Mary Pensulo, New Art Teacher for Mama Bakhita

by Marsha Winsryg

Young people at the Mama Bakhita Cheshire Home for children with disabilities can exercise their minds and muscles every week, instead of a few weeks a year.

For many years I brought Tempra paint in beautiful colors when I came to stay at the Cheshire home for a few weeks each winter. From the very beginning they enjoyed the process immensely, especially those who had cerebral palsy and were unable to master many of the skills required of the other students, because their muscles would not cooperate. But we devised a way for them to paint. A way where they could chose the colors they wanted, and manage to use their hands and arms to put the paint where they wanted it. After several years it became clear to me that this was a powerful motivating force for them to gain some control over their arms and hands. All of the youngsters enjoy the process because they can paint for their own pleasure. There is no right or wrong way and non-representaional art is admired as much as any other kind.

What if they could do this frequently?

This year we set out to find a local Zambian artist with teacher training to come every week and offer this option. We had two finalists, Lubinda Kingfisher and Mary Pensulo. Both were competent and gentle teachers. If I could’ve hired them both to work together, I would have done that. But in the end we chose Mary Pensulo because, although my “freestyle” approach was new to her and not exactly in line with government curriculum, she could see how much the children benefitted from an uncritical experience.

In her words: “ This is so much fun! They obviously are enjoying themslves.”

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