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Jan '13

Rug Hookers in Zambia

Here is a fascinating international rug hooking report from Beth Zerwek-Tembo.

Hi Gene – I am a subscriber to The Internet Rug Camp.  I’m not one to comment or send emails much so up to this point you have not heard from me.

However, I thought you might like it if I shared a few pictures with you and tell you about my rug hooking adventure in Zambia.

My husband is from Zambia and 6 years ago, on a visit to his home village (near Lundazi in the eastern part of the country, close to Malawi), he started a project to build a library.  There are few libraries in the country and probably none (beyond something very small) in rural areas.   A Building Committee was formed locally to oversee the construction of the building, which included making the bricks by hand from local clay-rich soil and baking them in a kiln right next to the library site.

The building is quite large and, in addition to the library, has an office, a community room and one other room that has been used for temporary housing up to this point.  In December 2011, a shipment of about 3,700 books arrived and were stored there waiting for the construction to be completed.  There’s room for about 6,000 more books.  Shelving, tables and chairs also had to be built.  When I went to Zambia at the beginning of December 2012, my husband had already been there since mid-October, on sabbatical from his college teaching job, helping to wrap up the construction. A week after I arrived, the library held its grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony.  It was a wonderful, proud day!

There is an enthusiastic women’s group attached to the library.  A few years ago my husband told them about my rug hooking and they were very interested to learn about it.  I talked about this with some of my local hooking friends here in Virginia.  In December 2011 we sent some books and a few samples of supplies and hooking with my husband.  I also asked him to bring back samples of fabrics and backing that could be found there and used for hooking so I could play with it here.  At this point, I wasn’t sure how to go about getting the women further along with rug hooking. I didn’t know when I would make it to Zambia (it’d been 23 years since I’d lived there), and I wasn’t sure it was something they could do without some in-person instruction.  As things developed this past fall, I planned to join my husband and knew I could then teach them about rug hooking in person.  I gathered some more supplies and books with the help of my hooking friends in the states.  A rug hooking class was scheduled for a few days after the library’s opening.  This was the first official use of the new community room.

I had never taught rug hooking before and, in this case, would do so with limited resources in an unknown environment.  So, planning what I would do was perhaps more challenging than average.  Your blog from January 14th about teaching the weavers and spinners was reassuring because I discovered that I had followed the same general outline as you did.  I started with visuals.  I didn’t have real rugs to show the women, but had plenty of pictures in the books I brought.  I wanted them to see a wide variety of styles, colors, sizes, designs, etc.  There were many ooohhhs and aaahhhs as they looked at the pictures!

One of my teaching resources was The Rug Hooker’s Bible!  I thought you’d like to know that your book found it’s way to this women’s group in Zambia!

Gene prints the rest of the report and several more pictures of this class on today’s Internet Rug Camp.  Go to www.internetrugcamp.com/ if you would like to become a subscriber.

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