Whitworth Communications

For Immediate Release

April 26, 2000

Fulbright Award Brings Maasai Artist to Whitworth for a Year

Whitworth College has been awarded a Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence Award to bring renowned Kenyan artist Nicholas Sironka to campus for the 2000-01 academic year. Sironka, a batik artist whose work has been exhibited widely in Africa and the U.S., will teach courses on batik art and Maasai culture at Whitworth and will conduct workshops for schools and organizations throughout eastern Washington and northern Idaho.

"Nicholas Sironka is a gifted artist who tells the story of the Maasai people, history and culture during and through the creation of his beautiful Batiks," says Gordon Wilson, associate professor of art at Whitworth and project director of the Fulbright grant. "Our goal in bringing Sironka to campus is to use art as a medium toward cultural awareness and understanding, both at Whitworth and in the larger community."

Numerous organizations, including the Kenya National Museum and the United Nations, have commissioned Sironka to produce batiks, which are created by dying fabric using removable wax to control the placement of the dyes. His work has been shown throughout Africa and in the United States, most recently at the Mwoyo Art Gallery in Seattle.

As art director of a Kenyan publishing house specializing in children's books, Sironka helped illustrate a book that received the Pan-African Children's Book Fair Award, the Multicultural Publishers Exchange Book of Excellence Award, and the prestigious Jomo Kenyatta Award. In addition to his art, Sironka works with refugee children in Sudan and Somalia, teaching them to express their emotions and experiences through art. He teaches Maasai children about their own cultural heritage and teaches art and culture to American college students on cultural exchanges in Africa.

Whitworth's connection to Sironka dates to 1996 when History Professor John Yoder led an African study tour that included a stop at the artist's workshop. Subsequently, the daughter of a Whitworth faculty member lived with Sironka's family and studied batik as part of an independent study project. This past fall, Sironka had a showing of his artwork and presented several workshops on the Whitworth campus. Three of his pieces are in Whitworth's permanent art collection.

The Fulbright Award includes $26,450 in salary, plus support for international travel and health benefits. In addition, Whitworth is providing about $10,000 in salary support and living expenses to cover Sironka's appointment, which will run from Aug. 15, 2000 to May 30, 2001.

He will teach beginning and intermediate courses in batik as well as a course on the arts and culture of the Maasai people. He also will be available to conduct workshops on batik and Maasai culture for public schools, colleges and universities, art galleries and community organizations throughout eastern Washington and northern Idaho. Many local school districts and community organizations wrote letters supporting Whitworth's Fulbright application.

"Mr. Sironka's presence at Whitworth would provide invaluable educational opportunities for our audience," wrote Barbara Racker, curator of art for Cheney Cowles Museum. "Mr. Sironka's expertise in his native art form, batik, as well as his interest in teaching about the unique practices of the nomadic Maasai people, would fit well into our educational and interdisciplinary goals."

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private, liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The college enrolls 2,000 students in over 50 undergraduate and graduate programs.


Gordon Wilson, associate professor of art, (509) 777-4471 or gwilson@whitworth.edu.

Greg Orwig, director of communications, (509) 777-4580 or gorwig@whitworth.edu.

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