While in Ethiopia Rockwell traveled to other Peace Corps site. In doing so, in Dessie, he found the subject for a famous paintings that appeared in Look Magazine.
This prominent Norman Rockwell painting is entitled, Peace Corps Ethiopia.
It shows Marc Clausen (Ethiopia 1962-64) working in a field with farmers
Marc Clausen was an agriculture/teacher Volunteer. He had graduated from the University of Arizona as an Aggie major and went to Ethiopia to teach agriculture. He was, in my recollection of those years, the only Ethie I PCV involved with agriculture. In Dessie, he told me recently, he had a demonstration field of approximately one hector a few miles from town and he took his students there for their classwork. Rockwell arrived by plane near the town of Kombolcha where there was a grassy landing field. Kombolcha was in the valley below this mountainous provincial town, Dessie, capital of Wollo. Dessie then had a population of less than 100,000. There were 19 PCVs stationed in Dessie. It was one of the larger encampments of Volunteers.
Rockwell had come to Dessie because of Marc. He wanted images of PCVs who were working in all sectors of the Peace Corps. That decision would lead him to travel later, in 1966, to India and Colombia to capture other PCVs at work overseas. Marc Clausen was the perfect Volunteer to profile in an illustration for Look Magazine. A young, good looking guy, he looked like a midwest farmer–(I can say that because I grew up on a midwest farm).
This painting was, as all of Rockwell’s painting were, staged and photographed.
Molly, Rockwell’s second wife, used a camera to photograph scenes Rockwell could paint later in his studio back home. In his studio, for example, he would add to the illustration the terraced mountains in the background which didn’t exist in up-country Ethiopia.
Asked by someone while in-country why he wasn’t showing the real conditions of the country, Rockwell remarked that Americans couldn’t handle the Third World. Instead, he said, he’d just apply a bandage to a child when he wanted to illustrate pain and suffering.
After meeting for lunch in a house Marc shared with three other PCVs, it was decided to stage the portrait at Marc’s demonstration farm, but Rockwell had just one request of Marc. He wanted him to change his shirt. And so Marc did. “He and I went into my bedroom and Rockwell picked the color he wanted me to wear and we rode the jeep out to the farm field.”
Marc had recently gotten from USIA a metal “duck foot plow,” as Marc explained. He was going to demonstrate it to the local farmers and his students as it was a much more useful and effective plow than what local farmers used. According to Jack Prebis (Ethiopia 1962-64) who later was an APCD in Ethiopia, “These plows were donated to Ethiopia courtesy of the old Marshall Plan following WWII. In the summer of 1963, we found them in the Ministry of Education’s warehouse, collecting rust. They were never distributed to farmers because they were too heavy and unwieldy for oxen to pull.”
Marc would agree about the plows not helping Ethiopians. Their mules should couldn’t pull the weight. Nevertheless, the plow was used in the illustration, as were several Ethiopian “models” who had gathered to watch the American. One of the models, Marc recalls, was his own compound zabagna,a night watchman.
Here are a few more photos from the Rockwells visit, forwarded to me through the kindness of John Schafer. You will note how well dressed the Peace Corps teachers were in the cities and in the provinces of the old Abyssinian Empire. It wasn’t for nothing that in Amharic we were known as Selam Guad, Messengers of Peace.
Rockwell in a sea of Nigus Tekle Haimanot Secondary School students;
PCVs Barry Hillenbrand and David Scribner are to his left
Rockwell at Nigus Tekle Haimanot School with PCVs David Scribner (glasses) and John Schafer
(left to right) PCVs Barry Hillenbrand, Molly Rockwell,
Marge Taylor (back to camera),
David Scribner , Carolyn Collins (back to camera) John Collins (1962-65)
Rockwell doing a sketch of a student and then gave it to the boy. Was he wise enough to keep it?
Rockwell made pencil sketches of this photo but never finished it.
John Schafer said he was given this rough sketches by Norman,
(which he was wise enough to keep).