Archive for January, 2010
It takes time to find a good place to draw in the city. Often i find myself walking round and round in circles, revisiting the same streets, eyeing up the buildings I would love to draw, loitering and procrastinating, trying to figure out a good spot.
And in a city like Dar there really isn’t that much room to manouver once you have picked the ideal view. The streets are narrow, the pavements populated with stalls and kiosks, the sun is oh so hot (reducing your sketchbook to a sweaty pulp is far from ideal), and there really are not so many handy things to sit on (and you have to be kinda comfortable to sit and draw for an hour or more).
But after extensive research, imagine the satisfaction when you find the ideal spot, a perch to balance on, in the shade for at least an hour or two, inconspicuous enough not too encourage too many bystanders to crowd around and a stunning vista to try and re-create. Ah the joy.
So you settle down, greet the people around you, get past the awkward first lines on the page, hopefully without too much intimidating scrutiny from your new found friends. You are on a roll, you immerse yourself in the wonderful view, the gorgeous angles and intriguing details – the more you see as the more you draw. All is going well, hurahh, another page of the book is taking shape… and then… out of nowhere, with a squeal of brakes and a cloud of dust, the view goes white. Shiny white.. shiny brand new Toyota landcruiser white. Some ****** has parked right in front of your view.
Oh, the new (to me) and exciting world of blogging… louder than swahili ties in with a drawing….
I bet you’ve heard that line many times if you have been to Tanzania.
Lakini, I know where the Tanzanian small change is. On Kawawa Road, as on many other big roads in Dar es Salaam, it is a business to sell change to the conductors of the daladalas. A stack of coins might be 500 or 1000 Tanzanian shillings, which is sold for 500 and 1000 shillings + 50-100 shillings in extra charge. The conductors are then able to give change to the millions of passengers which every day pack themselves into a crowded daladala once, twice or thrice a day, every working day of the week.”
Thanks for the inspirations Pernille!
In this day and age, many people are confused to see me lurking on street corners drawing. They helpfully point out of the invention of the camera and suggest that would make my life much easier. Some take it to another level – an askari came to chat to me the other day while i was sketching. “Who is paying you?” he insisted and despite my attempts to convince him otherwise, plain refused to believe I really was doing it just because i felt like it. “But you are lying to me. What is the point of drawing when you can take a photo?”
I used to occasionally photograph the view i had drawn on finishing a sketch, but now i make a point of it, just to really confuse onlookers. Taking a photograph of exactly the same thing i have been painstakingly recreating for an hour or so confirms their initial impression that i am clearly, completely and utterly mad.
On Sundays in Dar es Salaam there is a large church group who jog, military style, for exercise. In early morning the back streets are quiet, but the main roads are not. The group run and chant the song Mambo Bado. (Our work is not finished.) They slap their feet to the ground like a bass drum, their voices sing in Gospel unison and their clapping hands add rhythm to the run. Mambo bado, moto, moto, moto; Mambo Bado, clap, clap, clap, Mambo Bado, moto moto moto, the song goes on. The group are about twenty people across and stretch back thirty or forty yards. This square of song takes up more than half the road. The leader carries a small red flag to warn traffic of their presence. Mambo Bado, around one corner, Mambo Bado, up a hill. They have presence; they have faith; they have numbers but, they seem to have little respect for physics! As they chant and jog around a blind corner onto a main road, an unseen lorry hurtles downhill towards them. The leader frantically waves his red flag, like a football linesman, to alert the driver of this speeding missile. As tons of metal and steel descend on the flesh and bone of the group they are defiant… they have a run to complete, they are many, the lorry is alone. They jog on, Mambo Bado, they do not break ranks, Mambo Bado, there is a screech of tyres. The truck skids and turns sideways, nearly rolling over. Mambo Bado clap, clap, clap. The group sing louder but in truth they are saved by the miracle of modern disk brakes. They break ranks only to run around the stationary truck. A few interrupt their song to shout abuse at the driver, before continuing. Mambo Bado clap, clap, clap.
by George McBean, January 2010