Calcutas Painting Class

Saraguro Calcutas Painting Class Last Day014.JPGFor three days this week (Tues./Weds./Thurs.) over half of the Calcutas (I counted 12 women) and many of their kids have had a day-long course in fabric painting. Offered as part of some missionary activity of the out of Loja, for only $100 the women were given instruction in the method of transferring patterns from paper to cloth using carbon paper and tracing, and they learned how to use acrylic paints to put color on the cloth. The patterns were brought by the teachers of the course, and largely consisted of line drawings of flowers, fruit arrangements, and for the kids, "Strawberry Patch" type "cute" little girls and boys with baggy pants, hats, etc. The point was to learn the technique, not necessarily to express their own visions of art or life. Most of the women chose to work on tablecloths with fruit patterns. Enith Paqui took to the technique quite quickly, and where the other women worked hard to finish one, or perhaps two pieces, she completed several, including matching wall paintings of a Starwberry Patch boy for her two sons, two flower wall hangings--one on which she plans to calligraphy a poem, and a larger table cloth. She worked quickly and well, and her pieces, though based on stock drawings, show promise in their technique. She asked if there were classes for this kind of thing in the States and I said I thought there were. She said she wants to check into taking some classes there when she goes back at the end of this month.

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At the end of the third day, the two male ministers came to have a closing ceremony and to pick up the two female teachers. First the women of the Calcutas who wanted to speak gave their thanks to the teachers and the ministry for their assistance. "Mary," the group's president was not there, so Anita, as past president, spoke and thanked them for coming, and for teaching the women a new skill. She said they hope to continue to learn, and any future help would be much appreciated. Aleja and Enith both spoke along the same lines. I got my camera on, on video, for the end of Aleja's speech, for Enith's, for Mami Petrona's and for a second piece by Anita.


The older of the two men then spoke, too, saying things such as, "What you really accomplished these three days was not these individual works, but the work of community making." Also said that they hope to continue the relationship, that this workshop, the work of their hands, was really just a seed, a beginning. He offered a prayer, and at the end they gave the women a set of books that I think are somewhat proselytizing, but also offer some practical wisdom. In a place where people do not have a lot of access to or money for books, but where they see the value of them and avidly look over books they receive (evidenced by the enthusiasm everyone has shown for the collection of Apache tales and legends and the Atlas of the Earth that I brought), the symbolic value of giving free books to everyone certainly resonates.


Two things I found ironic or disconcerting about the closing of the workshop:


First, I thought it was ironic that the minister chose to preach about the need to make community, and how they had started to do so here during the workshop. The women of this community and this organization have been working in some form collectively for their entire lives. They already know more about community making than could fill a dozen books--whether we're talking about family based collective effort or community-wide mingas, or the informal social support network that includes people with a milk cow sending milk daily to relatives with babies and no cow, these women already know what functional community means. To have a man from the city come to them with his words of wisdom on this topic seems pretty patronizing to me as an observer.


The second disconcerting thing was more personal. I had only been around the margins of the workshop--popping in at the end of the first day, when I helped Anita (at her request) finish tracing her first pattern onto a cloth, and visiting briefly with some of the other women. I came back from Saraguro and an interview with Zoila Chalan (see below) for the last hour of the final day, and helped a bit with hanging finished pieces on the walls for a final display and some photos. Took photos for Enith with her camera, as she asked, and took photos of a couple of the women with their completed pieces so I could bring them prints later (as they requested). Then I took video footage for them of the closing ceremony--this was the extent of my involvement with the class. So I was a bit startled and disconcerted when both Enith and the minister verbally thanked me for my assistance. I guess the presence of an outsider, and an U.S. outsider at that, made them feel compelled to acknowledge me, but really, I had nothing to do with any of the substance of what these women were doing. Made me uncomfortable to be singled out like that for no other reason than I occupy the structural position of someone from a distant, "elite" society. But, this is inevitably part of my presence here.


Next week the Calcutas will resume their regular Tuesday afternoon meeting and collective artesania work session.


About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by David Syring published on August 9, 2009 3:24 PM.

Strange Dreams and ¨Mysterious¨ Cave was the previous entry in this blog.

Arrangements for Bringing Necklaces to Sell in the US, Moving into the New Kitchen, A Young Man with Cancer, & Meeting with CEMIS is the next entry in this blog.

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