Learning more than art

Monday, January 9, 2006
Lee Rainboth explained how he made his shirt from "mud" painting and demonstrated the benefits of wearing a turban. He brought along several large mud painting to the enjoyment of the residents of Heartland Care Center, Marcus. (Photo by Nancy Hohbach)

Lee Rainboth, formerly of Marcus, went to Mali to study African art and learned about other methods to create paintings of interest.

This was Rainboth's second trip to the country as three years ago he traveled with a group from Grace Methodist Church of Marcus. The goal of the first trip was to aid the locals in any way possible which they did.

"Both trips humble me as I am always treated with much kindness from people who have so little. They are willing to share all that they have," said Rainboth.

To go on this trip, Rainboth hooked up with Antioch College of Ohio. Eight college students from across the country signed up for the semester course. Some were interested in dancing, music, culture and art.

The first month was spent traveling throughout the small country making stops in several larger cities. This gave them an excellent background of the country's history. They spent 10 days at an art festival where they saw one of the largest mud brick buildings.

Rainboth likes to mention that there really is a Timbuktu in the middle of the Sahara Desert. He took time to show how a turban is worn which provides relief from the heat and from blowing sand.

"It was quite interesting to visit libraries there as the ancient scripts are just awesome. Another interesting view was to see the cliff dwellings there where people have lived for many years.

The geographic layout provided beautiful scenery of lush green growth with spectacular waterfalls. It definitely is a country of much diversity, " added Rainboth.

Rainboth as well as the other students selected individuals to do an apprenticeship with for four weeks. In Rainboth's case, he selected an artist who was an expert if mud painting. Rainboth explained how other natural matter is used to create dye for the mud.

"One thing is for sure, I had to be much more careful how I painted as mistakes are very unforgiving as opposed to working with oil or water paints and other media," said Rainboth.

Rainboth has several paintings depicting Mali children with the saddest eyes. He has captured the soul of these children.

Rainboth explained that only one to two percent of the population are Christian. Young people who attend a Christian service may end up being beaten by their grandparents if they learned about it. Yet some youth return, again and again.

The great majority are Muslims. He was able to pay a return visit to Kay Ogren's sister, Sandy Knop in her village of Nara where she serves as a missionary. It had been three years since he had seen the village.

"They remembered me. Very little had changed in that time. They are a poor but very friendly people. I had heard about the group from Des Moines headed by Dr. Steve DeVore but unfortunately I wasn't able to hook up with them. They are doing a great deal of work healing all they can. It is heartbreaking to see such a great need without the resources to help all. The elderly sit in the street and beg for money. There are no nice nursing homes to retire to. Children without homes, sleep on cardboard or plastic right in the streets. Mali is rated fourth poorest place on earth. People are extremely poor there." Rainboth explained the diet there is composed mostly of rice. They did have watermelon, bananas and fresh pineapples to eat. Other fruit was shipped in and was expensive to purchase.

Most make their living by farming. Their rainy season is about three months. Most try to raise food in their gardens.

Rainboth would like to return some day. Since the people aren't fighting wars, this small country has been neglected.

While there, he did learn some French in an informal class. He stayed with a French family for about seven weeks. There was no running water, A toilet was a hole in the ground. Buckets of water had to be carried to take a shower.

Rainboth is returning to Iowa State University for the spring semester.

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