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 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.
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.
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/
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!