Tshimologong Precinct celebrates digital art at Fak’ugesi: Digital Africa Festival
The Tshimologong Precinct in the heart of Braamfontein, Johannesburg will play host to resident experts in the fields of hardware, software, and digital art. The aim is to bring international and local experts together to contribute to the Digital Technology Hub through innovative product development and skills sharing. The Fak’ugesi Digital Africa Festival in partnership with British Council Connect ZA will host the first “Tshimologong Resident Digital Artist” as part of it’s program.
Our Mini Van Does Not Disappoint
About four months ago we purchased a mini van for transporting our children from their schools to our Arts Centre and it has been growing strong. It got it’s sternest test on the 22nd of August when we took a trip to Johannesburg which is about 190km from Viljoenskroon. We celebrate our longest trip using our humble acquisition
DN Children go to Johannesburg for the first time
Twenty four children from Dramatic Need had the rare opportunity of visiting Johannesburg for the first time in their lives. Johannesburg, also known as Jozi, Joburg, Joni,eGoli or Joeys, abbreviated as JHB, is the largest city in South Africa, by population. It is the provincial capital of Gauteng, the wealthiest province in South Africa. The Dramatic Need children were part of the International Drama for Life Sex Actually Festival taking place in various locations in Johannesburg.
Their specific venue was the Constitution Hill, an important historical site in South Africa that got some of the children very emotional when they learnt about what prisoners went through when they were held there. Constitution Hill is the seat of the Constitutional Court of South Africa. The site housed white prisoners but Old Fort prison was later extended to include “native” cells, called Section 4 and Section 5, and, in 1907, a women’s section was added. An awaiting-trial block was constructed in the 1920s. Both political activists opposed to apartheid and common criminals were held at the prison. Mahatma Gandhi was imprisoned here in 1906, and striking white mineworkers in 1907, 1913 and 1922. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitution_Hill,_Johannesburg. People like Winnie Mandela were also held here.
The children took part in a puppetry workshop that explored sex, sexuality, sexual rights and other important responsibilities that go with these rights.This workshop was facilitated by UNIMA South Africa, The International Association of Puppetry for choices under the the of 'animate your own life workshops.' They work in partnership with such organizations as Childline Gauteng, Marie Stopes-The Blue Light Campaign, People Opposing Woman Abuse and Stop Women Abuse. Their team is made up of artists and individuals working at the intersection of The Arts, Civil Society, Education and Business and they innovate new applications for puppetry to contribute to building a better future for all.
They aim to promote artistic excellence, social cohesion, cultural awareness, environmental sustainability and economic growth through the power of puppetry.
UNIMA SA’s activities include a variety of functions, events and meetings which aim at promoting and developing the art of puppetry in South Africa. In this case UNIMA facilitated these workshops under the auspices of the Drama for Life Sex Actually Festival. and in this particular process our children took part in, the facilitator worked with them to create their own puppets which went on to interact through puppet improvisations. We had different scenes where our children enacted meeting as young people and talking about relationships and asking each other out to have sex. We saw different situations with some children giving in to having sex and some refusing and telling their partners that they were not ready for it. In some instances those who gave in were broken hearted but the facilitator was brilliant in letting the children take the lead and avoiding a prescriptive approach.
We went on to see a performance called Four Husbands for MaLindi written and directed by Clara Vaughan, a Lecturer at Wits University. The play also explored the same themes of gender, sex, sexuality and relationships. In the play, actors told their stories of how they had lost their virginity and how they had faired in relationships. There was a post performance discussion and it was exciting to see some of our children take part in the discussions.
This was an experience of a life time for most of the children, the Dramatic Need Assistant Manager and Visual Art Teacher, Kekana Somfula as well as the part time mini van driver, Mr Dhlamini.
Processing and Reflecting on Favouritism
Living and working with children from different backgrounds is something one should do with an open heart willing not only to teach but to learn also from the behavioural traits of the children as well as the manifestations of the issues they carry from home.
Almost all institutions one way or the other are guilty of failure to treat children equally and bring them up to be fair and accommodative of everyone rewarding based on merit and correcting not out of malice but out of the desire to bring about correct behaviour.
We explained to our children at the beginning of the year that if there will be any trips we will select those going based on attendance. During the course of the year some children’s attendance is scanty and some stop coming due to various reasons and are replaced by others. So when the time came for us to go to Johannesburg for the DFL Sex Actually Festival all children got wind that there was a trip at Dramatic Need and even those who had not said goodbye but just disappeared suddenly reappeared. Being children and coming from institutions such as family and school where favouritism is rife they expected to be part of the group going. Seeing an opportunity to share an important value I decided to create workshops to deal with the vice of favouritism.
The first step was to create a scale of between 1 and 10 and say the children were to rate themselves in fairness and equal treatment of people. In some groups some children who have grown in emotional literacy were fair enough to themselves and rated themselves below 5 meaning that they had some work to do to practise that important value fair and equal treatment of people in groups
We then created stickers and placed then in different places and asked the children to read them and stay with the one that appealed to them the most. The first round had these 1. Favouritism is not an issue in our communities. 2. Favouritism is partly to blame for the problems in our communities. 3. Favouritism is big problem in our communities. This first round of activities was meant to make the children engage this issue from a distance and indeed they did, freely condemning what they believed to be perpetration of a vice.
The second round had these. 1. Have you witnessed cases of unfairness and favouritism? 2. Have you watched and done nothing when favouritism was practised against someone or some people? This round was meant to bring it closer home but not to the whole extent and so the children began to feel and think about their part in all this.
The third round had the following statements. 1. Have you benefited from favouritism? 2. Have you been a victim of favouritism? 3. have you been unfair to someone or some people or shown favouritism where someone deserved something by merit but you gave it to someone else that you favour for some reason? This was now making it personal and yes some children used it as a self realisation exercise and saw themselves in the mirror and wept as we reflected on our roles in favouritism. This was to help them see that we will try to be fair in all our dealings here at Dramatic Need. We are not perfect but we always try to do right. We permitted the children to tell us when we treat them unfairly so that we may learn and see if we can also change and grow.
What is disheartening was the talk about the vice of favouritism in other institutions being rife and really hurting the children and affecting their self esteem. They spoke about family, church and the classroom. Sad things happen in these institutions some of which are meant to hold traumatised and battered children.
We took the opportunity to reconnect after the deep and emotional process
DN Children Prepare to Attend the DFL Sex Actually Festival
The week ending on the 22nd of August has been one hectic one for us at Dramatic Need as we have had to work hard to prepare for the Drama For Life Sex Actually Festival. We have had to select those going based on attendance since January 2014 and of course discipline.
We encourage our children to use their hands to do things that are believed to be things to buy or get given by someone. This is to inculcate a sense of self reliance and hard work. So instead of buying brand new printed T-shirts for them to wear to Johannesburg for the festival we bought plain white T-shirts and the children spray painted them themselves.
Three of the children were lucky to get the last three branded T-shirts in our store room.
Bye Dramatic Need: Olivia Gentile
Performance is not something that has to be rehearsed and confined to the stage. The people in South Africa have demonstrated that to me and have confirmed my belief better than anyone before.
During my three weeks in South Africa I have witnessed members of the public dancing along to singing street performers, a group of children sing without prethought to welcome me as a teacher and the students of Dramatic Need burst randomly into beautiful harmonisation. It is exciting to see so many people be so freely and fearlessly creative. It is no wonder therefore that I have experienced so much creativity within my lessons.
The groups have thrown themselves into exercises with enjoyment and enthusiasm and as a result their performances have been big and expressive. This is nothing however compared to the appreciation they have given each other for their performances. Forget polite English applause or even standing ovations; I am appreciating more and more the ways South African audiences express their delight, through enthusiastically calling out to the characters the ways they wish the storyline to go, through singing, dancing and playing along. I cannot describe the pride I felt when some of my participants physically threw themselves at their fellow classmates after watching them perform, intent on embracing them as tightly as possible and showering them with praise. As much of my work here has been focussed on creating a bond within the groups in order to best enable them to work as a team, this reaction to each other’s work was fantastic to see.
Another beautiful moment that I have witnessed whilst teaching here was when I set one of my groups a task in creating music. Their ability to experiment with sound and rhythm was extraordinary and in seconds the participants were filling the room with beautiful music. This they did without prethought or the need for discussion, just listening and working absolutely with the group.
But the real beauty came when the groups were performing their creations to the rest of the class. One of the girls got stage fright and so, to help her along, another group began to harmonise a backing rhythm for her to sing to. This shows just how much of a bond this group has and how supportive they are of each other.
My time in South Africa has been packed with both cultural and human educations. From the food I have tasted to the living conditions I have seen. From my experiences of the unnerving Johannesburg nightlife to riding elephants and playing with lion cubs. The wonderful friends I have made, the warnings I have been given about this country. The apparent worldwide delight of children when they first discover loom bands, and my groups performing to unrivalled appreciation from their peers.
My time in South Africa has definitely been too short. I would have liked to have taken the groups further and given them the chance to perform in front of a proper audience. Nothing compares to this feeling and I know that the participants I have worked with are not only capable of this, but would also greatly enjoy such an experience.
I also realise that I have only scraped the surface of experiencing the South African culture, the South African lifestyle and the countless opportunities this country provides. I hope to form some links between the South African organisations I have worked with and the English organisations I work with at home, so that my experiences can continue and so that others can also experience different cultures.
My time in South Africa has been extraordinary and eye opening. I came here to teach but I have learnt so much
Artists from Fezile Dabi Arts and Culture Centre visit DN
On the 13th of August 2014 we got a group of artistes from Fezile Dabi Arts and Culture Centre. This Centre has in house artistes who work children from Fezile Dabi District.
They were impressed by our work and asked us to visit them to see how we could share ideas and human resources. They immediately recommended one of their artistes to help us in the formation of the DN Marimba Band and we are already excited about the idea of having someone come to continue teaching our children marimba after the volunteer we are expecting to come and lay the foundation.
Fascinated by difference!
Our children always find it fascinating to meet people from other parts of the world. In some parts of the world difference has been used to cause conflict, oppression and discrimination but our children and their volunteers always marvel to see the physical and cultural differences that we have as human beings.
After her sessions with our children, Olivia sometimes takes sometime to chat with the children and also enjoy touching and weaving each other’s different hairs.
Dramatic Need abounds with acting talent
It became clear yesterday that Dramatic Need abounds with talent when the current volunteer, Olivia Gentile had our children take part in scripted plays. The children were divided into smaller groups and given some time to learn their lines and rehearse. They were a marvel to watch as they took turns to show what they had prepared.
Olivia does some character work with the DN children
Yesterday, Olivia took our children through some characterisation work. Everyone had to think of any funny or scary character they could imagine and thereafter each one had to characterise that while moving around in a group.
The next step was to divide the children into two groups where one group had to wear masks while the other group was in their earlier characters they created. The mask group invaded the other group and took over their village.
The session was closed with small performances with the different characters interacting
Cycling to town
Dramatic Need is an after school programme and during the day before the children come, Olivia takes some time to cycle to town and explore the paths on her own.