

In January I start a new part-time job as a library assistant in my local town of Cupar, which I'm very excited about. I Love Scolawi cost almost £8,000 to complete, and nearly all this has been raised by local events and generous donations (Thank you to everyone who has contributed, I couldn't have done this without you). Unfortunately I haven't brought any money into the household all year, so my new job will allow me to contribute to the family finances while also giving me the time to work on my next art project.

As I've written before in these bulletins, when I found out I wasn't going to receive any government funding I felt very alone and scared. I mentioned my predicament to friends on Facebook, and was amazed and touched to receive immediate offers to help and given emotional support. I've received so many donations both large and small that I can't thank you individually here, and even more people have bought raffle tickets/given prizes, or come to fundraising events. Amanda Graham, Violet Shears, and Betty Suttie gave their time to run events in order to raise money for I Love Scolawi, which was especially kind of them, and Café Alfresco had a collection tin for the project in the café.

Thank you all so much. The project became far bigger than I originally imagined it, and was so much stronger with the local community helping to make it happen. As the coordinator, I have gained a lot of strength and confidence from having your support to back me up.

I'm going to wind up 2014 by sharing with you some of my strongest memories from this project, and from my visits to Malawi. Apologies for the length - I did edit!

Encounters with exotic animals

Lake of Stars Festival: sitting on the beach in the dark, drinking beer, listening to great music and watching huge bats swooping around the lights catching insects.

Nyala Lodge in Lengwe National Park: Chilling out during the heat of the day photographing a troupe of monkeys playing.

Liwonde National Park: On a boat safari on the Shire river - the guide asked Bill and my daughter to quietly leave their bags and move to the other side of the boat. There was a snake next to them!

Zomba Plateau: Being told that what I'd taken for a worm was a black mamba, and seeing Bill and the guide rid themselves of ants because they had been standing on an ant run while waiting for me to finish photographing. They both had to remove the ants from inside their trousers while struggling to maintain their dignity. It was lucky they weren't stinging ants.

Various places: seeing so many weird insects. A praying mantis on a washing line, ants ranging in size from 2mm to 2cm, and a stretched out spider on a wire - 4 legs forward, 4 legs back.

The workshops

The laughter of the children when I dressed one of them in the other country's national dress.

The amazing way that any random group of children across the globe yields up 3 or 4 brilliant artists.

The laughter, dancing and joy of the women at the WOFAD project (women for fair development) . WOFAD is a charity to support women affected by HIV who are often ill-treated and discriminated against. Some of the women were very ill, and all had walked a long way to be with us. It was a huge privilege to meet with them, and very humbling to hear them thanking God for what they had, when they had so little of the things we take for granted in the west.

Every so often when I was telling the Scottish children about Malawi, something I said would catch their imagination and they would all become very silent and focused. It didn't happen very often, probably once in every workshop. These felt like very special moments. I didn't notice this with the Malawian workshops - probably because of the language barrier.

The exhibition

Going back to the Malawian community groups who had contributed pictures was very special to me. I was able to hand back the pictures everyone had made for the project and watch as they rushed to find their own on the posters showing all 300 participants work. I made sure that artwork from every workshop was included in the 40 enlarged ones, and it was wonderful to see the excitement of the people whose pictures were chosen.

Participating in the Lake of Stars Festival was an amazing experience. The site felt like a tropical paradise, with palm trees and the white sandy beach of lake Malawi.

I was exhibiting my work on an unromantic chain link fence, but I couldn't have been prouder. We were all completely thrilled to be given 'artist' access bracelets!

Giving an interview for the local TV in front of my exhibition in Glenrothes was very exciting. I'd been interviewed before, but this time I was less nervous, more confident, and I think I came across better. This was brilliant promotion for the project and I was so grateful to be given the opportunity.

Miscellaneous moments

One surreal moment happened when we were driving up to the lake of stars, and saw some Morris Dancing being performed on a stage in a  local market. Every person was dressed in white shirt and trousers with colourful ribbons attached, with bells on their knees and  waving white handkerchiefs. If you've never heard of Morris Dancing, it is an English folk dance - here's a link to learn more http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morris_dance

We were welcomed to Chikwawa Primary School by hundreds of small children. One of the teachers hadn't arrived that morning so the youngest class was teacher-less. As we were shown round the school, we were accompanied by these children, who were overcome with excitement to meet us. They all wanted to say hello and hold our hands. It was a wonderful welcome.

Walking in the pine forests of Zomba Plateau. This felt extremely like Scotland, and especially a place near my home called Falkland Estate where I regularly go walking and photographing. It made me very homesick, but it was also very strange to visit somewhere so like home on the other side of the world.


Thank you for your interest and support in this project.  2015 will bring me something completely different - I'm planning to write and illustrate a book!

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Scolawi News 2-11-14

Well the exhibition is up, and its time to take stock. The exhibition will be on show at the FifeSpace Gallery in Rothes Hall, Glenrothes until 19th December. http://www.onfife.com/exhibitions/i-love-scolawi

Thank you everyone who's gone to see it, and especially those who've got in touch to tell me how much they like it and how professional it looks. It's always good to hear that your work is appreciated. I'm going to photograph the exhibition properly, but in the mean time, here are some pictures from the opening.
Annie with her picture

Watching the film of the workshops
I'm still fundraising for I Love Scolawi, and am now selling my work to contribute (I'll talk about this more in the next email and attach copies of all my pictures in case you're interested). I only need to raise another £1,450 to pay off all the costs I've incurred over the course of the project, which is excellent news. Thank you so much if you've donated to the project, and if you've been meaning to, but haven't got round to it yet, there is a paypal donate button on the top right side of my blog.
The wonderful Amanda Graham has organised a quiz evening in the nearby village of Kettle with proceeds to be split between I Love Scolawi and the local play park (for those people who aren't local, Kettle is home of The Singing Kettle which you might have heard of if you've had young children in the last 20 years). Please come along if you can, it should be a good night.
I keep running out of words for what an amazing experience this project has been for me. I've met lots of wonderful people, and been touched by how enthusiastic everyone has been about what I've doing. This is the biggest project I've ever undertaken, and it's been very exciting for me, and a huge learning curve with a few big lows but lots and lots of highs. Here are a few of the things I've learnt this year:

ALWAYS run community art projects through a non-profit organisation

If I had run this project through an organisation I don't think I would have had any problems funding it and I would have even been paid for my time. individuals are unable to apply for nearly all art funding, but there is money out there for art projects if organisations know where to look. I had no trouble raising funds so that the Explorer Scouts could learn filming, buy equipment and create a video for me.
Self-fundraising is hard and time consuming. It has made I Love Scolawi much more stressful   than it could have been, and the work I produced for the project has suffered as a result. I only had time to etch ten of my own pictures, which feels a bit sparse - especially on the long wall they are hung on. I definitely have a few more pictures swimming around in my head still that I want to etch.

Don't give up

I don't think there was ever a point that I would have given up on I Love Scolawi. I had space booked in one of the biggest galleries in Fife, and they believed in me AND in the project. I did give up on the idea of going back out to Malawi a second time to exhibit the show. My husband and I  talked about it, and we knew that our finances couldn't justify another trip. Then I received a grant from the Hope Scott Trust that I had applied for (not expecting to get it) which covered car hire on the exhibition trip.
It's very hard to say no to a cheque for £720, but we knew that the larger expenses would massively outweigh this grant. Then someone donated our air fares and the second trip was possible again.
I truly believe that I Love Scolawi would have only been half the project it is without the second trip out to Malawi. It felt really special, showing the exhibition to the people who had created pictures for it, and seeing how much it meant to them to see their work included in the exhibition.

People are Brilliant

This point goes hand in hand with the previous one. Fundraising for this project has made me realise how much people care about projects like mine, and that if people believe in you and  your project, they will help you make it happen.
I've mentioned before about how alone and scared I felt when I found out I didn't get the government funding I'd applied for. But as soon as I posted about it on Facebook, friends told me that the money could be raised and that they would help me. I've been especially touched by the people who have helped me fundraise who I didn't know previously. People who heard about my project in the local press and got in touch in order to help me. Fundraising I Love Scolawi has truly been a group effort, and if you have contributed financially, or in any way, then I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart. The project wouldn't have happened without you. So far we have raised nearly £6200!

Be more flexible when teaching

When I started teaching the workshops in May, I realised quickly that even though I didn't want to influence people's pictures, I was getting strangely anxious if the participants weren't doing what I was expecting them to do. Some children were even etching onto upside-down photos! I had to make a conscious decision to force myself appreciate that though the base photos were mine, the etched pictures were theirs, and I had given them permission to do whatever they wanted with them.
As an artist, I am a complete control freak. But as a teacher, I need to give people skills, and let them use that knowledge in the way they want to. Easier said than done, but I'll keep working on it.


Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Scolawi News - Exhibition trip to Malawi

Monday 22nd September

We arrived in Blantyre yesterday, very tired and not expecting to be quizzed on the referendum immediately. I hadn’t realised that it would be such big news across the world. Though when you think about it, Malawi is a former British colony so having gained independence themselves, you can understand why it is of such interest to the people here.

Today we’re having a rest day, getting ourselves organised, shopping, and generally taking it easy after the exhaustion of the journey. We are also reminding ourselves of the dance steps of some Scottish dances we plan to teach people while we’re here. There is only so much time that the I Love Scolawi participants can spend looking at the pictures, and we thought the remaining time could be spend doing something fun and Scottish. Bring on the Gay Gordon’s!

Tomorrow we meet up with our friend Mary, and we will show the exhibition off to people for the first time. Mary works for WOFAD (Women for fair development), a project to support women who have been affected by HIV. The women participated in my project, and it will be great to meet everyone again.

Tuesday 24th September – exhibition preview

We had decided previously that we wanted to have a bit of a party atmosphere when we showed the exhibition to the participant groups in Malawi. With this in mind we originally set a budget of £40 per preview, but because I’ve had to cut budgets across the board, this has unfortunately been reduced to £20 per preview. For WOFAD, we were taken by Mary to Blantyre’s market to buy provisions for a large, meat filled meal for the women, which they prefer to snacks, and which won’t affect any medicines they are taking.

My children found the market place quite scary, and remembering how I felt for the first few days in Malawi last time, I’m not too surprised. Knowing what to expect from a place is very comforting, and the market is very busy, with a lot of the stall holders calling out to us to buy from them. There are men to get out of the way from because they are carrying heavy, 2 metre wide loads of potatoes across their necks, there was a child begging, a lorry load of security dogs barking, and flies everywhere. It was a world away from the very western supermarket in Blantryre that we’d bought provisions from yesterday. The market is very ‘not-British’ and was a bit of a shock to the kids.

We received a wonderful welcome from the women at WOFAD, and everyone was really excited to be given back the etched pictures they had created for the project. We put the exhibition posters up on the window bars outside, and everyone rushed out to find their own picture amongst everyone else’s. Lucia was really happy to see that her picture had been enlarged as one of the best 40. Just thinking about her picture always lifts my spirits, and is one of my absolute favourites.

Lucia with her original picture

Looking to find their own pictures

The women worked together to cook the meal on an open fire, which, as an outsider was very interesting to watch. The rice was cooked in a huge pot, and the meat and veg were cooked separately, because the children and I are vegetarian. While the meal was cooking we taught some of the women The Gay Gordons. There wasn’t much space, but we managed a couple of sets before the heat was too much and we had to stop. Scottish dancing is very different to Malawian dancing, and much more strictly regimented, but I think the ladies appreciated the beauty, style, and energy of it while they were laughing about how strange it looked.

We then transferred to Malawian dancing, which is also full of energy, and were given a very good display, which Tabi (my daughter) and I were invited to join in at one point. We didn’t really know what we were doing, but we really enjoyed being part of the group, and clapping and shaking our hips with everyone else.

After the delicious meal, we left the women to meet up with the children from the Amapatsa Care Foundation. Amapatsa is a charity which was set up by our friend Mary to help some of the vulnerable children in Blantyre. One of the ways the charity helps is by paying the school fees of those who can’t pay, and finding uniforms for them too. Education in Malawi used to be free, but now the schools ask for 600 Kwatcha (less than £1) from each child at the beginning of the school year. Children who have lost one or both of their parents to HIV (or other causes) find this a huge amount to pay in one go, so Amapatsa pay their fees to get them into education, and keep them off the streets.

Mary had organised a hall for us to meet in, but it was about a mile from where the children live, so we had to transport everyone (about 40 children plus 6 adults) via one of the small buses that run in Malawi and our hired 4x4. I have never seen so many people fit into such small spaces before. The buses here are the size of a VW campervan.

Just like with the WOFAD women, the children loved looking through the posters to find their own pictures, as well as finding themselves in the group photos I took at the end of each workshop of everyone with their etched photos.

They gave us a fantastic display of dancing, and a play which we really enjoyed. One of the best memories of the trip so far was the enjoyment on the children’s faces as they spin round during the Scottish dancing. In the Gay Gordon’s there are four different sections, and their excitement grew and grew through the first three sections before being able to spin round during the fourth. Just thinking about it again makes me smile.

Lake of Stars

We travelled up to the venue at the Sunbird Nkopola Lodge Hotel on Thursday 25th September. the day before the festival kicked off. The trip is about 125 miles and took about four hours. The road from Blantyre to Zomba (about a 1/3 of the way) is brand new and only took 3/4 hour, but after that the road got slower, and at one stage was pitted with potholes for many miles.

There are always lots of people walking or cycling at the edge of the roads in Malawi, which is strange to western eyes. My husband, Bill had noticed that Malawians use their horns a lot when driving, and on this long journey he realised that the heat meant that cyclists and pedestrians don't hear cars coming up behind them, so if a car or lorry is coming the other way you beep the people to let them know you're there, and they get off the road for you. He was soon beeping the horn the same as everyone else.

When we arrived at Nkopola Lodge we were amazed by the beauty of the setting and it felt we had arrived at paradise.

Nkopola Lodge, Malawi

My daughter, Tabi was stunned almost into silence, and told us that this was what she had ever wanted from a holiday, and that she wished she were there with her friends rather than her family so that she could enjoy it properly!

Nkopola Lodge is a really expensive hotel, so we weren't actually staying there. We camped the nights in the grounds of another hotel about a five minute drive away, and spent our days at the lodge, starting off with a cup of tea after breakfast sitting at one of the tables shown in the picture, and ending with a meal from one of the many food stalls. There wasn't a lot of choice for vegetarians on a budget, but I can thoroughly recommend the red bean stew and chips that I had for three nights in a row for 1000 kwacha a pop (there are about 670 kwacha to £1 ).

One strange thing we noticed when we were putting up the exhibition was that below the equator the sun travels through the northern part of the sky. As a photographer, I'm always very aware of where the sun is, and I notice the light and shadows constantly. This meant I knew instantly where the best place to hang the posters would be so that they avoided the direct sunlight, but it was Bill who noticed that I had placed them on a South facing fence, which would be a complete no no in Britain. Sometimes it's the small things that make you feel a long way from home.

My exhibition at Lake of Stars

Chikwawa Primary School

On Wednesday 1st October we headed down the hills to Chikwawa at the bottom of the Rift Valley (called the Shire Valley in Malawi - pronounced sheer-ee). It was wonderful to see my friend Monica and all the children again, and to see how much they appreciated us coming back to show them the exhibition.

It's always a lot hotter in the valley than in Blantyre, which is about 1000 metres above the valley floor, but this was a particularly hot day, even for there. We checked what the temperature was in Chikwawa on that day and it was 38 degrees! Teaching Scottish country dances in that heat was very hot work, but the children had such a great time learning them that it was all worthwhile.

Unfortunately, my son Arthur felt unwell that morning, and he soon became very overcome with the heat. He was burning hot and faint for most of the day, and we struggled to keep him cool and give him enough water to replace what he was losing. The next day was cloudy and cool though, and this gave him a chance to recover. By Friday he was feeling totally back to normal again, thank goodness.

We were unable to show the exhibition to the Chimwemwe Children's Centre, which was a real shame, but we met up with our friend Mac who runs the centre, and we showed him the posters, and played the video of footage taken at their workshop which Bill had edited together. We gave a copy of the video to Mac so that he could show the children.

Blantyre Arts Festival

The festival site is a culture centre that was build by the French, and abandoned when the cashgate scandal broke (millions of pounds worth of aid went straight into government official's pockets). The building is architecturally amazing, and if full of all these shell-like empty rooms, still painted but stripped of anything of value.

The festival was much more geared up towards promoting visual artists than the Lake of Stars, which seemed much more music orientated, and I had a constant stream of people coming into my room to see, and talk about the project which was lovely. I was only able to attend on Thursday 2nd and Friday 3rd, which was a shame because the weekend was the main part of the festival, and I think it would have been busier then. But my children had already had two weeks off school, and they needed to get back to their studies. The posters and information sheets stayed up for the whole festival.

I gave a lot of thought about what to do with the posters from the exhibition once the festival was over, because it would be a shame just to bring them home with me. My friend, Mary from the WOFAD project helped me decide, by asking if the women could keep some of the posters to remember the project by. I thought this was an excellent idea, and have shared the 8 posters out between WOFAD, Chimwemwe Children's Centre, and Chikwawa Primary School. I have another set of the posters showing everyone's work, and the enlarged pictures will be shown individually in Scotland rather than on posters.

I had the opportunity to speak with a lot of the Malawian artists at the festival, and was asked many times if there were any opportunities for Malawian artists to sell their work in Scotland, and how Scottish and Malawian artists and photographers could work together. It gave me the idea of setting up an organisation  to help with this, which I plan to give a lot of thought to this idea once my exhibition is up next week. I'm already getting quite excited about the prospect of collaborating with artists from Malawi, and it makes the prospect of returning to Malawi one day a lot stronger.

I can't imagine never going back.



Sunday, 14 September 2014

Scolawi News 14-9-14

Once again I'm getting ready to travel out to Malawi and my life is full of 'to do' and 'to take' lists. This time we're taking our children with us so they can experience a completely different culture to ours and realise how privileged their upbringing has been in Scotland.
We leave for Malawi next Saturday to exhibit the I Love Scolawi project. I'll be exhibiting at the Lake of Stars music and art festival 26th-28th Sept www.lakeofstars.org and at the Blantryre arts festival 2nd-5rd Oct www.blantyreartsfestival.org
Unfortunately I will only be at the Blantyre arts festival for the first two days because I need to get home and get the Scottish exhibition ready, which will run from the 20th October. The exhibition will be left up for the entire four days of the festival. Thomas Chibambo, the director of the festival has also asked me to run a photography workshop during the festival which I'm quite excited about. There are further plans for a collaboration between Thomas and the BAF and the Fotospace Gallery in Glenrothes. While I'm in Malawi I hope to make these plans more concrete.
I'm also taking the exhibition to the participating groups who helped create pictures for I Love Scolawi. It will be wonderful to see everyone again, and I can't wait to show participants how their contribution fits into the whole.
In the last few weeks I have been feeling quite panicky about getting the community exhibition ready in time, while at the same time creating some work myself. I'm happy to announce that I woke up this morning feeling refreshed and not panicked for the first time in ages! I have completed the 10 pictures I set myself to create, I've photoshopped three composite A0 posters of everyone's work  along with five A0 posters featuring my forty favourite pictures for the Malawian exhibition. Everything that needs printing has been uploaded and sent to the printers, and I should get them delivered back by midweek latest. It's quite a relief, I can tell you!
One of three A0 posters showing everyone's artwork
There's still quite a bit to do: organise the workshop I'm running, mount the printed work, write some blurb to go with the exhibition, update my resume etc. But it feels like the stressy part is over with and I just have to get myself organised.
Fundraising news
The bingo tea last weekend as a great success, and we raised £264. Big thanks go to Betty for organising the event. I didn't win anything, but I think I've only won at bingo a couple of times :(
Cafe Alfresco in Glenrothes have been using their charity box to collect money for I Love Scolawi for the last few months and have raised £260. This seems an incredible amount raised from spare change! Big thanks go to Laura and Claude for organising this.
Also worth mentioning I think, is that Laura and Claude looked through my pictures when they popped over the other day and Laura  told me it was my best work to date (bless her!), and that I wasn't allowed to say that I couldn't draw. I can't remember my exact words last email, but I don't think I can't draw, I just think that I'm adequate at drawing - I need to practice the shapes I'm drawing over and over to get them right, whereas I think that good drawers can draw the shapes first time.
Thank you to everyone who has donated to me over the last couple of weeks. The total we have raised in nearly £5,700. Well done everyone! There is a Paypal donate button on my blog (top right) if you feel like donating to raise this above £6000.
I've had an email from my friend Mary, in Malawi  who has asked if I can bring any old or broken mobile phones over with me to be used for parts. If you have any old phones knocking around the house that you haven't got round to throwing out yet, please consider passing them on to me to take out with me.

Scolawi News 2-9-14

Its less than three weeks till I travel back out to Malawi to exhibit the show, and I'm getting really really excited, but also really really panicked by all the work that still has to be done. Still, what would be the point if projects didn't come down to the wire!
Since the middle of July I've managed to create one picture a week. I'm really pleased with how they look  and here's a sneak peek of them before the exhibition opens.
I hope you like them. I still have two more to create before I go, and maybe another two (if I can manage) before the Scottish exhibition.
These pictures are A4 and don't seem much for a summer's worth of work, but they take me a long time to design and etch because etching takes longer than drawing, and I'm still pretty new to drawing. I started going to art classes about nine years ago, not having drawn since I was 17. I'm now getting more and more ambitious with my designs, and my latest picture (ceilidh dancers - middle right) called for me to draw people in 3D looking like they were dancing AND having faces! - I've been putting this picture off all summer...
It took me a few goes to get the figures looking in proportion (the family thought my first attempts were hilarious), and it took me even longer to get the faces and hands looking acceptable, but I got there, and I'm so proud of the result. It may not be perfect, but compared to how it would have looked 6 months ago I think it looks amazing, and huge thanks go to my art teacher Lorraine for helping me so much. Without her classes I would never have started etching in the first place, and this project would never have happened.
Last week I taught workshops to the scouts and the cubs, which went really well. The explorers filmed the scout one for the film they are producing. I'm teaching one last workshop this week to the guides, and then  I choose my 20 favourite Scottish pictures to enlarge. This was a really hard task with the Malawian pictures, but I came up with a technique which I'll use again. It's really exciting to see everyone's work laid out on my kitchen table when I'm choosing, and remembering the workshops, and all the people I've met. I'm looking forward to doing it all again.
This Friday (Sept 5th) My friend Bettie has organised a Bingo Tea to raise funds for I Love Scolawi. It will be held in Dunshalt Village Hall and starts at 7pm for 7:30. It should be a good night, with lots of great prizes up for grabs. If you're not really into bingo you can always come along for the cakes - Bettie always puts on a really good spread at her Bingo Teas!
If you're local then please come along, have a great night out, and help support I Love Scolawi.
Thank you to everyone who's pledged to my crowdfunding campaign. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/553280159/i-love-scolawi
Unfortunately, I haven't been able to spend the time advised to promote the page (2-3 hours a day!) and it's not going to reach it's target. The pledges are only taken from your bank accounts if the target is reached, so none of your money will be transfered. This funding route was always going to be hard to pull off because I've  fundraised so much previously, and I'm not surprised it hasn't raised it's target. But I'm really please to have tried it, and I used it to get I Love Scolawi mentioned in the papers again which is great. In fact, I was talking to my hairdresser about the project the day after there was a piece in The Courier, when the lady next to me asked if I was the 'etching' lady that she'd read about the previous day, and how interesting she had thought the project was. I was so proud!
Without the crowdfunding source I've had to scale back the exhibition slightly, but I hope it won't be noticeable. I will no longer be making a book of the project for the participating groups, There will be less A0 posters, and some of the frames/hangers for the Malawian exhibition will be reused for the Scottish one.
So far I have raised nearly £5,000 which is completely overwhelming amount, and I'd like to thank everyone who has donated towards the project (some people multiple times, so you get multiple thank yous!). A huge special thank you goes to Violet, Bettie, Laura and Claude, and Amanda who have wanted to see this project succeed so much, that they have planned events, or raised money in other ways for the project. Thank you, I couldn't have managed without you.
If you haven't already donated but really want to, please use the PayPal donate button on the top right hand side of my blog. 

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Scolawi News 10th August 2014

It's been another busy few weeks for me and once again I'm starting to panic again about time. I'm sure everything will turn out fine in the end just like before my last trip out to Malawi, but for now...
I've been etching new pictures as much as I can, and have finished two that I'm immensely proud of. They are based around the symbolism and legends behind the Scottish and Malawian flags. This week I've been working on a picture featuring tartan that didn't work so well and which will need to be re thought-out and redone. This is annoying, but has reminded me that cutting corners doesn't save time in the long run, and that I need to plan everything on paper first.
The etching workshop I taught in Auchtermuchty last weekend went really well, and I was delighted with the pictures people created. I really don't know how I'm going to choose the best ones to enlarge for the exhibition. 19 people braved the rain to come along and learn etching.
Everyone standing outside in the drizzle showing off their pictures.

A couple of weeks ago I gave a talk about I Love Scolawi to the Howe of Fife Rotary. They seemed very interested in the project, and delighted that I had taught an etching workshop to the Chimwemwe Children's Centre for street kids while I was in Malawi. Their rotary have raised lots of money for the centre so they could build their own place with space for training and temporary accommodation.
Plans are moving on apace for my second trip out to Malawi to exhibit the show. The plane tickets have been bought and I've confirmed my spot at the Lake of Stars festival and at the Blantyre Arts Festival I will also be exhibiting the show to all of the project's participant organisations while I am out there. It will be wonderful to go back and see everyone again because when I was in Malawi last time, I didn't think I would be going back and the goodbyes felt very final.
I have spent some time last week putting together a crowdfunding campaign for the workshop and exhibition costs. Crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people via the Internet, with rewards offered for your contribution.
My campaign isn't live just yet, but I hope it will be by the end of this week, and I will send out a quick email to let you know when it's all go. I realise that there are lots of you who have already contributed generously to this project, but there are other ways to help with the campaign like emailing your contacts to spread the word, or sharing my posts on Facebook and twitter so other people hear about the project.
Lastly, it was suggested to me that I hold an informal fundraising 'slideshow' evening to show off the photographs I took and talk about the stories behind them.
There will be a £5 entrance with a glass of wine beforehand and tea/coffee and cakes afterwards.
Does this sound like something you'd like to come to? Could you let me know if you're interested so I can decide whether or not to run it. I've tentatively booked Dunshalt Village Hall for the evening of Saturday 30th August.