For six weeks, in the spring of 2013, Joy Laking and her husband, Jim Wyatt returned to Bolivia to volunteer with the IMIF. Following a successful experience teaching art in the Aucapata area in 2012, this year’s goals were to spend a full month in Aucapata and a week and a half in La Paz to try to get the art project on a more sustainable footing. Funding was provided by the Robert Pope Foundation to offset the cost to the IMIF. Jim and Joy, with assistance from the IMIF staff, did a video inventory of craft in the Aucapata area, so that in the future, an art program in this area could use available resources and be relevant. Such a program might also eventually lead to craft workshops that would provide jobs and money.
Weaving is practiced by women throughout the area on basic looms. It is labour intensive. In the past natural dyes were used and wool was processed as well by the weavers. Now chemical dyes are used and most of the wool is commercially processed although drop spindles were still used to combine the single ply wool into two ply.
Although there is an abundance of clay in the area, at this time, there is no one actually building and firing pots. Jim and Joy recorded the images of the pots from Iskawaya that are in the Aucapata museum. Also all of the students from the school in Aucapta and the school in Cosnipata got to see the museum and to do a class with Joy working with clay. Clay is used for the adobe building blocks for the houses and the clay stoves in the homes are still made insitu. Walls in the houses are shiny black with creosote and this is probably very unhealthy. In the future, either a simple system, capturing methane from human waste could be used for clean cooking or a redesign of the stove to have a chimney should be considered.
A large fig plant grows in the area that can supply fibers. However, Jim and Joy didn’t find anyone who still knows how to use the fig leaves to make paper, carpets, fabric, hats, baskets and rope. The process is widely known and still used in Columbia and so there are probably people in Aucapata who have these skills or they could be reintroduced.
Although, they did not find anyone currently carving wood, Jim and Joy found wooden bowls and some wood carvings.
Currently, the craft inventory is just raw footage. To be useful, it will need to be translated into Spanish and or English and edited.
The plan was to have four visiting Bolivian artists visit the area, one per week while Jim and Joy were there with the hope that upon their return to Canada, these artists would be a volunteer resource committee for the IMIF art projects. Initially, the idea was for the local artists to teach with Joy for a day in a large school and a day in a small school and then to have several days to paint. Unfortunately, only two local artists came and taught together for only one day and they had two days to see the area, one in Iskawaya and one in the market town of Huanco. Travelling in both cases took up much of the day. However, the IMIF now has two Bolivian artists who have been to Aucapata and who will provide ideas on one of the IMIF goals of enhancing creative thinking.
After seeing more of the many schools in the Aucapata area, Joy and Jim felt that the program to enhance creative thinking might be effectively offered by providing a manual with creative thinking projects as well as some art supplies to all of the schools in the area. If a certain number of projects were completed each year, the schools could be offered an annual restocking of art supplies. Development of a manual that would enhance creative thinking would be key. Many of the projects that Joy has tried out with the children could be featured in such a manual. This year, Joy’s work with the youth was mainly painting, drawing, clay and puppets. In the schools and in the classes at the IMIF house, the youth of all ages were enthralled with the activities and participated eagerly.
In schools that still had the same teachers as in 2012, it was evident that some of the supplies and the activities used in 2012 were ongoing.
In addition to their goals of developing a craft inventory and of instigating a volunteer art committee, Jim and Joy worked with youth throughout the area teaching them to operate a camera and to photograph their lives and communities. They took two small photo books with them, one done by Joy and one done by the students at Bass River Elementary school to share “Nova Scotia and our lives” with the Bolivian youth. Once all the pictures are recovered from the Bolivian youth, Joy will make these photos into books to be used in local schools here and also returned to the youth who took the photos.