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Project Description 

- Artist: Carolyn Elaine

- Participants: Students at Dixon Elementary School

- Sponsorship:  Partially supported by the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, Neighborhood Arts Program

- 180 sq ft. Broken Tile Mosaic- Interior Installation 


In 2006 Carolyn Elaine worked with a group of students at Arthur Dixon Elementary School who formed the club “Friends of the Maasai”. This group of ten students transformed one of the school’s water fountain walls into a beautiful mosaic entitled Drink in Remembrance. Elaine returned to Dixon this year to work with “Friend of the Maasai". Together they balanced the main hallway of the school by completing a 180 sq ft broken tile mosaic on a second water fountain wall entitled Kapiti Plain.


The theme of this artwork was inspired by the children’s story book Bring the Rain to Kapiti Plain by Verna Aardema. Elaine translated the main character

Ki-Pat (a Maasai Herdsman) and several of the animals (illustrated by Beatriz Vidal) into mosaic images and placed them throughout the composition. With the help of the students, many friends and community members and Joseph Ole Koye (a real Maasai herdsman), the story was brought to life.


The mosaic wraps around a north- west corner of the hallway and faces the Pre- K and Kindergarten classrooms. While drinking water or entering their lockers; students can read, touch and inner act with the imagery. Ms. Gallagher, one of the kindergarten teachers, donated her vacation photos of wild animals taken on an African safari, to be used in the finished artwork. These images were transferred to tiles and scattered throughout.


The story, which reads as a poem, references the dire need for rain in parts of Africa. Two excerpts from the poem have been placed within the design. The scene on the left depicts Ki-Pat standing in an empty field of brown grass with a huge black cloud overhead. It reads:


This is Ki-Pat

who watched his herd

as he stood on one leg

like a big stork bird

Ki-Pat whose cows

were so hungry and dry

they mooed for the rain

to fall from the sky

To green-up the grass

all brown and dead

that needed the rain

from the cloud overhead

The big black cloud

all heavy with rain

that shadowed the ground

on Kapiti Plain




The scene on the right shows many wild animals grazing in green grass after the rain. It reads:


This is the great

Kapiti Plain

all fresh and green

from the African rain

A sea of grass for the

ground birds to nest in

and patches of shade for

wild creatures to rest in

With Acacia trees for

giraffes to browse on

and grass for the herdsmen

to pasture their cows on


A little further down an Acacia tree shades the two water fountains as a bird sips water and a leopard crawls beneath.


The eight grade students not only worked on the mosaic, but they read the story to the younger students as well. The teachers already had the book in their classroom libraries and were excited to explore new ways to use the finished artwork as a learning tool to promote literacy and cultural awareness.


During a day of celebration the students dedicated last year’s mural to Joseph who was here in the United States again to raise money for the school he founded in his home village in Kenya. He brought letters and photos from his students and jewelry made by the women of his village. Family and friends were encouraged to enjoy food, meet Joseph and participated in fabricating the mosaic. Friends of the Maasai organized and manned the jewelry sale for the event and were successful in raising over 500.00 for their Kenyan pen pals.

Kapiti Plain (2007)

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