Tea time came several times today as students enjoyed a cup or two or three of very sweet tea during both Earth Art and Ceramics classes. In Earth Art students sat cross-legged around two camel hair-blankets wearing turbans to replicate a Tuareg tea ceremony. The Tuaregs, nomadic people of North Africa, are known as the indigo people because the indigo that they dye their turbans with often rubs off on their faces. It’s traditional for the Tuareg people to have three cups of tea, each one sweeter than the last. Earth Art teacher, Nancy, and her husband, Ceramics teacher, Robert, understand that drinking tea is a very important community experience for the Tuareg people. Robert and Nancy drank a lot of tea with Tuareg people in Niger when they were working with the Peace Corps.
Robert and Nancy have also been to several other countries as evidenced by the crafts that they shared with the students. Students had the opportunity to learn about Japanese pottery in ceramics. Japanese pots are beautiful, but the packaging can be just as important as the actual pots. Japanese artists will often stamp the box with their signature rather than the bottoms of the pots. Robert explained to the students that, when holding pottery, it is important to hold it with two hands out of respect for the work that the artist put into making the piece.
In Earth Art the two camel-hair blankets were piled high with crafts from many different countries. Students examined a salt container that housed salt from the great salt flats of Bolivia. Nancy explained that salt is so abundant in Bolivia that tourists can stay in hotels made entirely of salt! Nancy also passed around some indigo dye that the Tuareg people often use to dye their turbines as well as some bright red dye from Mexico that is made, strangely enough, by crushing up black cochineal beetles. Nancy also shared several items that had been made from gourds, one of which was a brightly colored decorative bowl from Oaxaca, Mexico. Bowls in Oaxaca are often covered with many small dots, and the value of the bowl increases as the number of dots increases.
~ Graduate Fellow Heather