Handmade Harvest: Miriam

Book Artist: Michael Swanberg
Materials: Calligraphy, silk screen and linoleum block on paper

A children’s picture book from the point of view of a child in an African village learning to write her name for the first time.

Artist’s Statement: “The experience that most dazzled me—and dazzle is the perfect word to capture an experience that to this day continues to inform my choices and perceptions of the world—was my Peace Corps Volunteer service in Burkina Faso, a French-speaking West African nation on the periphery of the Sahara Desert.  Although I was sent as a nurse to staff a clinic, I discovered that Burkina Faso has the lowest literacy rate in the world, only 4% of the women and 11% of the men can read or write.  Each day I would wait by the river as the girls and women arrived to fill their water jugs for the day, and I would teach them a new letter of the alphabet.  When each woman or girl had learned enough letters to write her name for the first time, it was as if a light had been lit in their eyes that I knew would never be extinguished.  This is the memory I have of Burkina Faso—a small girl named Miriam –writing her name for the first time and all I could do was weep as I witnessed it.”


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