By Jackie Blight
How the heck did I end up here?
A tiny village, waaaaay up on the side of Mount Agung Volcano on the island of Bali in Indonesia, with 15 expectant faces looking at me waiting for me to say something.
Ok here goes, “My name is Jackie Blight, I’m from Canada, I’m a house painter and decorator, and the first thing they taught me at school was the Color Wheel. Here it is.”
And that was the start of a four and a half day teaching spree I experienced in one of the most picturesque places on Bali from the 16th to the 20th of May 2011.
Cegi is a tiny sub-village of Desa Ban, and part of the East Bali Poverty Project, a Project that was started in 1998 by David Booth to bring education, health, clean water, and sustainability to a very poor and impoverished part of east Bali. Their motto is “helping them help themselves”, which literally means, teaching the people of this area to be teachers so they can teach and help their own people. Learn by doing is another motto.
I was first introduced to the project when I had a tour on 30th of March 2011, with my friend I was travelling with in Bali, Muriel Knower, from the Art Without Borders Project, a project that brings reading glasses to artists, and founder David Booth. Muriel had offered to take some of the art work from the students back to Canada to auction, and send the money back to the Project. We started at 6 am from the Ubud area and drove 1 ½ hours over to East Bali up to the base camp at Daya. Here we were introduced to the area and to Komang Kurniawan, who is the Team Leader for all EBPP field programmes & EBPP Yayasan Chairman. We were then taken to the EBPP HQ offices in Dusun Ban where David had some meetings and chatted with the music group from Lombok that were to teach some music skills that day to the students at EBPP’s Manikaji village School. What luck for us to see that. We then drove up to the village of Manikaji on a 4 by 4 track and witnessed the music group in action. What a project. And how amazing to now have schools waaaaay up on the mountain. We then went to the village of Cegi, where the art students had their art work. They have also just built a new art gallery [sponsored by Mr Don Ferrin and his colleagues at Singapore Management University (SMU)] which is nearing completion now. Muriel picked out quite a lot of art work to take back to Canada and the level of talent was tremendous. They have had almost no training whatsoever and are just ‘learning by doing’.
Then we were back down the mountain and off back to Ubud with one of the most amazing projects I have ever seen as a memory behind us. I couldn’t get it off my mind. The amount of work and industriousness and commitment that has been put into this project by David Booth and the people of Desa Ban just astounded me. Then I volunteered.
I just happen to be a house painter, and you mentioned that one of your schools needed painting. Oh, and also I practice and teach a type of European folk art, oh, and also I do murals called trompe l’oeil with glazing techniques that are pretty easy to learn. Would you be interested in any of that? “
And there started one of the most amazing experiences of my life, my journey to East Bali, and Cegi to teach painting and art.
I stayed in the village of Tulamben in a great place called Paradise Palm Beach Bungalows which is a beautiful spot right on the ocean. Each morning I was picked up by EBPP staff and taken up the volcano to Cegi to teach. We would stop at the EBPP HQ office in Ban first to check in. It was always a hub of activity in the morning. Then Wayan Merta, Senior Creative Arts Coordinator, and Wayan , another art teacher and Yeni Mance, Biology teacher but for this week my interpreter, thank God, would be driven up to Cegi. They have only had their paved road for a year. With the help of Yeni as interpreter I just started talking basics of painting, color wheel, color schemes, value scale, color mixing, and art terminology. The second day we went into folk art and brush control. The third day we started learning the basics of glazes and trompe l’oeil wall murals. They were soaking it up. I’ve never had such an attentive group of students. They have only had education since David Booth started up schools back in 1998. They are like sponges, just soaking up all and any information they can get. Way up there on the volcano there are no distractions, such as TV, video games or computer. I felt like I was downloading all the key points of 30 years of painting and art experience I had. We went through an incredible amount of material in the 4 ½ days. We didn’t finish our mural we started on the wall in the school that week, but the students finished it the next week. They are an amazing talented group of artists and will take their new information and use it to its full potential I’m sure.
What I have taught them they will now teach to others in their village. Desa Ban will be the trompe l’oeil capital of Indonesia. Eventually these skills will translate into jobs, careers and businesses.
My two wishes would be to have had another week in Cegi. One, to teach some finishing touches, some house and building painting and decorating skills, the business side of painting and decorating, and two, to have gotten to know the students and teachers better. I was so intent on getting out as much information as I could, I didn’t take the time to really meet the people, except for the lovely Yeni, my interpreter angel.
This was an incredible rich and rewarding experience for me with some of the greatest people I’ve met in my life and if you have some skills to share, I encourage you to email David right now and volunteer for this project. You will not regret it.
Yours in awe and amazement