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Project Gandiole, Kindergarten playscape

Work in Progress

June 5, 2015


Against our expectations for this time of the year the weather is not yet too hot, just really warm. So we are lucky to be able to work long days at a steady pace. The curving walls are taking shape, encircling the area and creating a feeling of place. The team of masons is skilled and dedicated, which is very pleasant to work with. Still we are very happy to be on site every day, seeing the progress and discussing whenever necessary. Having our own work to do helps in creating an atmosphere of working together instead of being there to check and control. Errors are unavoidable, but always a sensitive topic. Respecting peoples pride and having interest in their working methods is key to finding solutions together. It takes some time for their prejudice to break down, and in the beginning any occasion is used to confirm their believe that we are rich and arrogant toubabs.

Once all the telephone pole constructions are done we get to work on the details of the different play objects. The designs are flexible, offering room for to improvise with the materials we can find. The different wooden elements were all found washed up on the beach. In Saint Louis we stumbled into an old shrimp net and decided to use it to make ropes (rolled up) and a ‘nest’. Unable to find good canvas for shade sails we decide to look for more used nets. To increase the amount of shade we will weave the nets with ropes. This is tedious work, so to get the job done we organise a sunday afternoon for volunteers and invite the parents of the children at the kindergarten. Especially women and children join in and we make great progress. There is nothing particularly manly to do, so unfortunately most men leave rather quickly. Again showing that if we want to be sure to involve both men and women we must think of different tasks for both. Segregate to emancipate, you could say.

The long list of work to do slowly grows shorter. The masons move on to the work inside the playscape. A flowing bench that continues as meandering low wall and a steep slope that creates a little hill. Not very standard, so there is ample opportunity to show off their skills. At the same time we finish different play objects one by one. Whenever possible, they are instantly tested by all the children.

The last week is the most hectic of all. Our planning is down the drain because it took five days instead of one to get the last bricks made. From now on we are constantly waiting for the masons to finish so that the cement can dry and other work can continue. By now the temperatures have risen and when it’s hot everything slows down. But most importantly, with all the project really taking shape everyone is in a good mood.

The last two days everything that needs to be done is happening at the same time. All together there are fifteen men, one woman (Roos) and a horse at work. Transporting sand, painting all around, welding the steelwork, cheering out loud when the missing paint finally arrives, making a tile slide, creating a shell mosaic, mixing soil and planting the garden, doing spontaneous decorations with a fork on two brick circles for trees, finishing the stunning bench, sandpapering the last splinters of the poles...

Lot’s to learn, many different mixed feelings to deal with. But oh yes! We love placemaking.

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