Saturday, August 18, 2007

Pelagano art colony in Gabane

Today was a huge adventure! Lisa and I wanted to go to Gabane to see the art colony there and maybe buy some stuff, but we didn’t really know how to get there. We got the general directions that we had to take a combi to the combi station, walk over to the bus station and take a bus to Gabane. The combis are an experience in themselves! It’s Gaborone’s mass transit system, and it’s really just a bunch of rickety private vans that go on specific routes. They pack in as many people as humanly possible into each van, usually about 15 people, with people almost sitting on each other or crouching in the van. But they’re very cheap, only P2.5, which is like 40 cents. There are certain stops, but you can really flag them down anywhere, and you have to know where you want to get off because you shout it to the driver.

So first we get on the combi going the wrong way. We have to get off, cross the street, and flag down a combi going the opposite direction. Oh no, another 40 cents. :) Good thing for us, the combi stop is the last stop – and there are rows and rows of combis. It’s a pretty amazing site. Good thing we met this guy Reuben on the combi because he then took us to the bus/train station, which is across this big foot bridge – we would never have found it on our own. Or at least, it would have taken us a lot longer! And there are about 200 lines of different buses waiting to go to different towns and cities. They all say the name of where they’re going on the front of the bus, which is helpful, but he led us to the right one for Gabane. And these buses aren’t really buses – they’re really just combis, maybe a little bigger. And we squish in, and once it’s full, we were off for Gabane! Again, we rode it to the last stop, which took about 30 minutes, but we definitely did not see any art colony. So we had to ask around – good thing there are at least a few people who speak English and almost everyone is very willing to help out lost tourists. A guy basically told us that we had to walk 2 or 2.5 km down this dirt road to get to the art colony at the base of a hill, and that it was called Pelagano.

It’s not as desolate as it sounded though – there were cars that went down the road from time to time and people walking down it along with us. Every once in a while a car would honk at us and look, I think expecting us to hitch hike. We almost did it a few times, but it wasn’t that far to walk. It was pretty interesting too - there are domestic animals (donkeys, sheep, cows, etc) wandering everywhere, and we got to see what type of places normal Motswana (that's the term for someone from Botswana) live in. Most of them live in these cement square rooms, with an outhouse in the back. Some of them have thatched roofs. But they look tiny, and I'm sure a whole family lives in there, with a small stove and everything all squished in. The picture I took was of a really nice one with a store attached to it at the back. These guys kept coming up to us and chatting us up too. Most asked if we were single and things like that, but there was one guy who kept asking us if we wanted to buy his property! Pretty funny.

When we got to Pelagano, it seemed pretty deserted. But we wandered into one of the open doors, and met this artist Elijah. He was surrounded by all these large, nearly-life-size sculptures, and was working on this huge clay scorpion on the floor. We found out that most of those huge sculptures were made of fiberglass from molds that he designed – he also designed the outside entrance to the art colony. He seemed really talented! He had beautiful works in clay, fiberglass, metal, and watercolor, and we probably only saw a small portion of his work! And apparently he had a twin brother who did a lot of art as well – I think mostly glass-blowing. But we didn’t meet him. Anyways, after talking to him a bit, we wandered around. It was pretty empty, but he told us that it was much busier on the weekdays, when the colony was more open. It didn’t really matter though, people would see us walking by and invite us in. And the glass-blowing and pottery shops were also both open. It was very impressive stuff – if I didn’t think some of it would break on the trip back, I might get some of it. And it was not nearly as expensive as in the states, although it was probably expensive by Botswana standards. We ended up buying some stuff from this boy artist that looked like he was 13! He did some amazing stuff though – he painted on cloth, and he had wall hangings, linens, etc. The wall hangings were the most beautiful, but I already have so many that I can’t even hang up. Lisa bought a wall hanging and I bought these cloth placemats. Still super cool.

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