We are a family of three; Andrew, Jodie and Jessica (aged 18) from Tasmania, Australia who are currently serving in Douala, Cameroon, Central Africa on the M/V Africa Mercy, the largest non-governmental hospital ship in the world, through Mercy Ships International. God has called us on a journey that has been many years in the making. For this season we call Africa home, as we seek to bring hope and healing to the poorest of the poor.

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Monday, June 10, 2013

The Mystique of Batik

The art of batik making is as ancient as it is varied so it was with great intrigue that I went along with a group of women folk to try my hand at batik making yet again (last time was in Lome, Togo 2012). All my crafty stuff lies gathering dust and goodness knows what else in a storage shed, my hands are idle and my creative ideas remain just that. So I grabbed at the opportunity to have another go at batik making, this time in Conakry, Guinea. On this  steamy day we packed into a land rover and headed out into the dusty yonder to arrive at a compound where we were greeted by a lovely lady with amazing English, acquired by living in, you guessed it, England. Her family runs a successful batik making business and I can only admire their tenacity and smarts for making a go at something within a country where the pitiful economy is at a standstill.

I cannot tell you how exciting is was for a bunch of women to find an actual shop!! The shopping beast within me was unleashed as I ran gleefully from one exquisite batik article to another. Yippee!!

One of the employees making batik items for sale. Everything is made slowly, painstakingly from scratch, by hand, using traditional methods.

I love this beautiful colour-the colour of the Mediterranean Sea.

This is how it is done.....the idiots guide to this type of batik making by someone who has done it once twice......This is the pot of molten wax, heated by fire.

We were each given a piece of fabric, about the size of a small tablecloth. Then we chose some stamps we liked to form our design.

We chose our stamps from a book of designs. There were hundreds to select from.

One of my stamps.

Then we dipped the stamps in the molten wax and stamped them onto the fabric where we wanted them placed. The fabric already had a pattern inlaid into it.

Me stamping my flowers.

Next some dear ladies sat in the blazing sun with a little bucket of boiling water and removed any excess wax and our mistakes.

After all that hard work shopping and crafting it was time for a spot of lunch-African of course. We had a delicious beef stew with rice and oranges for desert. Spot the amazing batik tablecloth that holds our lunch. Just a touch more sophisticated that what we were attempting!

With our tummies full, it was onto the dying process. After we chose our colours, the ladies emptied little bags of powder into water and then we swirled and sloshed the fabric around and around, in and out, up and down until the dye took hold.

Ta da! The finished product-the dye does not run where the wax stamp has left it's imprint. Easy hey? Mine is the blue one with the flowers.

What about the wax? I'm so glad you asked! After the dye dried, the fabric was put into a pot of boiling water and stirred around and wrung out many times over to melt the residual wax.

These ladies made it look simple.

Now for something a little more advanced (obviously not for us)-multicolour batiks. First the fabric is dyed and then it is scrunched up in a very specific way that is way harder than it looks.

Then a dropper is used to add different colour dyes to the fabrics.

Leave it to dry for a bit and look at the end result! Stunning!

Perhaps the most intriguing part of this whole process was the ironing. The whole time we were at the compound (about five hours) a little old man sat and pounded his heavy wooden mallet over and over onto different batik offerings from shirts to tablecloths. Over and over, never missing a beat. We asked why not use an iron and it was explained to us that this was the age old way.

Our group and all our new and very talented friends!

I loved having the opportunity to get crafty again but this was certainly a long way from a Stamping Up party!

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

An Evening of Culture

No one knows how to party like the West Africans!!! Every now and then the crew of the Africa Mercy likes to tap into this uncanny knack of making every celebration an event to remember. Welcome to a crew/day worker BBQ and Community meeting on the dock, this time at the Port of Conakry, Guinea. The sound of happy munching and joyful laughter filled the air as we all mingled, enjoying the dozens of different cultures and countries represented. For one day in time we are together.

It was all about Guinea tonight-her languages, her dancing and her traditional dress. For weeks the day workers had practised to bring us an outstanding presentation of Guinea in an evening of culture.

Dinner first- flame grilled BBQ Chicken, crunchy salads, warm and fluffy potatoes in their jackets with sour cream-yum!

Me enjoying my dinner.

Me with Pierre-dental day worker. This guy makes me laugh!

Jess with an expression that really captures how she feels about the ship and Africa!


I just love this photo because it captures the pure joy of Africans that I cannot seem to put into words. It always amazes me that despite their challenges, their heartaches and their poverty, the people of West Africa can always find a reason to be joyful. Christian West Africans always give thanks to God no matter their circumstance and their worship is very pure; unadulterated. They express their emotions ten fold and they are quick to anger but just as fast to get over it. They are a verbal people and also can be very affectionate. My type of people!

Perhaps what makes every dockside event so special is when the patients join us, tentatively making their way down the gangway, their gowns flapping in the balmy evening air, bandages swathing their faces and bodies.


Some of the more colourful day workers! Anthonette, Clarena and Elizabeth in their gorgeous African dresses.

We were treated to a fashion extravaganza, as the many different cultures of Guinea displayed their traditional dress. The crowd really started to heat up, and the different tribes represented within our day workers cheered each other on. I heard it said recently that this was the first time that some of the day workers had worked amicably alongside other day workers from opposing tribes. While we have been in Guinea there has been much violence due to ethnic divide. So while this evening was a bit of fun and the imparting of culture and knowledge, it was also a milestone as the tribes melded peacefully together to the jubilation of all.




We also heard proverbs and greetings from each of the tribes. But the highlight was the dancing. Each tribal group performed a dance which they had been rehearsing for weeks. Above the Susu dance.

The Fula perform.

The most spectacular and athletic dancing came from the Kissi tribe. Wow-those guys are fit!

Thanks day workers for giving us a window into your different cultures and tribes. It was a amazing evening; one we will never forget!