Jean Pruitt

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Jean Pruitt

Jean Pruitt (17 October 1939) is an American Maryknoll Sister operating in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. She is best known for her activism in promoting Tanzanian art and defending Tanzanian children's rights. She has been working with the Maryknoll Sisters and the Roman Catholic Church of Tanzania since 1969, and received several awards for her contributions to the Tanzanian society and culture.

Early life[edit]

Pruitt completed her studies at the Nativity School in Los Angeles in 1953 and at the Bishop Conaty High School in 1957. In 1958, she joined the Maryknoll Sisters in Los Angeles, and by 1967 she graduated from Mary Rogers University (New York) with a bachelor's degree in Education. The following year, she completed her studies in Social Works at the University at Buffalo in New York City.

In Tanzania[edit]

In 1969, Pruitt was sent to Tanzania by the Maryknoll Sisters to work with the local Roman Catholic Church. She began her activity in Tanzania in the Catholic Relief Services, operating in favor of the healthy development of Tanzanian youth and children. Since her very early years in Tanzania, she founded a number of organizations intended to support young Tanzanian artists. The best known such organization is the [[Nyumba ya Sanaa (founded in 1972), an art workshop in Dar es Salaam. The same year she also founded the Tanzanian branch of Caritas, and in 1988 she was cofounder of the Tanzania Mozambique Friendship Association (TAMOFA). In 1992 she founded the Dogodogo Centre, an organization specifically established to support the increasing number of street children in Dar es Salaam city.

In 2000, Pruitt became Governor of the Global Network of Religions for Children|Global Network of Religions for Children - Africa]] (GNRC-Africa). In this organization she started several programs, including a successful "Education for Peace Program" for educating children and youth about diversity, tolerance and conflict resolution.

Pruitt is also one of the founding members of the Stepping Stone Trust Fund that supports vulnerable children and youth in Tanzania.

Recognized artists she discovered[edit]

Through her many activities in support of Tanzanian art, and especially so after opening the Nyumba ya Sanaa, Pruitt discovered a number of talents that later got national and international acclaim. The most notable such artist is probably painter and sculptor George Lilanga. Patrick Francis Imanjama is another globally recognized artist well known for his paintings, book drawing and etching abilities. Like Lilanga, Patrick was supported by Pruitt and with her help was able to hold exhibitions abroad (in Germany, Austria and New York City). Other artists discovered by Pruitt include Augustion Malaba, Henry Likonde and Edward Kiiza.


As an acknowledgement of her many contributions to the Tanzanian community, Pruitt has received several awards. In 1983 she was awarded the Tanzanian National Award by President Julius Nyerere for her contribution to the development of the Tanzanian Small Industries Development Organization (SIDO). On December 17, 2005 she also received the National ZEZE Award for her work in supporting Tanzanian artists and culture.

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