When West St. Paul artist Tracy Tomchuk took off to Tanzania for 16 weeks last September, the trip was to be more of a personal retreat than an artistic one.
But, with more than 11,000 photos capturing the visit to sift through when she got home, it took a little burst of sunlight for Tomchuk to realize she had enough material to showcase the diversity of the country while helping spur the growth of entrepreneurship overseas.
"I was just editing the photos for my own personal album two months ago when I came across a photo of two gentlemen walking up a hill, with a burst of sunlight in the middle of the composition," says Tomchuk, 24. "It’s mystical and kind of ambiguous. When I saw that I thought I had to have an exhibition. I lucked out on the shot and it seemed unfair to have these locked away on my computer."
The photo of the two men frames her second photography exhibition Tanzania, a collection of 23 prints she debuted at the Frame Gallery on Ross Avenue in Winnipeg Thurs., Aug. 15.
Tomchuk packed up for the east African country to volunteer in the Rift Valley Children’s Village, followed by three weeks of backpacking before returning home to Canada.
The fine arts grad, who also paints and sculpts, was at a crossroads in her career, stuck between choosing nursing, social work, or dietetics as a second degree. She figured travelling abroad and learning a new culture would help her figure things out.
And so, she spent 13 weeks in the village, waking up at 6:30 a.m. each morning to make lunch for the 11 girls she lived with, teach Grade 1 students everything from the alphabet to the multiplication tables, learn Swahili from the locals and make new, worldly friends with volunteers.
"I fell absolutely dead in love with the culture," Tomchuk said.
While abroad, Tomchuk befriended Michael Mao, the camp’s cook. At the exhibit, she’s selling cookbooks for $3 with some of his recipes, and others, to help him raise the $3,100 he needs to open a small convenience store in Karatu.
Tomchuk plans to go back to the village next summer as an artist tutor, but in the meantime is focusing on earning her nursing degree.
Tanzania runs until Tues., Aug. 27. It’s open from Tuesday to Friday from noon to 8 p.m. and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free. For more, visit tracytomchuk.com