Happy New Year!
In the Winter 2008 issue of Women in the Arts, we reported on a new two-year collaborative project between women artists in Ohio and Tanzania: the U.S. State Department Educational and Cultural Affairs selected two Northwest Ohio agencies—Great Lakes Consortium for International Training and Development (GLC) and Arts Council Lake Erie West (ACLEW)—to jointly organize “Arts Exchanges on International Issues for Tanzania.” GLC Project Manager Dr. Elizabeth Balint, ACLEW Director Martin Nagy, and artists LaTreice Branson and Raja Aossey recently visited NMWA and were excited to report that the project has been hugely successful and many more projects with women in Tanzania are being discussed.
GLC has been working on projects in Tanzania since 2001, when Tanzanian Prime Minister Hon. Sumaye visited Northwest Ohio. GLC assisted in the welcoming of the guests and met with Tanzanian leaders. Through their collaborative projects approximately 40 Tanzanians and 40 Americans have had the opportunity to participate in international travels, although thousands of people have benefited through workshops, professional meetings, and community events. The programs had a specific focus on Northwest Ohio, but included visits to Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois. In Tanzania the geographic focus was in Dar es Salaam, Tanga, the Arusha and Dodoma area, and Zanzibar. Themes for the exchanges included local government development, international business development, and economic growth. Hundreds of community partners, volunteers, and host families supported these exchanges.
“Arts Exchanges on International Issues for Tanzania” specifically teaches women to use art as a form of self-expression and to engage their community. A team of 13 women from Northwest Ohio and 25 from Tanzania collaborated on artwork and exhibitions, traveled to diverse art agencies and cultural institutions, and developed networks and strategies to empower young women artists. In February 2009, a U.S. delegation went to Tanzania and worked with women from diverse and underserved populations; a second group traveled there in July. A group of Tanzanian artists visited Ohio for a 28-day residency program in April, and a second delegation visited in October. The artwork created during these trips can be seen on the virtual gallery at www.artistsoftanzania.org. The project illustrated a systemic change in attitude through a cross-cultural dialogue that addresses artistic, gender, social, cultural, educational, networking, and leadership issues. In the long term, the women’s empowerment will contribute to improved family welfare and nutrition, higher education goals for young women, and an improved economic growth for society as a whole.
The Tanzanian women were incredibly eager to create art—working from early morning to night—and have the opportunity to discuss their work with women in their community. They were surprised that women in the U.S. still did not have an equal standing in the art world, and were inspired to establish art schools and spread the power of creative expression.
LaTreice Branson, one of the artists from Ohio who traveled to Tanzania, was greatly impacted by her experience: “I am honored to be part of a growing women’s network that embraces education, empowerment, advocacy, and change on behalf of our sisters around the world. We are painters, sculptors, fiber artists, photographers, and educators with a passion to share not only our talents, but our story.”
Ohio artist Raja Aossey says, “I want to spread the idea that art can heal, and I’ve seen it happen through the Tanzanian women artists. As I continue my journey as an artist, I must keep in mind the work I am doing is not just for myself, but also for humanity. Reflecting on my time in Tanzania, I have come to realize that we are all connected.”
Project Codirector Martin Nagy has also learned the power of art: “We have seen life-changing experiences brought about in the artists and those hundreds of people involved with the artists both in Tanzania and the U.S. Letting go of fears and inhibitions and being engaged in the arts does change lives. Life is full of color, opportunities, impressions, reactions, and actions to be performed. We hope that many will be encouraged to study and discuss topics of gender, equity, education, and the arts that could not be developed in this project, and realize the importance of these topics in relation to all woman/mankind. These topics enrich our world.”
For more information, visit www.artistsoftanzania.org.