- Conservation through Art, Education and Science -





Africa Matters News from Home and Abroad


BUSH BEAT BUGLE Vol. 9:     Jul 2009

BUSH BEAT BUGLE Vol. 8:     May 2008

BUSH BEAT BUGLE Vol. 7:    September 2007

BUSH BEAT BUGLE Vol. 6:    JUNE 2006

BUSH BEAT BUGLE Vol. 5:     Fall 2005

BUSH BEAT BUGLE Vol. 4:     Fall 2003

BUSH BEAT BUGLE Vol. 3:     Summer 2003

BUSH BEAT BUGLE Vol. 2:     Spring 2003

BUSH BEAT BUGLE Vol. 1:     Fall 2002

BUSH BEAT BUGLE Vol. 1:     Fall 2002


This Fall Wendy made her 6th trip to Africa and her 5th trip to Zimbabwe.  Though Africa Matters did not fund her  travel, she was able to take with her items donated to the local community and to conservation partners thanks to generous support at home.

Zimbabwe is under great stress from draught and a failed economy due to political turmoil.  Inflation is over 140% and supplies of basic commodities are negligible to non-existent � mealie meal, fuel, sugar, cooking oil and flour in particular.  Several sources quote that 60% of the wildlife has been lost, mostly to deteriorated management on private preserves and concessions and a huge amount to illegal poaching. 

Wendy: " My stay was mostly at Hwange National Park where I have lived and worked in the past.  I was welcomed back warmly by the local community, including parks employees, friends and local researchers.  The Park has many lodges and chalets (cabins) which are extremely affordable,  and so I established my self there for approximately four weeks.  Much of my time was devoted to wildlife photography, but I also carried out missions for Africa Matters."


I delivered school supplies and vegetable seeds for the students of the school at Main Camp of Hwange National Park, where children of Parks employees attend through elementary years. 

Both the Head Master and Julia Salnicki, who teaches 7th graders an Environmental Sciences class and whose research we support, were delighted and deeply appreciative of the gifts.  The class was planning on preparing a large plot for planting season, first needing to secure screening so that the garden could survive the resident monkeys and mongooses that would otherwise raid destroy any garden.  The produce will enhance the limited diets of the students.

I was treated to a special daytime rehearsal of the school dance and marimba company and shared many giggles as the kids watched themselves on her video camera after they finished.  (see photo)

During my second week, I was invited to join Julia and the 7th grade students on a game drive into the Park.  Although the children live at Hwange and their parents work for the Park, many many had never been given the opportunity to go into the park and or see the wildlife tourists always are treated to.  I can tell you it was a fabulous trip!!  At the very first waterhole we passed there was a herd of elephants, giraffes, kudu and an ostrich.  The students were SO excited.  Later at sunset we saw hundred of elephants and buffalo come to drink raising dust, filling the evening with bellows and trumpets and excitement. 


(...as Julia spells it). Julia was thrilled with the Camp Chair Africa Matters donated to her.  Now when she must sit up (atop her vehicle) all night observing her hyena, she has support.  No more stiff and sore back!  (see photo)

I had a particular stroke of luck which had her hugging me and jumping up and down and hugging me.  On the first evening I went out with her, I spotted a hyena � a very distinctive one who was missing a right ear.  Julia did not recognize this animal.   At sunset I left the park, but she stayed to observe this newcomer and discovered to her great joy, that it was a female and she had pups.  Even more joy that the den was easily accessible and close to Julia�s cottage, making it easy  to monitor the den.  Animals that are not radio collared can be impossible to find, so finding a den with pups was a true bonus.   

Julia got videotape of the pups that night and  realized they were younger than any she has had the opportunity to study in the past 2 years and so might provide valuable research data.   On a later night, I too saw these tiny brown bundles of fur when the mother called them out of the den to nurse.  Julia graciously named the Mom Brenda (after my son Brendan) since I already have an elephant named after me.  I confess, I have never been deeply fond of hyenas, but seeing Brenda and her tiny babies was touching.   

During my last week, Julia went off into the bush making a large sweep in the park �calling� hyena to get a census of the population.   Julia will keep us updated on Brenda and the pup's progress � or you can visit her website which is linked on ours.


 Some of you know that I have a long history with the PDPR (Painted Dog Research Project).  In 1997-1998 I spent a year at Hwange as a volunteer at the Project Those were far leaner days. Consequently it was very rewarding to see how far things have come since then.  Their new HQ has moved into new digs situated on Dept. of Forestry land at Ganda Safari Lodge outside the Park.  There is now adequate housing for visiting volunteers and staff, as well as ample office space and equipment.  Formerly run by a small staff of dedicated volunteers, there are now 18 salaried employees and a constant flow of volunteers who are all working hard on the building of a Community Education Center.  The Center will include holding pens for dogs that are injured, being re-located or orphaned.  The Center will include a large educational exhibit hall and there will be housing for visiting students, teachers and researchers.  VERY exciting stuff!  It is being build in the bush with much care to limit any damage to the bush itself. And of course the research on the dogs continues.

It was just the end of the denning season, and so dogs were still deep in the bush so, sad to say, I was not able to see any.  Besides being difficult to find, smart conservation dictates that dens receive as little intrusion as possible so as not to stress and endanger the pups.   

The bad news is that dogs are being caught as unintended victims in wire snares set to capture bush meat.  These snares are cruel in the extreme, maiming these endangered dogs, and other animals, elephants included.   Two dogs with horrendous injuries, but who had not been found, were receiving vet care with hopes of their recovery and release.

Future for PDRP:   Plans at the Project include establishing an Arts and Crafts program and workshop to teach local residents developing income-generating, environmentally friendly crafts.  I spent part of my time researching what sorts of crafts are possible in the area, and will assist in the selection of the specific crafts that will be funded, selecting the artisans, and finding local and international markets.  Africa Matters will assist in locating markets and will offer a loan of funds to provide capital for starting one craft.  Equipment and supplies will be necessary to start up.  As the project becomes financially viable and repays the loan, those funds will then be recycled to start another craft.  


Oh, so MANY elephants.  It is assumed that the draught has brought them into the park to the waterholes in numbers hardly ever seen.  Each night there were hundreds and on at least one night, I would estimate 1000 sharing a large waterhole with 2000 buffalo!  While this is thrilling to the visitor, it is of course, devastating to the habitat.  The �elephant architecture� left behind is sad to see and will take years of good rains to repair. 

I spent a number of days out with Sharon.  Her study herd is outside the park.  Having been the subject of a previous research project ,and with Sharon's daily presence, they are quite habituated (tame).  Consequently we were always surrounded by elephants.  They are quite familiar with Sharon�s vehicle and thus will come RIGHT to the car, some familiar enough to practically put their trunks in the window to see who is inside!  I was clearly something new.  Quite thrilling to realize I could have just put my hand on a wild elephant - which I didn�t do though it was painfully tempting.  This large herd has 20 families and Sharon is currently identifying and documenting approximately 6 of them.

One is a �W� family and the matriarch she has named Wendy � a lady with the largest, silliest ears I�ve ever seen on an elephant.  Her youngest baby I was allowed to name.  It is Winnie.  Wendy did not appear with her family until my last day there and it was truly a thrill when she stepped out from behind a bush.  I immediately recognized her from her photos.  She generously stood and posed for quite some time.


The Dog Project and Sharon are working together to rescue animals that have been caught and injured in snares set by poachers.  On my first day out with Sharon, I saw 5 elephants which had been snared.  Sharon�s passionate advocacy has resulted in additional funds being received for a  second 8-person anti-poaching team in the area.  PDRP (Painted Dog Research Project) which already has one trained team in the bush, has received permission and license to set up a radio antenna to facilitate swift communications when anyone finds an injured or snared animal. Africa Matters has donated money to Sharon so she can afford her hand-radio to contact PDRP when she spots snared animals in need of assistance.  Gregory Rasmussen, Director of PDRP, who is licensed to dart animals in the wild, can be quickly contacted.

 In fact, I was privileged to witness them cooperatively rescue a little four year old elephant who�s ankle was encircled by a wire snare that had cut deeply and was badly infected. With the assistance and supervision of National Parks and the property Manager of Touch the Wild where these elephants live, the mother elephant was darted and drugged to prevent problems, and the youngster was put down.  Very quickly, the snare was removed, antibiotics administered and within a short time, the little one was up and trotting off into the bush.  Mom was still standing there "sleeping". This was the first time a standing immobilization of an elephant had been attempted in the wild. It was a wild success paving the way for future safe rescues. WHAT a joyous experience for us all!


We have not yet found a company willing to donate the shipping of the computers to Wildlife Clubs of Kenya.   All ideas are welcome.  In the meantime, we continue to raise funds for that purpose.  As this may prove an on-going problem, a long-term solution for shipments needs some attention.  If you would be interested to tackle it, please be in touch. In 2003 we will be working to initiate a program allowing students in Kenya utilize the computers to dialogue about conservation and ecological issues with students here in the United States. We are researching the possibility of establishing a loan to provide seed money for the Arts and Crafts project in Zimbabwe.


BUSH BEAT BUGLE Vol. 2:     Spring 2003

We have had an exciting first year and want to update our friends on what we accomplished our first year, what we�re currently up to, and what the plans are for the coming year.

In February we had a great time at our benefit, dancing to the infectious beat of KOSONO, who came up from Santa Cruz.  The event put us over the top for the funds we needed to ship our computers to Wildlife Clubs of Kenya.


Julia Salnicki has managed to get EVERYONE involved!  Students, parents, teachers � and even the Dog Project who donated wire to cover the tender shoots and dissuade local critters and varmints from helping themselves to a tasty treat.  The garden is not only planted, but now has a fence around it and will soon have a gate. Parents are helping the students monitor and water the garden.  The current problem is to find an environmentally friendly pesticide to keep the bugs from eating the tomatoes�.a part of the learning curve.


The Painted Dogs, as well as all the other animals in Zimbabwe, continue to struggle in the face of increased illegal poaching. However, work is continuing on the construction of the Community Conservation Center.   The Dog Project has invited Wendy to come and help establish an arts and crafts program as part of the Center.  The goal will be to create jobs for local artisans to provide income and teach the use sustainable use of natural resources in creating crafts. Africa Matters will make a loan to the Dog Project to purchase tools for crafts work.  This will be a rolling loan: once sale of crafts can pay it back, it will roll over to another craft.  Wendy leaves on May 1 for a four-month stay.  There will be many challenges in a country full of economic and political strife and where there is much hunger unrelieved by either rain or donor foods.


We�re sad to have to report that the elephants in the Hwange area are suffering greatly from the game poaching � Sharon Pincott writes regularly of finding members of her study herd with snare on their feet, necks and trunks.  One dead animal was found to have been both snared and shot � and she could only hope that the evidence that poachers now had fire arms.  Consequently her efforts to raise fund to pay for snare removal are at fever pitch.  If you want to make a contribution to these efforts (drugs are very expensive), please get in touch with us. 


They are now on the high seas and scheduled to arrive in Nairobi the first week of June.  Director Wendy Blakeley has been conferring with EarthTeam staff (see Partners) to develop a program whereby the student club members of Wildlife Clubs of Kenya can access a web chat room and share their concerns, questions and solutions to environmental problems with local student EarthTeam members.   

To trigger interest, Wendy recently made presentations to students of environmental science classes and conservation clubs in local high schools, whetting their enthusiasm for being the first in line to talk to the students in Kenya.  Both at Pinole Valley High School and El Cerrito High, eyes popped and questions flew in response to the materials and slides Wendy presented.

The exchange with Kenya will be our dry run for what we hope to expand to other countries � Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia.  If you have computers you want to donate, preferably web ready laptops, please contact us.  Also if you would like to be involved in the development of this program or have experience with similar types of endeavors, we hope you�ll share with us.


We are excited to report that Mountain Travel/Sobek, The Adventure Company, has taken Africa Matters under their wing, and will promote our work to their clients.  We are deeply grateful for this valuable support and look forward to working with their Africa Operations Director, Caitlin Lepper.  Discussions are underway regarding activities that can benefit both their travelers and the projects we assist.


Wendy will be taking materials from River of Words (see Projects) with her to Zimbabwe as well as on-line to Kenya, to further encourage the use of artistic expression as a tool in the world of conservation. We particularly encourage you to purchase their new book, �River of Words: Images and Poetry in Praise of Water� edited by Pamela Michael.  It is an eloquent example of what we know to be true � youth and art equal education for us all.  Please check their website for how to acquire the book. 


BUSH BEAT BUGLE Vol.3:  Summer 2003 (Winter in Zimbabwe)

We are happy to report that word from the Program Director of Wildlife Clubs of Kenya informs us that the 6 computers that Africa Matters has donated for their regional centers have arrived in Mombassa and are being cleared through Customs.  Following that, they will be deployed around the country.  Then, a long held dream will come true, and we will facilitate the Club Members ability to communicate directly with high school Environmental Studies students here in the Bay Area of California.  
   Needless to say, we see this as the mere start of broader program to include other African countries.   Earth Team will assist in designing a curriculum and program that will promote understanding globally universal environmental problems and solutions.
Africa Matters Director Wendy Blakeley left for Zimbabwe the first of May to assist the Painted Dog Conservation project in establishing an arts and crafts program in their local community.  AM has made contribution of tools for the craftsman as well as school supplies for the elementary school at Hwange National Park.  
   Wendy reports that the Painted Dog staff is hard at work building a large, multi-faceted facility that will include a dog rehabilitation center; a bush camp that will house at least 40 students at a time with classrooms, dinning hall all set in the bush and built in traditional style.  Additionally there will be a large visitors� center with exhibits to inform all visitors, local and foreign, about the Dogs and their endangered state.  She will work closely with the Project�s Education Director to help design these exhibits and incorporate arts and crafts into any program to further the efforts of conservation.
       Her own work took a while to get off the ground, given the usual problems of living in the bush, securing materials, finding the artists and crafts people, lack of fuel to travel around freely.  BUT by this writing a sewing project is well underway, with a group of 13 women at the local village of Dete busily sewing and a group of 6 men who are painting wildlife and flora for use on greeting cards.
   In the after school hours, the children at the 3 local schools are invited to come to the hall rented for the Crafts project, to spend an hour drawing or doing wire craft.  In this way it is expected to identify individuals of artistic promise who can then be brought along to learn crafts that can offer them a career path, or at the very least, bring them income.  
   Wendy has found it interesting that in this culture and education program, most of the �artists� are boys; very few girls come.  Needless to say she is making an effort to make the sessions available to all!
It has been a rewarding effort � already one youngster of 11 has been identified as extremely, naturally gifted and he will be monitored and his work rewarded.
   The goal is that as soon a s possible, the running of these crafts will be turned over to a locals, and thus not only providing income for those making crafts, but open up a managerial jobs for a few others.  
All of this will depend upon finding viable markets for their goods.  Africa Matters will assist in locating vendors in the U.S. when Wendy brings back the first sample products in September.
If anyone is interested and has experience in marketing we would be delighted to hear from you.
Part of the intent is to educate the local community to the value of conservation and so there is an effort in all of this to start to steer craftspeople away from curios carved from trees they cut.  Deforestation due to the need for fuel is something hard to control, but cutting trees that can bee 100 years old for the roadside curio industry is something that can be addressed.
When the Exhibit Hall at the Community Conservation and Education Center (CCED) opens, there will be a small shop where visitors will be able to purchase these crafts.
   In addition to the Crafts workshops, Wendy has been asked to contribute her expertise from her form �life� in the performing arts, by coaching a group of young performance artists, Ingoyama.  They have been formed with the specific purpose of presenting plays in the local communities and school about conservation.  Their style is traditional and they incorporate traditional song and dance into their work.   These thirteen young people ranging in age from 15 to 21 have gained a lot of attention � which Wendy reports is much deserved.  She will bring video and audiotapes with her to have available and promote this group.  It is the ideal recipient for Africa Matters � whose motto is Conservation through Art, Education and Science.  
NEXT:  Africa Matters will have an exhibit at the Wildlife Conservation Network Expo to be held the 2nd weekend in October.  See their website at www.wildnet.org for details.  We will have items for sale (crafts and t-shirts), as well as more detailed information about the Kenya and Zimbabwe efforts we are supporting.  

The political and economic situation in Zimbabwe has not only affected the people, but the wildlife is suffering greatly.  Some figures put the loss of wildlife in the last 2 years at over 60%.  Illegal snaring is rampant and the dogs are easy victims.  It is feared that a local pack has all been killed excepting the Alpha Female who has also been snared, though she is still alive.  Efforts to locate and treat her are underway.
In July and August painted Dog will sponsor several workshops, inviting locals to try their hands and creating sculptures from the lethal, illegal snare wires, brought out of the bush by the APU�s (Anti-Poaching Units).  The best of these will be used for an international exhibit to raise awareness of the devastating effects of poaching, and to raise funds to further support the APU teams. There are MILES of every sort of wire imaginable.  
   The demise of the tourism industry, which formerly brought in much needed foreign money and employed a broad section of people, has proved a hardship to people and wildlife.  Without the tourists, it is almost impossible to maintain the parks and private conservancies � to employ guards, find and afford fuel for pumps to keep water available to the animals, to protect and rescue endangered animals.  Just in the western end of Hwange National Park, poachers have in the last several months killed 11 black rhino � one of the most endangered species on the continent.  

BUSH BEAT BUGLE Vol. 4:     Fall 2003

Director Wendy Blakeley�s report update us on her work with Painted Dog Conservation this past year. 

In 2002 I had been asked by Painted Dog Conservation Project in Zimbabwe if I would be willing to come there and take on the task of setting up an arts and crafts program in the local community.  The Dog Project is located just outside Hwange National Park on the west end of Zim.  Dete (pronounced Debtay) is the small community near by.  Since I have spent time there in the past and know my way around and also am known by many of the local people both in the community, at the National Park and by other field research projects it seemed a good fit, to say nothing of a fabulous opportunity to expand on the aims of AFRICA MATTERS  (that of "Conservation through ART" part). 

          To do justice to the effort in Zimbabwe, I resigned my long time position at the law firm that has been supportive of my trips and work for the past 12 years, and in May I went to Zimbabwe to take on a challenge of doing something I have never done before.  But I trusted my desire to make it work, my confidence in the talents of the people and the support of the Dog Project.

          Both the long dedication of Greg Rassmussen, founder and Director of PD,  his passion to ensure the preservation of the African Painted Hunting Dogs and his vision for what that effort could mean to the local community, as well as the never ending work of the Project Manager Peter Blinston, Painted Dog has grown from the 1 man - 1 volunteer status it was when I first went (1997-98) to a large new complex encompassing a dog rehabilitation facility, an exhibit center and the Children�s Bush Camp and education program � and now the Arts and Crafts Project--- an amazing accomplishment given all the trials and tribulations that have been heaped on Zimbabwe in recent years.

          To answer the inevitable questions I get � yes I am fine (safe) when I am there.  No, I do not worry or feel threatened.  Yes, what is happening to the people is horrendous and the spillover to what is happening to the wildlife (THE premiere draw of tourists to this gorgeous country) is heartbreaking.  But I have always been humbled by both the people and the wildlife of Africa.  The people still maintain their dignity, sense of humor, generosity, gentility, music and carry on.  The animals�..well they are always gracious in sharing their space with us if we behave ourselves and we all thank them for that.  When driving around, I never question who has the right of way.   I am in the bush and it is THEIRS! 

  The situation in Zimbabwe is not good; rampant inflation, lack of foreign exchange cash to purchase imported goods, bad rains for several years as well as political tensions have made the lives of much of the population, and in particular those in rural areas, desperate.  Unemployment is near 70% nationally.  The Dete area was heavily dependent on the tourism industry, which is currently non-existent, as world travelers have been convinced it is unsafe to travel to Zimbabwe. 

          But on to the project: 

          The aim my efforts was to assist the people to develop arts and craft products made in an environmentally friendly way, to marketed there and abroad. 

          The Dog Project rented a workspace and sent out word in late May that a new project was being set up.  Word of mouth proved the most valuable and discerning, if slow, method of advertising the project.  Consequently, artisans were still appearing shortly before my departure in September.  We looked for talent and skills in both adults and children.   The difficulty of sourcing and acquiring materials and tools in Zimbabwe, the daily problem of fuel for transportation, meant that it was a difficult project to get off the ground.  But momentum grew during those months, and I came back with a good range of products to show vendors here.

I was able to select enough artists and provide them with materials and tools for them to produced quality items that they were paid for.  We secured the assistance of master wire craftsman Jay Thakaya from Victoria Falls to teach and seek out those with particular ability to work with wire.  Jay proved to be a gifted teacher, both to the participants and to myself.  He was able to inform me about the best ways to address people, cultural issues I was unaware of and to tease me much about how language poor I am.  With his help we began to sift out wire talent, from adults to children.

          During this start up period we rented the Dete Community Recreation Hall.  It had the benefit of location near the compound where most of the residents live and was available during the hours we needed space.   One day a week each of the schools in Dete sent most artistically inclined of their children to the Hall for drawing and wirework.  There are 2 primary and 1 secondary schools in Dete.  These sessions helped identify children with skill and talent who will be monitored and encouraged during the coming years. In fact a number of these youngsters had their art and wire crafts purchased for resale.  The monies they earned are being directed to their education and will be used to pay school fees, and purchase their school supplies and uniforms.  Many children do not get education for want of this money.

          The adults worked in several areas:  wire, painting and sewing.  Eventually we established a core group of nine men who do small wildlife paints that are then affixed to greeting cards.  MAPEPA owner Walter Ruprecht donated a huge supply of papers made form nature fibers (grasses, barks, dung) for our initial efforts.  In the future we hope to make our own papers, as we are in an area rich in these resources.  Approximately 15 women worked at making fabric hats.  Slowly wire craftsman presented themselves and their work�much of it coming at the end of my visit.  Some youngsters were also then inspired to bring their personal creation. These proved to be of particular ingenuity and integrity.

          WOOD:  well the Project has the goal of weaning local artists away form wood simply because the woodcrafts tourist trade has been key in decimating the local forest.  HOWEVER after years of looking we have found artists who can replicate the DOGS.  Lewis Present is using downed NOT CUT wood to make these miniature, true to nature, carvings which never ail to charm anyone who sees them.  We hope to keep him busy, and to eventually move him over to doing ceramics as well as

          This was a totally unexpected event in the lives of the residents of Dete: to be able to utilize their natural talents to EARN a SALARY!    And trust me, there is MUCH talent there. 

INGONYAMA:  King of Beasts - spreading the word

       Wendy Blakeley arrived at the Painted Dog Conservation Project in May of 2003 having accepted the invitation to initiate an Arts and Crafts program for them in the local area around Hwange National Park.   The goal was to promote sustainable use of natural resources while developing marketable arts and crafts to improve the economic status of people in this area, which has been hard hit by the near disappearance of the tourist trade, and rampant inflation in Zimbabwe over the last several years.
Immediately upon her arrival, the staff of another research station, the Hwange Lion Research, approached Wendy Blakeley, knowing of her background in theatre, and asked if she would take on the task as acting coach and artistic consultant to INGONYAMA.  This is a group made up of young people from the area on the northern edges of Hwange National Park, more specifically, the community of Dete. It was formed in 2003 with the mission of taking conservation education to local schools in the form of drama and dance, with emphasis on the issue of responsibility for the care of the land and animals.  

      They have developed a style of theatre that is a unique fusion of contemporary and innovative techniques, resulting in a repertoire that unfailingly enchants their audiences, be they children or adults, locals or foreigners.   They have also have earned a well-deserved reputation for their performances of traditional songs and dances. Wendy was thrilled to find theatrical talent of this caliber in the group, who were however in need of assistance to improve their performance techniques and in developing new materials.

      Both the Dog Project Staff and Wendy were more than glad to assist them since the work fulfills goals common to all Conservation projects whether aimed at a specific animal (Dogs, Lions) and the broader aims of responsible use of land and wildlife.  Wendy found this an exciting, challenging and rewarding partnership.  She will continue to coach their work in 2004, to continue improving their performance skills and develop new material.  
      INGONYAMA is in constant need of additional financial support to improve their artistic work and their ability to carry the message of conservation.  As with any theatre group there are the needs of costumes, props, transportation as well as food and lodgings when they travel.  
     You can assist them by making a tax-deductible donation (Federal) through AFRICA MATTERS, by sending your check with a note stating you want the contribution to be directed to Ingonyama.  
     We are hoping to cut a CD of their music during 2004 � giving you a taste of their talents!  Stay tuned.

BUSH BEAT BUGLE Vol. 5:     Fall 2005

Board of Director changes: Member Robyn Marshall has retired from her three year service on the Board but we have added Pamela Michael, Executive Director of River of Words and Lori Komejan, artist and zoo keeper at the San Francisco Zoo.

Wildlife Conservation Network Expo: In both 2004 and 2005, Board Members and Africa Matters volunteers staffed AM�s table at the WCN Expo held at Foothill College in Los Altos WCN sponsors some of the premier wildlife biologists in the world who gather at the Expo and make presentations on the current status of their work. Besides providing attendees literature about Africa Matters, we function as the marketing arm for Iganyana Arts, the community development project sponsored by Painted Dog Conservation in Zimbabwe. Both years this work proved the most popular at the Expo. Sales of these unique and premier crafts, bring much needed income to the artisans.

Africa matters founder and Board President, Wendy Blakeley has spent the major portion of both 2004 and 2005 in Dete, Zimbabwe.

Painted Dog Conservation initiated this community development project in 2003, beginning on a small scale, by identifying, encouraging and training the talent in the area to create art and crafts for the national and international markets. Artisans now produce over 70 products.

The primary goal of the program is to bring immediate financial benefit to those artisans whose work proved of high quality. A secondary but equally important goal is the teaching of conservation through the sustainable use of natural resources in the selection of products and the materials used to make them. A third benefit is to educate foreign tourists as well as the local residents about the precarious status of the Painted Dog in Africa, and more specifically in Zimbabwe.

In 2004 the project secured the long-term use of a wonderful building in Dete, on the border of Hwange National Park, thanks to Landela Safaris. With the help of people who had participated in 2003, this building was quickly scrubbed, painted, repaired and decorated, turning it into a clean, bright, attractive facility housing both the crafts work and the administration for the Art Center. At this time, the official name of IGANYANA ARTS was adopted. Iganyana is the Ndebele word for Painted Dog. Quickly the Art Center was in full production. Materials used are approximately 70% recycled.

The Center has become a bustling place where people spend their days flexing their artistic muscles. Eventually this project will become self-sustaining and be administered by locals.

Artisans, both adults and youth, are provided with materials and equipment, a place to work and training where needed. They are paid per piece for work that passes quality control inspection. Many of the people are now developing their own unique signature style as well as their own product designs.


To further educate the world about the destruction of wildlife, and particularly the insidious use of wire snares indiscriminately used in illegal poaching, we have contracted local artists to create sculpture made from these torturous wires which are removed from the bush by our Anti-Poaching Units. These wonderful and unique creations will be shipped to Europe and the proceeds from their sales will be used to raise awareness as well as funds to further support our anti-poaching efforts.


Old Current Future News

Dates to Note:


Date to be announced

Keep looking here for exact date, time and location.

To secure an invitation, please contact us at africamattersinfo@gmail.com


Be certain to put this on your calendar and look for our table at the Expo.

Date: October 7-8, 2006


For details on the fabulous expo visit www.wildnet.org

If you would like to volunteer your assistance (A) at our table at WCN Expo selling Iganayana Arts and Crafts and promoting Africa Matters, you will get free admission to the Expo. and the possibility of attending some of the lectures by major movers in wildlife conservation from around the globe. (B) assist us in organizing the Africa Mattes Fund raiser scheduled as above Contact: Wendy Blakeley in Oakland at 510/655-4528 Or wendyblakeley@earthlink.net


It has been a long time since I have sent word out of Africa. The reasons are mostly positive � just being very busy and happy to be able to report good success at the project I am working at here in Dete, Zimbabwe.

The downside reasons, which will not surprise anyone who keeps abreast of things in Zimbabwe, is that some things work some of the time, a number of things don�t ever work, many things break with regularity but not on any predictable schedule --we speak of email, computers, phones, 2-way radios, vehicles, tires, hot water heaters, printers� These things all add to the challenge of keeping morale high and Iganyana Arts and Crafts on an upward path.


I have now been here in Dete, Zimbabwe for most of the last 2 years establishing Iganyana Arts & Crafts. Dete is a small community that sits right at the edge of Hwange National Park � one of the largest parks in Africa. It is a culturally rich place, with representation of many tribes from both Zimbabwe and her neighbors Zambia, Mozambique and Botswana. Many of my friends speak 3, 4 or even 5 languages! Established years ago to serve a huge tourist trade, it now is on hard times, approximately 70-80% unemployed, and perhaps as much as 60% HIV positive � and still everyone smiles and greets you, stranger or not.

I am here as a volunteer at Iganyana Arts Center, with the title of Community Arts Coordinator for Painted Dog Conservation Trust, a Zimbabwean organization. Iganyana is a community development project with the mission of bringing income into the community and spread the gospel that conservation pays. Establishing a business in any location is a challenge. As you might suspect setting up this business and ushering it through the usual growing pains here is an even more challenging and has consumed most all my time and energy. I have returned to California in the Autumn of both 2004 and 2005 and will do the same in 2006 � to engage in Africa Matters activities as well as expand Iganyana markets

You can learn more about all of PDC�s activities and about the Dogs by visiting www.painteddog.org

Drawing on the seemingly endless talents of the local people, we now produce about 40 products and have managed to find outlets both local and international. We have developed a reputation for innovative designs and top quality of workmanship.

My tasks span a broad range from selecting the artisans, organizing training, developing new products, supervising quality control, and the biggest task: marketing.

Given the economic and political turmoil in the country, it is a credit to the support of Painted Dog Conservation, friends of Africa Matters and most particularly the talents of the community.

One of the most unique products we create are those items made from snares. These illegal wire snares are removed from the bush and forest by Painted Dog�s anti-poaching patrols, where they torture, maim and kill animals indiscriminately and so pose a great threat to the highly endangered Painted ("wild") Dogs. We at the Art Center take those wires and turn them into beautiful functional and decorative crafts as well as wire sculptured animals. Purchase of these items carry with them a powerful message about conservation and economics, and keep the wire from being recycled back into he bush to kill more animals.(see photos in the Gallery)

The Center is now marketing around Zimbabwe and in countries abroad including the U.S., U.K., Holland, Australia, France and soon to expand into Zambia and try our luck in Namibia.

Targeting women, the upcoming year will see efforts to develop products that will specifically get more women involved at the center. We have just found another jewel. Trinity is a 19 year of girl who has joined us and after several weeks of apprenticeship is already creating her own line of jewelry. Our search for a traditional basket weaver has brought us an elderly llady who speaks no English but nods her head yes at all I ask of her.

If we manage to continue as we have the past years, we will shortly be self-sustaining, and will eventually turn over all administration to locals. Currently the Center employs a full-time administrative assistant and have just taken on a new trainee to assist her.


Since 2003 Director Wendy Blakeley has been coaching, teaching and advising this local group of young men. Originally formed through the sponsorship of Hwange Lion Research Project, they were tasked with traveling out to rural land community schools and bring the conservation message through dance, song and drama. During this time the group has continued to grow artistically and, to my judgment, is now world class. Pretty amazing that such a group could be found all in the same little community.

In 2003 they cut their first CD and now they�re beginning to look for a far better studio to cut a new disk. They have traveled twice to Namibia where, in Windhoek, they are offered work seven nights a week. Though they regret having to leave families behind, and Wendy mourns their absence, they are able to earn hard cash and so manage to use their talents to support their artistic work.

During My return to California, I will be seeking support for this group. Having traveled with them to the schools and seen the powerful impact they have on young minds it is a worthy cause to keep them in the field. No other effort has the same effect. Ingonyama are local heroes to these young minds � they all want to grow up and be INGONYAMA!

They know the songs, the dances, they imitate the drama. which means they are watching and llistening. It is electrifying to see these performaces and I am deeply commited to helping the group continue this work, as well as advance their musical career.

They will be in need of "kit" � 9 matching shirts and ad pairs o shoes; duffel bags, a new drum, office supplies, printer ink cartridge, blank CDs and cases and more. I will be bringing their "VUMANI MADODA" CD with me to sell, which offers seventeen songs, most written by the group members.

If you are interested to knolw more about this group to promote conservation through their ART, please get in touch with us. (Email Iganyana@mweb.co.zw or africamattersinfo@gmail.com)




Just prior to my annual visit in 2005, it became clear that the economy here and the general unsettled political climate was going to make it difficult for many children to return to school in 2006 � word had come that school fees were going to rise significantly � and YES there was a time when education was free here, and that Zimbabwe had one of the highest literacy rates in the world�. All in the past now.

AFRICA MATTERS quickly sent out word to friends, families and colleagues and managed to raise funds to sponsor students in Dete� s three schools. At the present we are paying fees for 52 students � 15 in each of the primary schools and 22 in Detema Secondary. Our input pays the government levy as well as the specific school�s fees. It does not cover costs of uniforms, books, exam fees or, in the case of secondary students, any sports day fees. This fund went farther than what was anticipated but, from the time we solicited donations and when the money arrived in the country, the Zim dollar devalued and so our money was able to help a large group of students. The staff at Detema Secondary was effective in identifying students who (1) have proved serious about their studies, (2) that were in desperate need of assistance, and (3) most who also belong to the Conservation Club.

By the last year of secondary education, here known as Form Four, students write exams in the subjects they choose. Most students want to take seven exams hoping to have high marks ("pass")in at least 5 of those. Each subject is paid separately and currently the fee is $500,000 Zimbabwe dollars, which at the current official exchange rate is $5 U.S. But if you are a Zimbabwean, having a child write seven exams, means paying a total of $3,500,000 and very very few families can afford that. Inflation at the moment is at 1,200% so even a loaf of bread at $100,000 becomes a complete luxury.

MORE HARDSHIP �NEED FOR YOUR HELP: The financial tables have now turned again. Overnight with no prior warning to us, during the April school term break school fees at the government primary school were just raised 1000%. The Catholic primary school tripled. Now we are struggling to fulfill our commitment to get these students through this 2006 school year and 2007 then looms. Fees at the Detema Secondary will without fail go up markedly at the new year, threatening to leave students without the ability to finish their schooling.

Many public services, housing, health, and education have taken a brutal beating this past year. A hungry, unhealthy, cold and uneducated populace are easy to intimidate and control. AFRICA MATTERS is trying to do a bit to assure that at least some students are not left sitting at home and hopeless.

I am working with staff at Painted Dog to organize the Form Four Secondary Students to do an internship at the PDC facilities to expose them to the many ways a person can work in the field of conservation, in ways other than being a biologist. They will visit the Children�s Educational Bush Camp, the dog Rehabilitation Center to learn about the dogs, the visitor�s center which is still under construction, take a walk with our anti-poaching units in the bush if possible and observe at the HQ for Painted Dog, and of course, a visit here at the Arts Center in Dete


WE ENCOURAGE YOU to consider a tax-deductible donation to our School Fees Fund. See the attached Sponsor Donation Form.

Wendy will be in California from mid-September until December 1 2006 . If you are interested in a presentation to your group, students, etc. Please email wendyblakeley@earthlink.net or phone Barry Blakeley at 510-663-5397 in California.

BUSH BEAT BUGLE: VOL. 7    September 2007

It is hard to evaluate the success and failure of our work over the past year while I am sitting here immersed the daily trials of life in Zimbabwe where so many things are failing or disappearing, where so much is broken with no repair in sight; where hunger hovers over everyone and hope stretches only to the next day and not much further for many.

As might be expected, the people here, at least in Matabeleland North province where Africa Matters has its input, are greatly stressed, suffering hardship with many empty stomachs; most sources of income have been lost; there is no longer a functioning clinic, and schools have pared down the curriculum, lost qualified teachers and suffer for want of materials. Still these people manage always to smile and greet you, children jump up and wave and shout when I drive past (�kiwa, or Wendy); they take education deadly serious, and yes, even sing and dance at the least chance.

Nevertheless, there are success stories and ours is one.

I am still here residing in Dete, a small community of mixed ethnicities, that sits on the border of Hwange National Park. I am still the volunteer Community Arts Coordinator for Painted Dog Conservation Zimbabwe, and as such, my main function is to run Iganyana Arts and Crafts.

My two main areas of work have been the expansion of Iganyana Arts and in this past year, more work in conservation education, through my involvement with Ingonyama Dance and Drama. We all apologize for the confusion of names, but it was not to be helped:

IGANYANA is the Ndebele name for the Painted Dogs.

INGONYAMA is a Zulu word meaning "lion king of the beasts". The drama group had this name before I became involved with them.

In a nutshell, with more detail below: (A) we again funded 52 students for the full school year, and (B) we made donation to Ingonyama Dance and Drama group to assure their continued work.

IGANYANA ARTS AND CRAFTS: Africa Matters continues to function as the fiscal agent and marketing arm for Iganyana Arts' international clients. Iganyana is a community development project sponsored by Painted Dog Conservation Zimbabwe (www.painteddog.org). In so doing we assist in expanding awareness of wildlife and habitat conservation with the added advantage of bringing income to those for whom it is most important.

I am happy to report that the Arts project has managed to continue to grow and that we are now no longer working in the red, but with new international customers, we are making a profit. That means that the crafts workers are able to earn hard cash each month for the goods the manufacture. Our reputation for innovative items and high quality work has allowed us to expand in the face of daily obstacles.

Each day is a mixture of crisis management, creative thinking to secure materials and patience to solve an unending stream of unforeseen hurdles. What with power outages bringing dead phones, email and computers; lack of fuel, daily tire punctures, plumbing failures, empty shop shelves, you can never know exactly what you will accomplish on a given day. Cost of anything changes from day to day or even hour to hour making your business plan a shambles before you've even got it documented. How DO you price your product and establish fair pay????? You can make a plan, but you often must let it go and deal with the immediate reality.

Still in the fact of all that, we have created new products to fulfill interesting requests from customers; added 5 new artisans; refined our production and administrative capabilities.

If you are interested to see the wares produced or have a suggestion for an outlet, send an email and I can forward our CD Catalogue to you. (wendy@painteddog.org, pdcwendy@mweb.co.zw).

BUSH BEAT BUGLE: VOL. 8    May 2008


In April, the drama and dance group did a week-long workshop with students from 6 schools, three local and 3 a distance away. This is a term break period, so some students who attend distant schools are home during the break. They students were grades 6 through 12 and there were 28 participants.

The Drama group was assisted by Zulu who is a teacher and community development officer with Painted Dog. By profession is is a former school teacher and also holds a professional guide's license. His work with the group had a goal to develop a set of activities that can be used when he goes out on one day visits to our local 16 schools, getting the children actively involved using drama, story writing, discussion, games, songs and dances.

At this workshop, the group was eventually divided into 4 groups and each group then wrote a play. Wendy did a tiny bit of acting/stage craft training. The students proved very adept at writing short scripts with strong characters and the hoped for PC message. By the end of te week, each group performed their playlet.

As you can see from the attached photos, a new banner is needed. We gave each child an exercise book to take notes and write their stories and poems. They each also got a pencil. There were no prizes given at this workshop. We have run out of items that are inexpensive enough to have a lot and that can be transported easily.

You can see the nice shirts the guys have on. I had these made as a rush order before I left in February; they are very simple but do make the group identifiable at a distance. Just say INGONYANA DANCE AND DRAMA TROUP on the front and On the back: CREATIVITY AND CONSERVATION, Dete, Zimbabwe.

This workshop was a big effort and very well conducted. The each were paid $100 from last years allocation of funds.

BUSH BEAT BUGLE: VOL. 9    Jul 2009


VOL: 9

Submitted by Director, Wendy Blakeley

Writing from Zimbabwe

2009 was kicked off at our 2nd ANNUAL AFRICAN BUSH DINNER FUND RAISER at the Oakland Zoo on February 23rd. Once again it was a wonderful evening with so many of you, our friends, sponsors, and supporters joining us. We were deeply moved by seeing every table full at the dinner. The evening was, well lively, joyful, and successful! Even those who could not attend extended their helping hands with donations.


Since the world economic crisis had just hit, we were amazed at the attendance at this function. Old friends and many NEW friends joined us. Kathy Getty, who has been an invaluable friend and mentor to me in my new field of arts and crafts, volunteered to do our auction display and it was a key factor in our success. People were drawn back again and again raising the bids! Kuzanga Marimba Band was back with their wonderful uplifting Zimbabwean marimba music; the food by Terry Paulding & Co. was again irresistible. Our Board Members and volunteers contributed in so many invisible ways and they deserve huge thanks. And there is no way to express our gratitude to the Oakland Zoo for not only providing the venue, but help in many other ways.

If you were not able to attend, don�t miss the next one and mark your calendars NOW for:

February 13, 2010.

If you know of others who would like notification, please get in touch.


Still needed


SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM Third (and final) Term 2009 September through December



30 primary and 13 secondary students

Food Lunch Program



Exam Fees


for 4 students taking 6 graduation exams

Exercise notebooks








TV monitor



DVD Player



Salaries for workshops





BINDE OVENS (see below)








I returned to Dete, Zimbabwe in mid-March where I wear two hats: one as the Community Arts Coordinator for Painted dog Conservation and of course as the facilitator for Africa Matters activities.

Fulfilling our mission statement of supporting "conservation through art, education and science", our funds support:

(A) SCHOLARSHIP FUND continues to support students from indigent families by paying school fees so they do not have their education interrupted for failure to pay fees. For the 2009 school year we are funding 12 students at Detema Secondary and 15 each at Dete Primary and St. Francis Xavier Primary, one at Marist Brothers Secondary and lesser support for several others.


Scholarship students visit Painted Dog Visitors� Center Students do weekend litter patrol

Interpretative Hall around town

(B) FOOD FOR THOUGHT Also knowing that empty stomachs make empty minds, we have assisted with the hot lunch program for the primary students. This also encourages attendance! We have provided maize which when ground into (mealie) meal is the staple in the local diet, and to prepare it we have donated cooking oil and salt. Never eaten alone and knowing there is little protein in most diets during these very hard times in Zimbabwe, we organized the purchase of a cow for the Dete Primary School. The Catholic and Secondary schools have other sponsors who assist with their food programs.



Ever resourceful, the Deputy Head, Dominic Nyathi along with students and maintenance staff butchered the large beast right on the premises. I have not been at a butchering since the dark ages on my grandparents farm so it seemed quite a dramatic event.




Between June 2008 and present we provided new uniforms for the group to wear and be easily identified when doing their conservation work, new Africa Matters and Ingonyama banners for use at their workshops. Individual donors have provided support materials including items to use as prizes given for outstanding performance at workshops and as encouragement at the teaching sessions.

The 2008 August weeklong intensive workshop was a huge success much praised by the community. Mr. Mahlabezulu Zulu of Painted Dog Conservation assisted us in organization and facilitation. Forty students were selected from a large pool of applicants. Many community leaders made presentations, as did representatives from the local research and conservation organizations, including the Anti-Poaching squads, National Parks, Lion Research, Painted Dog Research and many more.


WORKSHOP: Holding the lion�s skull Being a giraffe!

LACK OF FUNDS may prohibit our annual workshop this year. Though fundraiser was up, costs of everything in Zimbabwe are higher than ever, and with 90% unemployment, need is greater.

You can still help!! SEE BELOW

2009: Ingonyama has added a new presentation to their already varied offerings to local students. With the use of newly acquired "Planet Earth" video, the troupe developed questionnaires and vocabulary lists for various segments of the set (The Great Plains, The Deserts, and Forests). Borrowed video equipment was used to take this to the secondary schools. Both teachers and students were thrilled, and enthusiastic for a return visit. These presentations had a huge impact as schools these days do not even have textbooks, but teachers do all teaching from chalkboards and lectures.

Everyone, students, teachers and Ingonyama, agree that there is huge potential for expanding this program, which not only increases their knowledge of conservation issues, but also widens their perspective of these concerns.

FUNDS again are already expended for 2009!!


I am exploring the cost of production of these simple ceramic ovens. Two

local ceramics workshops are making prototypes to determine costs for eventual sale and/or donation. Almost all rural people still use wood as their main source of fuel. This constant wood collection endangers the health of the forests by depleting the biodegrading on the forest floor. Air pollution from the fires in the villages is an on-going problem, especially since malaria and asthma are both high.

These simple small ovens use only 1/4 of the firewood that an open fire uses. This also means less labor for women who spend one day a week collecting firewood often having to walk long distances to find wood, and hand carrying it home.

BENEFITS: Less impact on the forests

Less air pollution

Less work for women

Start up costs: $300



sleeping bags for each of the 9 members. When they travel out to

Schools they are accommodated for sleep in classrooms with broken windows and cement

Cement floors. Used donations are very acceptable. Sleep mats an added bonus.

Workshop prizes items

School exercise books, pens and papers

Used laptop computer � preferably a MAC



Donations can be made via check mailed Africa Matters, 582 San Luis Road, Berkeley Ca.94707

IF you make a donation in someone else�s name � a GREAT GIFT IDEA!! We will then send notice of that to your designated recipient. They will receive this card with a beautiful photograph of some of our primary school recipients.


Africa Matters is now an approved 501c3 tax-exempt non-profit having received the IRS notification in November 2003.  All cash donations are now fully tax-exempt.  Additionally, this status is retroactive covering all of 2003; consequently, if you made a donation during the past year it also can be claimed on your taxes..after you check with your tax specialist.



Newsletter's photo gallery




The zebra







Mandla Sibanda dances with Traditional Dance Troupe at Hwange National Park School. 2002






Researcher J. Salnicki enjoys her new chair donated by AFRICA MATTERS. 2002








Field Biologist Gregory Rassmussen assisting an injured dog














Director Wendy Blakeley's namesake: "Wendy", matriarch of the "W" family in the Presidential Elephant Herd...2001








Elephant injured by snares outside Hwange National Park.  Sept 2002








Sorting snare wire. Hwange National Park, Summer 2003








"The Gathering":  Nymandhlovu Pan, Hwange National Park, 2002








Wildlife Clubs of Kenya headquarter in Nairobi. 1998








Students at Hwange National Park school: recyling trash for TOYS. 2003








Wendy Blakeley with Louis Presente and Mr Banda, local craftsmen from Mabale. 2003








Picture frames made at the arts and crafts center. 2003








Dog portrait by artist at the arts and crafts center. 2003







Wire sculptor Nxolisi Dhladhla at the arts and crafts center.  2003






Boys learning wire craft at the arts and crafts center. 2003






The painters of the Dog project arts and crafts center. Dete, 2003















Wendy Blakeley rehearsing with drama group Ingonyama. 2003









Wendy Blakeley and drama group Ingonyama on the Victoria Falls Bridge in July of 2003 for a performance

Contact: africamatters2@gmail.com All photos by Wendy Blakeley
Webmaster: Leonard Young
Last Updated Oct 10, 2008