The magic of Princess Vlei was very much alive on the 23rd September, as a crowd of school children, parents and supporters engaged in a moonlight parade to celebrate the birds and other natural life at Princess Vlei.
About 80 people, led by a giant puppet of the grey heron, walked from the Jolly Carp to the Princess Vlei car park and back. They carried puppets and masks created by children over the last few weeks.
Passing motorists would have been surprised to see these unusual creatures, as the parade stopped at the traffic lights to flash the message “Save Princes Vlei” with electrical wands.
The event was a collaboration between the Princess Vlei Forum, the Frank Joubert Art Centre, the Children’s Art Centre and Battswood Arts Centre, and also involved local schools such as Wynberg High and Hyde Park Primary. Its intention was to celebrate and conserve the beautiful space around Princess Vlei; the birds and other natural fauna and flora from the vlei; and the imaginative creativity of our talented local school children.
The walk was quiet and reflective, despite the excitement of the children – perhaps influenced by the serene stretch of water gleaming in the dying light. One young participant wanted to hang his mask in a tree for the birds to see in the morning.
After the parade, children and parents returned to the Jolly Carp for performances from the Wynberg High Dance group, the South Peninsula high Junior Jazz band, The CAFDA dance school and Emile Jansen and the Mixed Mense. They also viewed artworks created by students of the various arts colleges over the past few weeks. Some of these were inspired by a visit to the Vlei on 23 August, when over 100 learners form various schools came to do observational drawings, and learn about the birds at the vlei fromShaun Overmeyer of the Cape Town Bird Club.
Liesl Hartman, the principal of Frank Joubert Art Centre, said: “During this project the learners were challenged to address the negative pre-conceptions of Princess Vlei as a space associated with crime and pollution... they saw this project as a positive contribution in reclaiming the Vlei as a beautiful and sustainable environment for both people, birds and animal life.
We hope that this will inspire others to join us and create an even greater annual event in the future, with increased financial support from sponsors.”
One of the participating teachers, Ingrid Solomon, said: “ The kids loved the whole Flight of Dreams program so much they didn't want to leave ... They had never been at the Vlei that time of night or even that side of the vlei. They found it beautiful and are now consciously aware of the disaster it would be if it was destroyed. ... Imtiyaaz asked as we were on our way home. "What next miss? Lets join save the Rhino". This to me speaks of the fact that just through this one activity the natural environment has become more real and important to them.”
Frank van der Horst, former leader of SACOS, remarked:
“The scene was idyllic and colourful with a tranquil mirror like Princess Vlei reflecting a vast array of varying colours. The birds greeted this weird human sundowner procession (with bird masks, large flapping canvas bird models, and led light eyes or torches) across a narrow stream with squawks of support. ... The return dusk walk was even more spectacular with variations of darker hues and silvery waters, against the backdrop of Table Mountain...The beauty of the environment and the creative art of human beings triumphed over the narrow greed of capitalist profits and the destructive plans of the CITY COUNCIL.”
Brain and Freda Brock said: “The vlei as backdrop to the parade of magical birds was a powerful, unforgettable image. The dreams and realities expressed in the performances of the young people left one feeling hopeful and raw at the same time. A great experience of art as accessible, relevant and as a vehical for change.”
The parade encapsulates the vision of Princess Vlei Forum to use this space as a community canvas to express the spiritual, social, and cultural identities of all of Cape Town’s communities. How sad that the developers and politicians were not there to feel the magic.