16 August 2010

in the village of Oodi

In a small out of the way village in rural Botswana is a community center with a singular purpose. Back in the 1970s a missionary couple joined together with local women to create an opportunity for income within the sleepy town. They imported spinning wheels, built giant looms and began to weave. 30 years later, they are still weaving- creating tapestries that represent their life and culture and vision.

We heard about these ladies and drove up to visit them in their workshop. I guess I figured we'd be a bit of an intrusion on their day - this American family showing up unannounced to say hello for no other reason than we wanted to see what they do and how they've made it work for their community. Instead we were greeted with huge welcoming smiles and stories. About 30+ women are employed at the workshop, although they come and go. On the day we visited there were 8 women busy at their art. One was spinning wool into yarn - another dying it in big kettles over the fire into one of 600 different colors. The rest, sitting comfortably behind looms - chatting, singing, creating. Their patterns are spontaneous and personal - themes collected from experience and memories and history in their country. There are no patterns to follow, no formulas, no quotas - only women - beginning with basic wool and crafting, through the overflow of their hearts into their amazingly agile fingers, beautifully intricate stories.

We stayed for a couple of hours. We sat on the floor with each woman and listened to the story they were weaving. We practiced our Tswana phrases. We tried to slip our own fingers through the fine strands and lay down the yarn. It looked so much easier than it turned out to be. Good art always does though. We walked through their showroom of finished tapestries and were amazed at how unique each one was... and how well thought out and designed knowing each one simply emerged one line at a time from the bottom upwards - the crafter knowing just what color needing to come next.

I guess I'm thinking so many things about this. **

**I was so captured by the welcoming spirit in the room. We weren't only welcomed, we were invited to step in further - to put a piece of ourselves into their art - to speak their language even though there was no expectations of it not being a clumsy effort and that was okay. It was a peaceful place. So much was happening in that workshop, yet each woman was laid back and easy - doing her thing and soaking up the moments of being together. I can learn a lot from that right there. I run around with my hair on fire way too often.

** I love to see things being crafted - something brand new from ordinary materials. I love to watch painters and sketch artists and doodlers. I love to watch carpenters and potters and gardeners and interior designers change a space or a block into something completely different and lovely. I love to listen to a brand new song a friend is composing, watch Harrison make lego animation videos, see Avery dancing in a wide open space. I love to see people use what we have to make something more. We could have taken that same wool and my sister would have knit some swanky pants for her little one with a monster on the bum. Katie would have made some gloves to give to my friend. I would have wadded it up and stuffed it inside a sagging pillow or something. Who am I kidding, I would have wadded it up and put it in a box intending to do something fancy with it but instead it would sit. I guess I am just aware that in life, there are these basic things that are full of potential for you to get to choose what those things can become. This became yarn in multiple colors, and then, what seemed to be random grabbing of yarn from a basket and twisting it through a maze of string was instead very intentional - but only the creator knew the reason for each thread until the entire picture became clear.

I am just thinking that I'm super glad we are all created to be creators.
It makes interesting and beautiful things bound to happen all around us all the time.


  1. Wonderful images! And it's good to see you at visualpeacemakers.org

    Thanks for sporting the VPC logo... you should link it to the site, or your peacemaker profile there.

    see you around,
    IGVP Pres.

  2. Hey, thank you. And thank you for stopping by - although you probably saw mostly cellphone snapshots from the past few weeks we've spent away with limited reception.

    I'm busy trying to post a gallery of where we are currently living on visualpeacemakers - linking comes next. Thanks for reminding me that I can!

  3. Beautiful thoughts and pictures, Trace. My mom would have loved this. She was a first weaver, then a spinner and eventually a knitter and felter. She sure did love her yarn!

    It's wonderful to be reminded of what a creative group of women can do when they work together. And also a challenge to remember to engage in my own role as a creator in various ways.

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. oh Sarah, thanks for saying that out loud. My heart has grieved for your mom and been strengthened by your family. I love it that yarn creates a connection point where we can sit in her space fondly and appreciate all she is and was.
    I am expectant for what you will be inspired to create - you who contiue to surprise me with your giftings.


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