Sketching in the Dark in Tanzania by Alison Nicholls

Tea by the Fire Field Sketch 11x14" © Alison Nicholls 2014

Tea by the Fire Field Sketch 11×14″ © Alison Nicholls 2014

Tea by the Fire was possibly one of the most difficult sketches I’ve created, because I was sketching in near darkness. I had been invited into the home of a Maasai family to sketch, but when I got inside I couldn’t even see the chair I was offered, and I had no idea how many people were in the house, never mind whether they were men, women or children. I was doing pretty well with my KiMaasai greetings by this stage in my trip, so I was hoping to be able to say the correct greetings to the various members of the family according to their gender and age, but it is very difficult to greet people when you don’t know who they are or even where they are!

My eyes took a couple of minutes to adjust and then I could see 2 women and 2 children by the fire. There was a small opening high up on the wall which let the smoke out and a little light in. There were pots on the fire and soon we each had a lovely cup of hot milky tea. Gradually I was able to start putting pencil to paper and by the time I finished sketching, I could see the family and the contents of the house quite well. I wanted the sketch to show the darkness of the house and the tiny slivers of light from the window.

As I sketched, I was thinking about this amazing opportunity and how removed I felt from my normal life. I like to avoid the use of technology as much as possible during my travels in Africa. Its a kind of escape for me. But every now and again I would be reminded that technology reaches most places these days – a cellphone screen would briefly flood the house with a cold blinding light as one of the family members received an incoming call or text!

Until next time…
Alison

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
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