It's almost November, the days are shorter and darker, and it's time to mark your calendars for another colorful show and sale by Ethnic Connections at China Woods. The dates will be Friday, November 13, 5-7 PM, Saturday, November 14, 11-5, and Sunday, November 15, 11-5. The address is 716 North Dickens, Missoula, on the corner of (Toole?) and Dickens.
One never knows what will grab ones heart and sensibilities in a new and different country. Traveling in Malawi, southern Africa, for a month in the spring of 2015 to join my husband Elon Gilbert who was working there, I was an open blank book.
Elon’s work with the International Potato Center gave us a context that included farmers, rural villages, and orange-fleshed sweet potatoes! One of the goals of the project Elon was heading up was to encourage the planting of these beta-carotene rich tubers that could be planted among the maize crops that were withering due to an extensive, severe drought. Both the green leaves of the vines and the tubers themselves create many possibilities for food, including steamed greens, breads, cookies, French fries, chips, several kinds of liquor, soups, porridge, and on and on. His work led to the chance for us to visit rural areas and agricultural test plots and fairs, not as tourists, but as a fellow farmers, cooks, and human beings. All the while my eyes and ears were alive with curiosity.
We learned that many Malawians are very poor, hard working and friendly. There was warmth of heart where ever we went. The women were especially hard working, in the fields of sweet potato vines, along the roads and in the mountains carrying heavy loads, in the family compounds with their babies and children and gardens to care for, and in the larger villages and cities. I fell in love with the generosity and warmth and friendliness of the Malawian people, and their cloth.
I loved the “chitenjes”, which are sarong-like wraps worn by almost all Malawian women. They also use them as headscarves and to strap their babies to their backs. So the women and babies form a swaying symphony of colorful cotton cloth, in thousands of different bold designs. Later in Tanzania on another job, Elon discovered similar sarongs that are called “kangas”, and he brought some home to share at my annual show and sale at China Woods in Missoula. These are made with the same wax-resist process as the “chitenjes” in Malawi.
Please come and share in the joyful, sometimes wild and wonderful visual feast of African cloth, baskets and jewelry brought back from this recent trip. There will be our old favorites as well, including embroideries and block print cloth from India, silk saris, folk paintings from India, terra cotta, natural dyed Indonesian ikat, African carvings, jewelry, Kuba cloth from the Congo, and much more. It is always a joy to see each of you at least once a year. Welcome!
Susie Miller, Ethnic Connections, Susan Gilmore and David Anderson, China Woods