Recollections from John Platt
Almost every day I was at RVCV, Musa (age 6) was ready to make art! His process is incredible because he narrates every piece while he draws it. The pictures vary from a Safari, an undersea adventure, a bicycle race and a dinosaur landscape. Each new mark on the paper represents someone or something happening. He is always very precise and extremely concentration on his work; nothing is accidental and nothing is without specific meaning. Musa’s exceptional use of color and sense of composition make him one of the best artists I know.
Raymondi (age 7) lives in Serengeti House with Dickson (age 7) and Janu (age 5). I could usually count on all three of them giggling outside my door 15 minutes after I tucked them into bed.
Raymondi tears up his subject matter – literally. Even for a little kid, he is wild in his process, always working with a fervor that sometimes causes his pencil to rip through the paper.
Deciding on a subject, usually from books or magazines, was very important to all the kids, but especially with Raymondi. He would roughly flip through page after page very quickly – always looking very carefully. Once he chose his subject he was locked into it and nothing could stop him. No matter what time of day it was, I always had Raymondi after me asking “CAN WE DRAW?!?!”
Kizzie first came to my class by leaving her scheduled Toddler Time group and joining my Standard 2 kids. Unlike my other students, Kizzie is very quiet and does not come very often to paint. She is very cinematic in her approach – painting frame by frame and in rapid-fire succession. Each time she would show up for class and, without a word, take her brush and her color and go to work.
Kizzie is adorable and sweet but single-minded in her art and fiercely independent. She does not let anyone help her or tell her what color or brush to use. Her approach is totally fluid but she always has a clear vision and a specific palette that she does not deviate from.
The Zebra Herd
Many of the kids felt frustrated that their work wasn’t “perfect.” I found myself continually using the Zebra as an example that nothing in nature is “perfect.” Every Zebra’s stripes are different so I told the kids they should each do a Zebra and we could see how different they all are.
The painting to the left displays the incredible talent of Boni (age 5). Hailing from Tarangire house, Boni is one of the most passionate painters of all the younger kids. Day after day he worked side-by-side with Musa, each one totally absorbed in their work. Musa is the great narrative painter but Boni was something different than any other child I have ever worked with.
He was so in love with color that most of his process was working the palette. He would spend long periods of time mixing just the right shade of red and would then carefully place the color on the paper in one of his characteristic dots. I gave him his first set of oil pastels and he took each color out of the box, kissed it, then carefully put it back. I once asked him “Boni what are we making with all these dots?” to which he responded “I’m making soda.”
Nada and Ally: Friendly Rivals
It was later in my time at RVCV that I met Ally (Age 10) and Nada (Age 11). Both boys are from Mikumi House and both are astoundingly talented artists. Ally’s work, like his personality, is soft spoken, direct and gentle. One day Ally took a book on lions back to his room and within minutes had produced a suite of drawings, one of which you see here.
Note the delicacy of the line quality and the assurance of the composition – he knows exactly how and where the lion is going to appear on the page. Nada’s work is also like his personality, though a stark difference from Ally. Nada is intense. He has a strong emotional core which shows in the power and command of his drawings. The stunning line quality and beautiful form of his animals make for work which, like Nada himself, is completely unique.
There is a seriousness and an anger as well as a sweetness and sense of humor. Ally and Nada have a relationship that has appeared before in art history – Picasso/Braque, Pollock/deKooning, Johns/Rauschenberg – that of two artists competing as friends. Their relationship highlights a frequent dynamic of my classes at RVCV – male dominated, fiercely competitive, great fun. I think the best thing about all of their drawings is that you can see the confidence and intelligence of these two amazing kids. I will never draw again without thinking of Ally and Nada.
The Serengeti Plain
Shortly before my arrival at the Children’s Village the Standard 1 and Standard 2 classes had gone on a day Safari to Lake Manyara National Park. At the end of the year the Standard 4 and Standard 5 classes were going to the Serengeti on an over night trip. Needless to say Safari was on everyone’s mind. At first we started drawing animals from the imagination – which worked well with Standard 1 and Standard 2. By the time I got to Standard 4 and 5 we had changed things up by using India’s wildlife books. This is where our Safari really took shape. We had a very large group all doing their own animals. The energy in the room was tangible as all the kids made amazing animal drawings and paintings taken from the books in the RVCV library or India’s own shelf. There was some competition, especially when three of the boys would all work from the same image, and also some collaboration. Ally (age 10) made a terrific drawing of a family of elephants and to my delight, I noticed Elia (age 11) had started to work from Ally’s drawing and make his own. He made absolutely sure that we would know what they were and who made it with his red lettering, which is an interesting habit among the kids – to write what they just drew in extremely large block letters across the page.
The afternoon got off the a slow start with Vicenti asking to draw privately in his room. Suddenly Boazi was in on it. I found Ally in the Rec Hall and Musa on the swings and then Yohani came by too. Vicenti did an awesome lion, Yohani did an amazing elephant, Ally started outlining a stunning blue and yellow bird and Boazi made an incredible Impala – all simultaneously. Doctor came by to help the boys with their shading and stayed to do a bird of his own. I showed him all the zebras and he loved the idea of showing them as a herd.
No matter what I may see in future trips to Africa, there is no better impala than the one Boazi painted, there is no better Elephant than Yohani’s, there will never be birds as beautiful as Ally’s or a Zebra better than Vicenti’s. This is the best Safari ever.