Tuesday, December 6, 2011


November 28th marked the end of the Microsoft Word Training Workshop at the Busia Community Library. After Mama Mtoto (Mother and Child reading program) ended, the ladies wanted to continue to gather together on a weekly basis. They informed us that they wanted to learn how to use computers.

So, with three laptops shared between 14 Mamas, one chalkboard and a few instructors, we taught them the basics! They learned how to turn on the computer, open a file, click and drag, change font, use punctuation, save a file…and all those other things that those of us who are computer literate take for granted.

They were a bit timid at first, but after a few weeks they dove right in. We kept practicing and practicing and learning and learning. They were such eager students, it knocked my socks off! I am used to teaching 2nd and 3rd graders, who, let’s just say are not always completely interested in what they are learning

We finished the class by typing up CV’s (resumes) for all the Mamas. Now they each have two copies of their work and learning experience to present to potential employers. We also presented them with certificates to show they completed our training.

The Mamas each took turns speaking about the class. They said how much they loved coming together each week and bonding as a group.

Scholastica shared that her neighbors used to think she was illiterate-- when she told them that she was going to get a certificate for a computer class, they could not believe it! Now her neighbors want to come to a computer class at the library themselves! She said that she can even tell that her husband respects her more now for her achievement.

Rose told us that she used to think that computer skills were only for the learned, but now she has computer skills, and is planning to continue developing these skills.

They all echoed the sentiment that they want to continue to grow as learners and are confident that this class will help them with their employment goals.

We had a celebration on Monday complete with speeches, pictures, music, mandazi and the presentation of certificates which all took place in the newly repainted adult section of the library.

Enjoy the photos from the class, celebration, and library make-over!


P.S. This is my last week at BCL. Sad. I'm going to the states for Christmas and then my husband and I will be moving to Kakamega (Kenya) when we return. I am sure that I will be back to Busia to check on the library and visit!

Scholastica gives her remarks on the class

Presenting Gladys with her certificate

Gladys #2 dances while she receives her certificate

Computer class (minus Esther) with certificates

(with Esther)

Gladys enjoying some reading time before the celebration

Preparing to paint the adult side

Extreme painting skills for hard-to-reach spots

Gladys, Katie and Everlyn give a thumbs up after the painting job is done

BCLS readers in action

The new view from the librarian's desk at BCLS

Friday, November 25, 2011

Vincent Ouma: Strangle

The last in the exhibition, Strangle is one that also comes off much better in reality than in this photo. When we were going over the paintings to bring back to the US, Vincent, Seth-o and I stood over Vincent's paintings and I pointed to this one, saying I liked it because it was a bit ugly. Seth-o said he agreed, and that he had gotten caught in the rain the day before and he had felt exactly like the central figure in this painting. There's so many ways to look at this painting.

If you'd like more information about this painting, or Vincent Ouma, please contact eva@mariaslibraries.org.

Erick Ayoti: Baby feeding

This is such a tender painting of mother and child, it is gentle and personal.

If you would like more information on this painting, or on Erick Ayoti, please email eva@mariaslibraries.org.

Vincent Ouma: Dunga Beach

Another Lake Victoria scene fishing scene, this time it's the fishermen bringing in their haul from the Lake.

If you'd like more information on this painting, or the Vincent Ouma, please email eva@mariaslibraries.org.

Seth-o Omollo: Small and big fish

Another painting from Seth-o of market women bringing fish to market. Lake Victoria is the mainstay of much of the economy in Kisumu.

If you would like more information on this paintings or on Seth-o Omollo, please email eva@mariaslibraries.org.

Erick Ayoti: Shanti Town

Again, I must admit that I have utterly failed to capture the power of this painting in this photograph. This depicts slum life, in all its dynamic, layered complexity. This is the final one of Erick's very large pieces in this exhibition, and is, again, about six feet by two and a half feet.

For more information on this painting, or on Erick Ayoti, please email eva@mariaslibraries.org

Vincent Ouma: Crazy Society

Vincent pointed to this painting when I asked him which his favorite of his paintings was. It depicts an old man sitting under a tree. On the ground next to where he is sitting is a "weaver bird" coming out of his nest. Weaver birds build amazing nest. As can be surmised from the bird's name, they are intricately woven, like a basket. When one typically thinks of nests, one thinks of something like an indented pillow made of sticks and other natural substances. However, what weaver birds build is much more spherical, with a small opening at the front. They typically hang from trees, and some trees have 15-20 of these nests. In this painting, in the place of the weaver bird nests are typical Kenyan huts. Crazy society, the world turned upside down.

For more information on this painting or on Vincent Ouma, please email eva@mariaslibraries.org.

Seth-o Omollo: Fishing Downstream

This painting is small but to me is one of the most moving paintings in the bunch. It speaks to me of calm, and somehow both peace and melancholy at the same time.

For more information on this painting or on Seth-o Omollo, please email eva@mariaslibraries.org.

Vincent Ouma: Elnino at Manyatta Slum

Here again is a slum scene by Vincent Ouma. This one is a more intimate household scene, the backyard of what is probably a shared compound.

For more information on this painting or Vincent Ouma, email eva@mariaslibraries.org.

Erick Ayoti: Church Ladies

This is another of Erick's very large paintings, about 6 feet by 2 and a half feet. Church in Kenya is in many ways the center of the community. Here are the women of that community, making their way to church on what I imagine to be a Sunday morning. . .

For more information about this painting, or Erick Ayoti, please email eva@mariaslibraries.org.

Seth-o Omollo: We Are Off to Market

This is another style of painting from Seth-o, a group of market women bringing their fish to market.

If you have any questions about this painting, or about Seth-o Omollo, please contact eva@mariaslibraries.org.

Erick Ayoti: Modern Maasai

This painting is taller than I am. This painting depicts a member of the Maasai tribe, a nomadic tribe in Kenya and Tanzania. The Maasai are known for being a very proud people, warriers. They wear the very popular Maasai blankets, as you can see in this painting.

If you would like more information about this painting, or about the artist Erick Ayoti, please email eva@mariaslibraries.org

Vincent Ouma: Saving the Boat

Oh, the blue! Again, Vincent Ouma paints the long view over Lake Victoria, from boats and fishermen to the weather on the other side of the inlet.

If you have any questions about this painting, or about Vincent Ouma, please contact eva@mariaslibraries.org.

Erick Ayoti: Boda Boda

OK, I have to give a mea culpa here-- I failed to take a picture that can adequately capture how amazing this painting is. Boda boda, or bicycle taxi drivers, are carrying about their daily activities in chaos, which could be a famous sudden rainstorm (which sometimes results in fist-size hail), or perhaps it's less literal, something to do with order and chaos, daily routines and the swirling madness around them. In any case, this painting is a jaw-dropper. A detail below.

If you would like more information on this painting, or on Erick Ayoti, please contact eva@mariaslibraries.org.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Setho Omollo: The Hunters

The Hunters by Seth-o Omollo reminds me of rock paintings. About 4 years ago, I went to see some rock paintings in Kenya on Mfangano Island, which is near where many of the famous Kenyan archeological sites are. It's not too far from Kisumu, where these artists are based and the population is from the same tribe, the Luo. This thus speaks to a very different type of cultural heritage to some of the other pieces in this lot. This painting has been the favorite of many who peruse these paintings.

For more information about Seth-o or this painting, please email eva@mariaslibraries.org.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Vincent Ouma: Nyanlanda Boda boda

Boda boda in Western Kenya refers to bicycle taxi drivers. Nyanlanda is a slum neighborhood in Kisumu, Kenya, and this photo captures the scene perfectly-- both the stillness of a hot afternoon and the bustling happenings of the town. The way the boda boda is sitting in the foreground and the matatu (bus) is whizzing past will resonate with anyone who has spent time in a small African town.

If you would like more information about this painting, or Vincent Ouma, please email eva@mariaslibraries.org.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Seth-o Omollo: Casting a Net

The photo of this one came out a bit too turquoise, but I think it's still gorgeous. This painting is about 3 1/2 feet by 3 1/2 feet. This painting brings me right back to Lake Victoria, it brings out the stillness, the activity and the serene beauty. I think it even brings out the hot day. Seth-o really captures a day in the life, as it were.

If you want more information on this painting or the artist, please contact eva@mariaslibraries.org.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fisherman at Sunset by Vincent Ouma

I love this painting by Vincent Ouma, it's about three and a half feet wide and a foot and a half feet tall. This brings me right back to Lake Victoria and the shores in Kisumu. I'm putting one of my photographs of Lake Victoria as well.

If you'd like more information about this piece or artist, let me know! eva@mariaslibraries.org.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Erick Ayoti: Tunnel Music

"Tunnel Music" is Erick's representation of his grandfather playing traditional Luo music. This painting was Erick's first painting using acrylic on canvas. Although he has been showing and selling his paintings in Kisumu, Kenya for many years, this exhibition marks the first time this work has been viewed by the public. It is a great honor that Erick allowed me to take this work to America to be included in this exhibition.

If you would like more information about the artist or this piece, please email me at eva@mariaslibraries.org.

Introducing. . . Life on the Shores of Lake Victoria

Those of you on our newsletter will have seen that Maria's Libraries organized a gallery exhibition featuring paintings from Kisumu, Kenya at the Museum of African Culture in Portland, Maine. More details about the overall show will be forthcoming. This blog, however, is to introduce the series of blogs that will showcase this work. I will be posting paintings from the show twice a week for the duration of the show. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Hi there Library Friends-

It's Katie here, the new library volunteer most recently from Madison, WI.  I'm actually in Busia because my husband Miles is working for IPA.  While I'm here I have the freedom to spend part of my time manning the desk at the library, teaching the computer class to the Mamas, and scheming up other things to do in the library.  I'm also working part-time for IPA.

Last week Esther and I painted the children's side yellow!  We tore down the posters, scrubbed down the walls (Esther) and then I used my summer-in-college-spent-painting skills to rejuvinate the walls on that side.  It turned out beautifully, and then we hired an artistic fundi (handyman) to come in and paint images of animals on the wall as well.  We are thrilled with the results.  Now, of course, Esther and I have our sights set on doing something to the adult side as well, we shall see!

Tomorrow will be another computer class with the Mamas.  They are such eager learners, even coming in extra mornings just to practice typing skills.  We're trying to determine which computer skills are most useful and practical for them to aim to acquire.  This is a work in progress.

I hope you enjoy the pictures of the Library Makeover and the computer class!


Rose and Scholastica diligently practice typing

 Maria and the rabbit consult about his choice in books

Esther having a teaching moment with the rabbit

 Standing in front of their favorite animals

Fish and Lizard!

Esther and me with the kids: "Welcome children!  Karibu Watoto!"

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Bye Bye Busia

Hey everyone!

Today is my last day working at the library here in Busia, so I thought I'd share some of my final observations and reflections with you.

I hope you have enjoyed the Daily Visitors posts, I had a lot of fun making them. The readers were excited to tell me more about what they thought about the library and had no problem being photographed! This past Monday, Katie and I conducted the last computer class I attended, which Katie will continue with after I leave. The mothers have been making great progress, all arriving on time and being very dedicated students. The mamas have also become much more engaged during our meetings, being more open about what they know and what they still want to learn. I remember most of the mamas did not speak the first time I met them back in July, and now they cannot stop asking me questions and laughing at some of my weird “Dutch” ways.

During our transition meeting this past Tuesday, Maria and Esther expressed their excitement about the computer classes and they hope this will link the mamas to the library even more. They both appreciated my efforts here over the past 3 months and insisted I come back soon! Yesterday, Maria, Esther, Jimmy, Mary and I took a trip to Kisumu and enjoyed some beers and fish by Lake Victoria, as a final kwaheri (goodbye) to me.

It has been great interning for Maria's Libraries, and I really appreciate the opportunity Ariel and Eva have given me. It has been a great learning experience both professionally and personally and I would recommend it to every newly graduated BA student out there! I definitely intend on coming back when the new library is constructed :).

I hope you have enjoyed reading my blogpost, and that you will keep supporting Maria's Libraries in the future!


Daily Visitors

Ruth Musavi
"The library has improved a lot, people know the library now and they come here to get books. It's good!"

Daily Visitors

Sneaked into the adult reading section to read one of the textbooks.

Daily Visitors

Paul Okumu Echakara
"This is one of the most vital libraries in Busia district, I want to say that it is a learning tool that encourages learning spirit to small pupils at the primary level and it has also helped students who are doing corresponding studies, to do their research and learning in a condusive environment."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Daily Visitors

Mohammed, Isaac, Breton and Robert
from Busia Township Primary School

Daily Visitors

Edwin Balongo
"Knowledge is power, without a place to read people cannot learn. 
I think the government should assist the library more, because it is key to our community."

Monday, October 10, 2011

Daily visitors series

Hi everyone!

In my last week in Busia I took pictures of regular visitors of the library and asked them to describe what the library means to them in one sentence. You can find the series below! I hope it will give everyone a glimpse into the day-to-day life of the library :)


Daily visitors

Marcos Evua
"The library is a place that's quiet enough to study, 
nothing distracts you from what you need to be doing!"

Daily visitors

Sacha, Desteri, Meshack and Phillis 
With their favorite books

Daily visitors

Hillary Omwando
"The library is such a nice place, it has helped me so much, 
not me alone, but the people around here."

Daily visitors

Peter Midega
"We've been yearning to have something like this for a long time, since we haven't developed a culture of reading in Kenya, this library will encourage that!"

Daily visitors

Willibrod and Bachi
Come in every day to read and write every day.

Lunch at Maria's Farm

Hey everyone!

This past weekend Maria invited all the mama's, Esther and myself over to her banana farm for a celebratory lunch. I expected to be over at her farm for maybe 2 hours, I guess I still haven't learned after 4 months in Kenya, that lunch, it's a whole day affair.

Before heading over to Maria's for lunch, Esther and I visited one of the mama's at her home. She lives close to Maria's, in a typical Kenyan housing project: one long building with 5 doors, each door accessing a one room home. Inside the home, a curtain divides the sleeping area from the living area. Scholastica, the mother we were visiting, lives in one of these homes with her husband and their two children. Scholastica is one of the most dedicated mama's of the project and was excited to find out that her husband was very supportive! He is a picki-picki driver in Busia, and he thinks it is very important that his two daughters, and his wife, get more opportunities in education than he did.

Scholastica, Esther and I headed over to Maria's farm after a little photo shoot at her home and some chai. Of course we were the first ones to arrive, and Maria informed us we would all be going to her church that Saturday, after which we would have a grand lunch. The mothers slowing started trickling in and around 12:30 PM we headed over the Maria's community church. The priest blessed our program and my journey home, and we listened to his sermon which was mostly in Swahili with the occasional English word.

On our way back to the farm the mama asked me lots of questions about my life at home, my work and when I was planning on coming back. I think they finally felt at ease to ask me more personal questions and it was nice to share and have good conversation with the women I have been working with for 3 months.

The lunch was amazing, Maria and her family prepared all the traditional Kenyan dishes I had had over the couple of months: brown and white ugali, pumpkin, chapati, beans, lentils, fish and beef stew, rice, cabbage, sukumawiki, matoke and lots of sodas and beers. It was delicious! Mze, Maria's husband, met all the mama's and spoke to them on the importance of moving forward with their education, to help themselves and their children. I handed out the certificates, now signed by the district commissioner, and a picture of the mama's graduation on Wednesday. Maria brought out the stereo set and we danced to Ugandan and Kenyan music for the rest of the late, hot afternoon.