Volunteer Art Collaboration is an Example to all!

by Charlotte Hill O'Neal

March, 2004

Women artists collaborated in an international effort to repair a badly damaged statue at the Family Roundabout in Arusha recently. 

The three statues, including a Mama, Baba (father) and Mtoto (child) represented an homage to the traditional African Family...the hard work, sacrifices and determination by our Ancestors that enabled all of us to be at the point that we are now.  The unique cement casted statues which are prominently located in seat of government area in Arusha, were created by former UAACC resident artists and teachers, Adrian Mwaikambo, Ally Mhina and myself, three years ago as  a part of the Beautification of Arusha program instituted by the former Regional Commissioner of Arusha, Hon. Daniel ole Njoolay.

One of the statues at the Family Roundabout was damaged nearly three months ago, when a vehicle knocked down the light which in turn, hit the statue causing fairly extensive damage to the “Mama’ of the group.  Both her pot and ultimately her head and neck were decapitated.

Even though the original work was funded by the municipal government, money for the repairs was slow to be forthcoming, resulting in the work becoming a terrible eyesore, seen often by visiting presidents, international visitors and the community at large!

It was so hurtful to see that beautiful work in such a state and I tried to drum up support to fix the tableau asap!

One day, I received a phone call from a lady who identified herself as Ms. Lynn DiNino, an artist from Seattle, Washington who had been visiting a Tanzanian lady friend of hers.  Lynn told me how she too was hurt every time she passed by the damaged statue and wanted to volunteer to help repair it if possible!

I quickly jumped on that opportunity...after all Lynn's specialty just happened to be concrete sculpture!!  She had only a very few days left before she left for Seattle so we moved quickly with our plans.  UAACC would supply all the materials needed and she and I would work together to repair the neck and head and create a new pot.  What a God send this news was!!

Charlotte and Lynn DiNino before repairing the statue.  (note the head on the ground; the pot was completed smashed up!)

Charlotte applying wire and cement mixture to the head to create another support for the pot to be.

Charlotte and Lynn stand proudly with the freshly repaired statue which is outfitted with braces and supports.  The pot was created by attaching wire armature around a natural gourd then completing with cement mixture.

Even though I had helped to design the original statues I actually was the painter of the statues NOT one of the casters. 

Even though Lynn had to leave for Seattle the day after we completed the two day job she had provided me with a mini workshop, on the job training, that enabled me to learn more about the intricacies of concrete sculpture.  She really inspired me and fired my imagination for more concrete sculpture creations.  As I told her, "I've been bit by the cement art bug!!"

I left the work to dry slowly for about a week, shrouded under plastic bags.  As luck would have it two visitors from Kansas City arrived to UAACC.  The visitors, Dr. Linda Cloud and Ms. Nedra Bonds, whom I had known nearly all my life in Kansas City, arrived with a donation of acrylic paints that had been raised by students from Ms. Veda Monday's class at Van Horn High School in Kansas City through car wash fund raisers! 

I had worked with Sister Nedra many times on art projects and in exhibitions before (she is an internationally known art quilter and painter) and both she and Linda volunteered to help me repaint the statues with the donated paint from Kansas City!!

(left) Nedra Bonds and Charlotte painting statues. (right) Linda Cloud and Nedra painting statues using paints donated from Van Horn High school students in Kansas City

What an example all these women artists are for the community!  Working out in the hot sun, without pay...full of high spirits and good will...this was truly an inspiring example of international collaboration and love!

Asanteni and big ups to Lynn, Nedra and Linda!

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