Art of change
Mother, daughter trip to Uganda goes better, different than expected
Grand Valley artist Dianna Fritzler expected to travel to Africa and change lives through art. And after two months in Uganda, lives were changed, but they weren’t the ones she expected.
Dianna, 52, and her daughter, Carsyn Fritzler, 18, planned to teach art classes for two months — mid-February though mid-April — in the area of Jinja, Uganda, giving locals there a new skill for a potential job or, at the very least, a new creative outlet.
However, the trip went nothing like the women expected, and Dianna and Carsyn were the ones whose lives were changed.
“I thought we’d go down there and do all this good and make this world of difference,” Carsyn said. “We did help, but we got down there, and they are living 10 times better lives than we do. They need help, but, at the same time, it’s almost like they are fine. They are so hopeful. Everything is so positive.”
Instead of teaching art, Dianna and Carsyn spent most of their time working with Light Gives Heat, a Grand Junction-based nonprofit that employs Ugandans to make handmade jewelry and bags.
Joined by Dianna’s eldest daughter Haley Fritzler, 23, for the first month, the three Fritzlers helped oversee product production Mondays through Thursdays, making sure each piece the women or men made was of high enough quality for Light Gives Heat to purchase. Light Gives Heat sells the products at its Grand Junction warehouse, 2507 Weslo Ave., at lightgivesheat.org and at a number of area stores.
From Friday through Sunday, the Fritzlers hung out with the Ugandan people, dancing, going to market or riding little motorcycles around.
Several times during the two months, the women went to rural villages with the nonprofit Sole Hope (solehope.com) to help remove jiggers, or parasitic arthropods, from villagers’ feet.
If not removed, jiggers can be fatal.
Once treated, the villagers’ feet are wrapped, and Sole Hope gives them shoes and disinfects their homes.
The volunteer work was far from what Dianna and Carsyn envisioned a year ago when they started planning for their trip to Uganda, plans that were detailed in a June 22, 2012, Out & About story. Dianna wanted to buy $2,500–$3,000 in art supplies to take and leave in Uganda, and the mother-daughter duo thought they would use Light Gives Heat as a resource to connect with schools and places to teach art classes.
As it turned out, those months of preparation from half a world away were a waste of time. In fact, the Fritzlers found that scheduling anything in Uganda was fruitless, Dianna said.
“They live in the moment constantly,” Dianna added. “When we first got there it was frustrating.”
“So frustrating,” Carsyn chimed in.
“It’s minute to minute to minute, but when you think of their lives it makes total sense,” Dianna said.
“We learned to plan one thing a day because it would literally take the entire day to get it done,” Carsyn said. “Americans have watches. Africans have time. They do everything on their own time.”
Instead of hauling bags of pastels, paper and brushes across an ocean, Dianna took 50 boxes of colored pencils and personal sketching supplies. She left it all in Uganda.
Dianna didn’t teach much. Instead, she and Carsyn met a local artist who went by the name Dickson, who taught the women a lot about life in Uganda.
“He was the single, most nicest person I’ve ever met in my entire life,” Carsyn said.
Dickson sells his work in Jinja, but “all he said was he had a workshop and that he had children,” Dianna said. “About three weeks before we left, we found out that the children were orphans he supported.”
It was a life-changing realization that people, who seemingly have little, could instead believe they had more than enough to give to others, Dianna and Carsyn said.
It was just a bonus that Dickson was an artist.
Dianna was so moved by the 23-year-old artist, whose real name is Lubaale Nabiru, that she returned with 65 of his original paintings to sell here.
“I thought we’d have this huge influence on them, but they had this influence on us,” Carsyn said. “(In Uganda,) it’s messy, and it’s chaotic, and no one knows what they are doing, and it’s loud and crazy.”
“And it’s perfect,” Dianna said.