In Ambodiforaha I wanted to start drawing with schoolkids in the forest. Due to some bureaucratic problems with some organizations and especially when I heard that the school was destroyed by a cyclone, I though about a new idea. Something that could directly be used as educational material.

I had the idea of making a illustrated alphabet for the first step of literacy. I was not sure which material I could use, as there was neither paper nor color available.

During my stay in Ambodiforaha I stayed with a Malagasy family, at their space there was no electricity and no water. While I was once watching the process of cooking over fire I discovered the „kepakepa“. The kepakepa is a plaited grass matte used to spark a fire.

The next day I went to one of the woman from the village and ordered 60 kepakepa. As one can imagine, they were not just surprised, but also happy for that amount which assured some income for some of the women. They said they could be ready within a week.

Meanwhile I was doing some trekking in the Masoala national park, classy touristic. I spotted some lemurs and chameleons with my guide. I also tried to draw some, which kind of failed, because either they where moving too fast (lemurs) or sitting too far away (chameleon).

After staying 5 days around Ambodiforaha I had to get back to Maroantsetra. As I knew that I would come back to this place, I had some time to buy paint and think about the concept. Me and my malagasy friends tried to find an object or being for each letter of the alphabet. It was even for the locals quite a task to do. The Malagasy alphabet has only 21 letters C, Q and X is not existing. And their are no things which are starting with Y and I.

When I returned to Ambodiforaha again, I joined school lessons in the temporary class room. After the morning lessons I had some time to draw with the kids.

I asked the kids to draw the chosen objects for me. For each of them they had one minute. After the lesson I collected the drawings. In the beginning the kids were a bit uncertain, due to the fact that they are usually not drawing a lot. But I just tried to give them some confidence by saying they should not bother, just draw. It worked quite well and it was fun for them.

Afterwards I assorted the same objects on one piece of paper, like all Akohos from different children on one page…From this sheets it was more easy to distinguish a certain way how the kids are illustrating an object. That helped me a lot to develop the iconic illustration for the kepakepa. I was expecting from that method that the kids recognize the icons more easily, as if I would have drawn them from my imagination.

grouped drawaings

When I finished choosing all the icons, I started to paint them on the kepakepa (like I did with the letters before). On the backside of the illustration kepakepa I wrote the name of the illustrated object in Malagasy, English, French and German. (In the beginning I made the decision to also paint the letters which are not existing in Malagasy, just in case someone would like to learn another language with it)

After I finished the illustrations I painted a series of kepakepa with numbers. On one side I put the number and on the other the amount of the pips.

Unfortunately I could not hand over this project to the school class myself, because I had to spontaneously leave Ambodiforaha before the paint was dry. Two of my friends who stay longer in this area, will hopefully take some pictures and tell me about the reaction of the people and children from Ambodiforaha.

I am now about to experiment with red earth that I brought from Madagascar, to make some tests for self made paint such as egg tempera.

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