WHAT IS YOUR PEACE?
By: Shandrea Tesoriere
I have been here once before, two years ago to Hope North (a boarding school in Uganda for former child soldiers, orphans and other young survivors of Uganda’s brutal civil war) as part of the Niteo Africa 2015 travel team. It is so serene, and deeply etched in my heart.
Today was a beautiful, Sunday afternoon and we had just arrived at Hope North. As we were walking to meet the teachers at the Niteo literacy center, we came across a man sitting outside, carefully, artfully, adding details to a clay vase he was sculpting. His name is Edwin.
Edwin is at Hope North doing his practicum as a fine arts teacher. We were enamored with his work. He invited us to come to visit his class the next day. We spent the morning doing literacy with the littles.
Then we went to see Edwin’s art class. The room was near silent; the students mirroring the circular shape of the room.
They were focused, their hands working gently, meticulously, smoothing the surfaces of their individual clay pieces. Each piece as unique as its creator. Each with their own unique story. They had been working on these pieces for two weeks so far. The clay is a natural resource, sourced from a local swamp, and they have made their own sculpting tools. Edwin is teaching them very good techniques. He moved around the room, encouraging them and guiding each student towards the next step as they were ready.
I was invited to join two boys in the center of the circle, who were beginning new pieces. I LOVE working with clay, and was eager to begin! I worked alongside Moses, who was kind enough to let me share his work surface.
He guided and encouraged me (as did Edwin) in coiling, shaping and smoothing my own clay pot. Moses came to Hope North two years ago. He also loves clay and art, and hopes to continue with art studies. This is peaceful work.
I was reminded of the poem Unity (author unknown). I will tell my own version of part of the poem, as I saw it that day.
?I stood in a studio
and watched a sculptor there
the clay he used was a child’s mind
and he fashioned it with care.
He was a teacher and the tools he used
were books, music and art
He worked with a guiding hand
And a gentle, loving heart.
The students’ work is exquisite. Edwina’s work is exquisite, both with the clay and the with the children.
As I reflect on the day, I think about the children this morning who are learning to love reading, and the children here in this room, shaping their clay, just as the clay shapes them, finding their peace. In this moment I am at complete peace. Books, clay, children this is my heart’s work.