By Janina Totzauer, @artlabtofo
As part of the cooperation betwen ATAG and BDK (Link) the the "Art Lab Tofo" (Link) organised a very special art education programme in the small coastal village of Praia do Tofo in Moçambique in the summer of 2022. "Art Lab Tofo" has been founded by the German artist Janina Totzauer and the South African musician Tamryn Burger in 2020. It is an experimental art and music laboratory, gallery and workshop. Once the financial support from EVC was secured, the local "Asociacion Demamu", which has been campaigning for recycling since 2021, also pledged its help.
Four afternoon workshops brought together a number of local children to make musical instruments out of recycled materials. On the first day, Asociaion Demamu took the children to various rubbish dumps and the adjacent beach, where the children learned which found materials can be recycled and how. We returned to our workshop with huge piles of newfound treasures.
Over the course of the next three days, after a brief introduction to art history, the children became enthusiastic about the craziest musical instruments made by artists such as Guillermo Galindo or Nevin Aladağ. Our music teacher sorted the materials and explained the basics of acoustics and sound formation. An old bucket proved to be an excellent sounding body, a bottle sounded in different tones depending on how much water you put in it. The children's eyes began to shine and mouths began to chatter after initial amazement. Our faithful translator Zacarías, who translated between Portuguese and the local language Bitonga, had his work cut out for him.
The work quickly took on a life of its own. The children grabbed wire and wooden paddles and made a crazy guitar. A drum kit that was quite wobbly at first gradually gained more and more cymbals and drums. The initially rather reserved group of girls found their fun in the very thoughtful and technically precise construction of a glass bottle chime. The shell of an old computer was turned into an eccentric guitar. Various pipes and tubes were allowed to shine in new splendour as colourful flutes.
Quite automatically, our new band began to rehearse. The rhythm was quickly found, and musician friend Helio Vanimal provided his recording equipment for recording. Each workshop day ended with a sitting circle and a few nibbles for young and old. After four full days, our big band had come together. It was particularly amazing to see how the initial 10 or so curious children had grown to about 40 over the course of the four days through word of mouth alone within the village. The instruments will continue to be available to the children for fun and games in a small hut on Helio's property. The glass bottle chime was even nailed directly to his house.
The entire programme was accessible to both local and immigrant children. With English, Portuguese and Bitonga as the languages of instruction, the children, most of whom had a basic knowledge of English, improved their language skills in a fun way as an added side effect. Due to the tourist quality of the region and its natural beauty, the municipality of Praia do Tofo around the city of Inhambane is a unique melting pot of expatriates from the USA and Europe as well as local families with Bitonga backgrounds. The children grow up in a mixture of languages and cultures. So we were especially happy to have children from all cultural backgrounds in our workshop.