Its over a year now since my trip to Nachingwea in Tanzania. Soon after I returned home I began a painting that was intended to be an encapsulation of my thoughts and a recollection of my observations and sensations from the visit. Its not an accurate portrayal of a particular place but an impression of my first and last experiences of Tanzania as I, along with Liz and Bill, the other members of the group, travelled to Nachingwea from Mtwara and returned there eleven days later, tired but inspired.
My diary account of our final day formed the background to this painting.
” Inside the Toyota its warm, the road is rough and I soon feel drowsy. My head drops, bouncing around against the headrest, I almost sleep. The bush, chambas, palm trees, chickens, goats, cashew trees, padi fields pass like recollections of every image I’ve seen in the last eleven days, imprinting themselves indelibly on my memory. In spite of the distances its never long between seeing bicycles laden with water cans, limes, charcoal or sticks and people on foot with buckets of water or sheaves of reeds on their heads. Wide open spaces give way to groves of tall coconut palms with houses threaded between them. The scrub is dotted with tall white trunked trees and of course the iconic Baobabs like silver sentinels monitoring the land”.
The painting was finished a few week ago now, roughly on the anniversary of our return. It includes scenes that we regularly came across on the roads between towns and villages. The strongest visual impact on me was the colour of the soil, rich in minerals. Everything at the road margins was covered in dust kicked up by the wind and passing vehicles, becoming the same red ochre. The land is a valuable resource providing food and building materials. I wanted to describe this visually by having the orange and earthy browns and reds dominating the composition.
The land and the mobile phone
The influence of mobile phone use was huge and I felt the painting needed to show a phone mast. It occurred to me that this technology has been adopted so readily it must therefore be very useful in helping Tanzanians organise their lives. I also felt that access to the internet could be even more important to populations of places like Nachingwea, enabling access to knowledge bases from the wider world. Then there is the contradiction between the reliability of the mobile phone signal compared to the vagaries of the water and electricity supplies, though these are improving. There is a hunger to modernise.
The Baobab tree represents the natural world reminding me that most people, regardless of their professional lives, still maintain a strong connection with the land. They were the strongest image left in my brain. The sight of the phone masts planted across the country side was almost as ubiquitous as the iconic Baobabs and thats why I’ve called the painting ‘The phone mast and the Baobab’.
To see more images of my visit to Nachingwea, Tanzania visit, http://www.stuartnurse-artist.co.uk/TanzaniaPage.html