Painting a Mural with Maji Safi Group

Brynn Berry and Jessica Gannon are both master-level students from the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, an MSG partner since 2013. Jonathan Berry is a graduate of the Mortenson Center for Engineering for Developing Communities at CU at Boulder. Jonathan is providing technical support for the Arborloo Toilet grant Maji Safi Group received from Friends of Tanzania. Brynn and Jessica have contributed greatly to the artistic aspect of MSG’s work with spreading awareness about preventing disease and adopting healthy WASH habits.

My name is Brynn Berry. My friend Jessica and I have been working in Shirati since August and have the privilege of working with Maji Safi Group (MSG) until the end of December. My husband, Jonathan, has also been able to join as a volunteer for MSG’s Arborloo toilet project.

Most of my work at Maji Safi Group consists of editing, curriculum design, and various art projects. However, before elaborating on my work, let me introduce you to someone much more talented than me.

MSG currently employs a local Tanzanian artist named Jacky. Jacky is a brilliant illustrator, succeeding to capture the culture and vision of the community in his work while providing a visual platform for the dissemination of WASH education. Jacky’s work decorates the Maji Safi office, local hospitals, and primary and secondary schools in the area.

MSG aims to complete six more murals before the end of the year. Jessica and I are assisting in the creation of one mural at the local Katuru Secondary School. The mural will serve as a learning tool for students and community members passing by. I also plan to assist Jacky in the planning stages of the creation of additional murals.

The planning process for mural design is structured to allow a variety of stakeholders to voice their ideas. This participatory approach allows for bottom-up inspiration.

Step 1: MSG’s Community Health Educators (CHEs) provide a list of suggested images/values to be painted.

Step 2: Jacky or I create a sketch of what a mural could look like based on the CHE suggestions.

Step 3: Artists invite MSG staff to interpret the mural. This stage reveals any changes that need to be made. This stage was particularly valuable to me as it highlighted several cultural differences that were revealed in my artwork. For example, a common menstrual care product used in Shirati is kitamba (cloth in Swahili) which needs to be included in female hygiene education.

Step 4: Artists edit and revise drawings.

Step 5: CHEs label and narrate mural in Swahili.

Step 6: MSG presents the sketch to school/hospital administrators and choose a wall for the mural.

Step 7:  Artist, mainly Jacky gets to work.

In addition to mural design, I am busy creating educational booklets that will be used for menstrual hygiene management programming. Maji Safi Group is excited to announce that we have received a grant from Dining for Women, a global giving circle that funds grassroots organizations, to introduce menstrual cups (kikombe cha hedhi) to the Mara region. Menstrual cups will be purchased from a local Tanzanian distributor, and booklets will be given to girls receiving the cups. My work involves content development for the booklets and graphic design work to illustrate the pages.

The design process is fun and exciting. It demands a conscious effort to create culturally appropriate images and communicate WASH education in the best way possible.

Thank you for your incredible support and interest in our work here at Maji Safi Group.

Best Regards,

Brynn Berry

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