Alison Nicholls being dressed in shukas.

Alison Nicholls at Loibor Siret School in Tanzania            photos by African People & Wildlife Fund/Deirdre Leowinata

Shukas are the pieces of cloth, often patterned and brightly colored, which are worn by the Maasai of East Africa.
So why am I being dressed in shukas in this photo? Because I was asked to be Guest of Honor at the Loibor Siret Primary School for their end of school prize-giving ceremony!

I was visiting Tanzania to stay with the African People & Wildlife Fund, who are based close to Tarangire National Park. I have visited 3 times now, sketching on site and learning about their work helping communities manage their natural resources for the mutual benefit of people & wildlife. During my visits I have taught a number of drawing classes at the school but on this trip I had also arranged to stencil some of the classrooms, paint one of the end walls of the school, and hang the village of Loibor Siret’s first artwork exhibition (more posts about all this will be coming soon). It was an unexpected and very pleasant surprise to be asked to be guest of honor at the school closing a couple of days later. I knew I would be asked to give a short speech so I wrote it in English and asked Everest, who works at APW, to translate it into KiSwahili for me (the language that everyone learns at school in Tanzania). I think there was a little doubt that I would be able to read the speech in KiSwahili, but it is written phonetically so after a couple of practices I was fairly understandable! In the speech I congratulated the students who were to receive prizes, but reminded all the others that they should work hard because they too have the gift of education, a gift which can help them, their families, their community and their country.

Alison Nicholls at Loibor Siret Primary School, Tanzania

Alison Nicholls at Loibor Siret School, Tanzania          photos by African People & Wildlife Fund/Deirdre Leowinata

After the speech was the prize-giving, where children received gifts of books, pencils and protractor sets. I also gave 2 prizes of laminated copies of my paintings, for the best girl and boy in the art class the previous day. Then it was announced that there was a gift for me and I was dressed in my 4 shukas by 2 of the girls.
I’m so pleased to have a real Maasai outfit. Now I just need to start collecting the jewelry!

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

Until next time…

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