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The Bead Maker


The photo this was painted from particularly brings to mind the icky feelings I had about being an American tourist. It doesn't take long to realize how the rest of the world views Americans once you've left the country. And for me, my reaction was an internal protest of denial. I'm not like that. I'm not one of those ugly Americans with a garage full of sports cars who light their cigars with wads of lit cash. At the time, I was working at a chain restaurant. I would walk to my car after midnight at the end of a shift covered in salad dressing and sloshed with mop water. I hated customers. I loathed servers. Miserable. Not exactly living the dream. And I can't help but think about the feeling I would get when someone would "tour" a kitchen where I worked. An "us and them" wall that would immediately go up. I don't know what my reaction would be if one of them snapped my picture. But still, I had enough resources to take this trip. To be the tourist. To be one of "them."


Painted from a photo from a trip to Kenya, the figure is one of the over 300 women employed at the Kazuri bead and jewelry factory. Most of the woman who work there are single mothers. Not only does Kazuri offer an employment opportunity to the locals, but also houses a clinic where workers and their families can receive free medical treatment. If you're ever in the area, you can take a tour of the factory and watch the handmade jewelry being made.

Watercolor, 24" x18"