Shimmer & Shukas. Field Sketch from Tanzania by Artist Alison Nicholls.

Shimmer and Shukas Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls

Shimmer and Shukas Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls

Shimmer & Shukas was painted during a day-long Maasai ceremony in Loibor Siret, northern Tanzania. The women were dazzling in their vibrant shukas, covered with beaded necklaces, headbands, earrings, arm & ankle bracelets. As usual, I started my sketch with a very light pencil drawing and then, a couple of hours later, while the ceremony continued around me, I added the watercolor.

The ceremony itself was for a group of moran (warriors), who were embarking on the long process of becoming elders. The men had just finished drinking calabashes of milk and a slight halt was called in the proceedings while the cows headed out to pasture. I had asked permission to sketch and saw this group of women nearby, so I began. Their beaded jewelry is mostly white, with areas of blue & yellow, while small metal disks on thin chains hang from almost every piece – hence the “shimmer” in the title of the sketch. Painting white beads and shiny metal disks on white paper can be a challenge, so I didn’t paint them, instead I painted around them, using the colors of the dark skin and bright shukas to define the jewelry.

So why was I sketching in a Maasai engang (homestead) in Tanzania? Because I was revisiting the African People & Wildlife Fund (APW), an organization I have been supporting for several years now. APW has created numerous positive benefits for communities on the Maasai Steppe. Local children have the opportunity to attend an environmental summercamp and receive a scholarship for high school education. Human-wildlife conflict has been reduced by the innovative Living Walls program. Women’s groups can apply for grants to start a small business. The community has asked APW for, and received, data and environmental education, allowing them to make good long-term decisions about their land and water use. APW’s impact has been possible due to the creation of a permanent base in the area and their close links with local communities, who provide the vast majority of their staff.

Perhaps the most wonderful thing for me, was to be remembered by some of these friendly and welcoming people from my previous visits. They encouraged me to sketch and were always interested in seeing my work. I will be sending copies of my sketches back to APW so they can be given to all the people who were in them. Next week I’ll show you video of my work at the Loibor Siret school, but in the meantime I’d like to thank Dr Laly Lichtenfeld and Charles Trout for inviting me to return to Noloholo, and all the APW staff, particularly Joyce Ndakaru, for their help and support. Asanteni sana!

Learn more about the valuable work of the African People & Wildlife Fund on the Maasai Steppe in Tanzania.

See more of my African Field Sketches.

Until next time…
Alison

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
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