This morning my classmates and I went to the Novalis Ubuntu Institute where we met and conversed with a woman named Anne-Lise. After giving us a tour of Novalis, she brought us into a room with a circle of chairs and invited us to sit. She asked the adults to come up with questions they wanted to ask the students and she asked us think about what we wished to ask the adults. The goal of the conversation eventually made itself apparent; to find a way to soften the divide so many cultures feel between children and adults. Many times the younger generation feels like it would like to expand and become it’s own personality, while still struggling to honor and respect that of the adult generation. Anne-Lise was interested in tackling this complexity. She did this by allowing both children and adults to discuss the topic together, instead of separate, as so often happens.
After lunch we went to visit Fezeka High School. We were welcomed with open arms and beautiful music. Their passion and skill brought a smile to my face, and it was truly inspiring to see how they could shape music, words, and emotion, on the spot, and create a completely original form of communication. Their thoughts and expressions held a maturity and confidence that I’ve never witnessed in anyone my age before. Because of this I was slightly intimidated when we began to break off into groups and get to know each other one on one.
I had no need to be nervous because they were some of the warmest people I have ever met. Not only were they amazing performers, not only were they wise and mature, they were also members of my generation. We are the same age and though we live on completely different sides of the globe, we share that connection. With this discovery, there came an ease to the conversation. We began to laugh and joke, and learn about each other’s lives and interests. Then, without anyone purposefully guiding it, the conversation flowed to the topic of generations. Again we discussed the differences between children and adults, and again we addressed the complexity of honoring one’s parents while still holding our own identity. Although the specifics of what we described were completely different than anything I could imagine, the theme sounded familiar. I think that is because there are certain universal themes that make up the whole of humanity and the quest to merge the differences from an older generation to a younger is one of them.
Inspirational. Fun. Enriching. Perfect.
These are only a few of the many adjectives I would use to describe our first day in Capetown. What made our day so amazing was our visit to Fezeka High. Within seconds of setting foot on the Fezeka campus I felt connected with the students. They welcomed us warmly with incredible songs, dances and poems and then allowed us the opportunity to perform.
After all the songs and dances were presented, we split up into groups and we were given the opportunity to converse with the students. Although our entire visit to Fezeka High was amazing, this experience stood out for me. Through my conversation with one student in particular, I was exposed to a view on post-Apartheid life that I hadn’t read about in a book or seen in a movie. This student told me that although she is aware of the freedoms her parents fought for, she is conscious of the fact that she doesn’t give enough respect to these freedoms. She spoke about how she constantly compares her school to other schools and thinks her school isn’t as nice. She knows that rather than thinking about this she should be thankful that she even has the freedom to attend school.
After sharing her experiences with me this student said that while she won’t change the way she lives to honor these hard earned freedoms, she would like to show appreciation for them in a way that won’t change her life drastically. Our conversation made me realize that although inner appreciation may not be as powerful it is still felt strongly. Keeping our gratitude inside doesn’t diminish the amount of emotion the feelings hold.
It started with handshakes and ended with hugs. The people were some of the nicest and refreshingly real people I’ve met. At home in the U.S. we pay a ton of money to see famous people or even not so famous people perform for us. However, when the kids from Fezeka performed songs, skits, and spoken poetry it was priceless and surpassed any performance I’ve ever experienced. The emotion was raw and genuine, their words inspirational and laughter contagious.
During the skit they performed, a girl acted as a pregnant woman and during it a tear rolled down her cheek. While their Performing Arts program taught me the importance of music, one boy’s comment taught me the importance of openness. His big dream was of owning a mansion in all 9 provinces of South Africa. Then he would let impoverished people live there, but in return they would have to do volunteer work. This impressed me because he wasn’t afraid to share his dream no matter how big it was and didn’t care what people thought. I often don’t express things like that for fear of failing or being laughed at. His comment helped refresh my goal to be more open. Fezeka was an amazing place to go and as cliche as is sounds an experience of a lifetime.
Today we travelled by bus to Fezeka High, a local high school that has exceptional choir and drama programs in spite of a lack of funds. By visiting this wonderful school, we got to witness first hand the amazing talent, creativity, and joy of the young citizens of South Africa. The astonishing acting, singing, and dancing skills of the students, as well as their insight into solving the problems of our generation, filled me with admiration for them and hope for the future of South Africa.
But while this day allowed me to witness firsthand images of joy in South Africa, I also witnessed firsthand images of grief and sadness. On the bus ride to and from Fezeka High we passed through the township of Guguletu. We saw the visible long term consequences of the horrors of apartheid. The township was full of people living in poverty in run down shacks. The saddening images of shacks and destitute people gave me concern that South Africa is a country still unable to escape its past. But watching the talented students of Fezeka High perform and listening to their insightful ideas gave me hope for a better South Africa.
Fezeka High is a sanctuary. The talents within this school are extraordinary. The welcoming and safe feeling these kids provided us calmed our nerves about performing in front of them.
The Fezeka High students openly performed in front of us without question. The passion and love the students have for creative arts is truly inspirational. Although performing for the students of Fezeka High was nerve-racking, it was well worth it when they showed their appreciation for our performance. Towards the end of the visit, Fezeka High students and Mount Madonna students came together in one large dance circle where nothing but love was flowing.
This visit was amazing because of the connection we were able to make with the kids at Fezeka High.
Passion. I learned the true meaning of this word while visiting Fezeka High today. I have been taking violin lessons since I was six years old. During nearly every weekly lesson I would be told that if I don’t enjoy myself while performing, the audience won’t enjoy the performance. I never really believed this, so whenever I performed, I would count notes in my head instead of “painting a picture” or “express myself through notes” like my violin teacher suggested, or demanded. I became what my teacher calls, an “emotional faker.” As soon as the students stood up to perform for us, I could tell that there was nothing fake about any one of them. Their genuine smiles and rhythmic clapping beamed as their amazing voices blew us all away. It wasn’t just there raw talent that amazed me, but there willingness to invest everything they have and show their individuality through there music. It was truly inspiring to have them share that with us and let them in without even knowing us for more then a half hour.
I’ve always been so stuck on small things like technique that I’ve never allowed myself to put my heart and soul into my music. The fear of judgment and mistake had always held me back. What I learned today is the importance of being open and vulnerable, and the power of committing everything you have into not only music, but everything you do. We had been preparing songs for weeks to perform for them, but we quickly knew that our prepared songs wouldn’t come close to even their improved beats and poems. Still, they encouraged and supported our performance, and were so appreciative. When they stood up and sang with us, the power and presence in the room was indescribable. They taught me a new definition of passion, and what it really means to be a musician.
This experience made me think about everything you have to do to be a “musician” where we come from. You have to take official music tests and be critiqued by certified judges. Watching these kids who are just so incredibly talented made me realize that we’ve lost the true meaning and purpose of music. Even if they’ve never taken a theory test or had an official music lesson, these creative, humble, passionate, strong and confident students are true musicians.
I did not know what to expect during the ride to Fezeka High. All I knew was we were going to do a few songs and a dance and they were going to do the same. They were the first ones to sing and I was blown away. Their first song literally welcomed us to Cape Town. I have heard good singing, but they brought singing to a whole new level. Not only were they great singers, but they put everything they had into the song. I have never seen so much emotion, enthusiasm and dedication in a group. You could feel how much they loved singing and how hard they worked to make it sound amazing. Before we left we sang “In the Jungle” together and it sounded great having never rehearsed it before.
The song then spontaneously turned into a dancing frenzy. The mirimbas and drums vibrated through the entire classroom. We had been in a circle and people started dancing in the middle. Everyone started clapping and we danced our hearts out. When they tried to slowly end the music the students refused and continued to play the drums and the marimbas. I realized that music was such a huge part of their lives and they had a passion for it. I made me think about what I have a passion for. One thing is for sure: I will never forget about my experiences in Fezeka High.
Our first visit of the trip was the Novalis Ubuntu Institute. The place reminded me a lot of Mount Madonna Center. A woman named Anne-Lise was our guide. She explained the project as a place for people to come together to share ideas about how they think South Africans should live their lives differently after Apartheid. The project was a supportive community in which people could come to discuss and act on transformative ideas to keep South Africa moving forward to a better place.
Our second stop was Fezeka High School. On the bus ride there, we drove passed the townships. There were tiny shacks made of scraps of metal and cardboard squished into every crevice of land. Spare dirt was occupied by trash (some of it burning), laundry lines, or mangy dogs dozing off in the sun. There were people walking on the sidewalks everywhere, and not one failed to stop and stare at our bus. I had a smile ear to ear the entire time, and everyone I saw pointed at the bus, smiled, and waved. Although, I heard some people on the other side of the bus were getting not so nice gestures.
When we arrived at the school I was so pumped to go in. We walked through the front gate and the first thing we heard was the loudest, most beautiful voices we had ever heard. We all stopped and stared at each other, exchanging glances that meant “and we are going to sing a song from the Lion King in front of them?” But a second later, students were flooding out of a tiny classroom, running out to meet us. My fears of embarrassing myself were quickly wiped away when I saw the smiles on their faces.
We received a short introduction from the after-school program leader before the Fezeka students jumped up and got in formation. SN had told us they had prepared something for us, but nothing could have prepared me enough for what came next. The kids broke out in song and coordinated movements, accompanied by others playing marimbas, which are like giant wooden xylophones with a jungle-y sound. Kids next to us added in chants and harmonies and beats effortlessly. They preformed many songs, as well as an acting performance on the history of South Africa. We didn’t want them to ever stop singing because it was so beautiful, but also because we knew we had to sing after them.
We sang “Circle of Life” from the Lion King, and some Fezeka students joined in. Then came the South African national anthem, which we thought we had nailed. We began singing, and one by one each student stood up from their chairs and joined. Some sang with hands on their hearts and eyes closed. I could feel the emotion and power from the students, singing their song of freedom. My class stuck with it for the first verse, but we soon realized we had learned a different version and stopped.
After the singing we met in small groups with the students. They were all really nice and curious about us. We exchanged Facebook information and phone numbers, and then gathered back as a group to sing some more. We tried to sing “circle of life” as a group, but none of us were really feeling it so we decided to sing “In The Jungle” instead. The singing and drumming quickly escalated into a dance party. It was so fun, everyone was smiling and laughing and exchanging moves. We were sweating and huffing by the time we had to leave. We hugged everyone goodbye and boarded the bus.
The creativity of the kids in that school will stick with me forever. I have never seen such a cool group of kids. They said that they thought of America as the “coolest place to live,” which is crazy to me! I knew them for five minutes and wished I was at their level! I could have hung-out with those kids forever and was bummed when we had to leave. I left with a new sense of what creativity can be.