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My Scholarship entry - Giving back on the road

WORLDWIDE | Sunday, 22 April 2012 | Views [162] | Scholarship Entry

Lake Naivasha, Kenya: Artist’s Revival

Next to me under an acacia tabletop tree, the young Maasai painter totters on shriveled legs, erect & proud. Steadying his hand on the smooth twisted trunk, he gazes across the dry brown savannah stretching under the blue Rift Valley sky. The rustling grass is spotted with grazing zebras and wildebeest as twittering birds swoop overhead. Leggy giraffes amble behind thorn tree thickets in the distance. On the farm behind us, roasting maize aromas gently whiff past as children giggle, wide-eyed in awe at this white stranger in their midst.

Like a lion, he'd run free, fiercely painting his canvasses with all that is East Africa: migrating wildebeest flowing across the Mara, lionesses leaping for the kill, and bright pink flamingos wading along soda lake shores. That is until meningitis dealt a body blow, destroying his leg muscle nerves. His world was suddenly shrunken to only 500 limping meters from his parents' round thatch hut.

"I’m thankful to God for my family," he says sadly.

He looks down: "I've quit painting."

"No!" I gasp. "You’re so gifted! What incredible art work of this beautiful land!"

"I know," he sighs.

"Listen- how about you paint just for me? I’m broke, but I’ll pay!"

He shakes his head tearfully: "How can I paint the world again? Where shall I go?"

"I’ll carry you to Crescent Island!"

He looks up: "You’d do that?"

"Yeah!"

A smile creeps over his face.

On the island, the day's heat cools as the sun sinks behind crackling reeds shading wary-eyed crocodiles. A female hippo and three young bask in the shrinking sunbeams, soon to emerge and feed. Turkana fishermen hand-paddle around in mini boats, selling the last of their wares. They laugh at such a strange sight of the painter and his companion.

At dinner, we present the work to his amazed family. He refuses my payment. I refuse his painting. We grin at each other, intertwined in life’s joys.

Tags: travel writing scholarship 2012

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