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.
With so many religious leaders present, we could not fail to have good weather at the prayer meeting on Sunday 22 September. After a week of violent storms, we were treated to a perfect spring day as people gathered to celebrate the spiritual power of Princess Vlei, and to pledge their commitment to fighting for the space.
The gathering was welcomed by Princess Vlei Forum Chairperson Philip Bam, who spoke about how the God of Greed was the driving force leading to the destruction of sacred spaces such as the Princess Vlei. He thanked people for coming and helping to open the hearts and eyes of our City leaders, so that this space could be preserved.
The opening prayer was by Geoffrey Dayawana, an Elder from the Gospel Church of God, which is one of the many churches that baptise people at Princess Vlei. Every year, thousands of people are baptised in the waters of the vlei, coming from all over the country for this important ritual. The church choir was also present, as were many members of the congregation of this and other churches who do baptisms at the vlei.
The spiritual origins of the vlei were reinvoked, with a strong presence from the Khoi groups of the House of Xoraxouhoe and the House of Cochoqua. Bradley Van Sitters gave an opening prayer in Nama, and there was a cleansing ritual involving senior leaders from both groups. Chief Hennie van Wyk called for the Khoi tribes to be recognised by the government. Stanley Frederickse retold the legend of the Khoi Princess, which describes how she was abducted and raped or killed by Portuguese sailors, and her tears flowed down to form the Princess Vlei.
The keynote address was given by Bishop Geoff Davies. In a strongly worded sermon, Davies condemned the drive to profit that was sacrificing social and environmental issues for short term monetary gain. He called on the Mayor to support the cause to conserve Princess Vlei as a nature and heritage site, and warned the City authorities against disregarding the will of the people on this issue.
“If developers are so insensitive and arrogant to persist, we can warn them we will encourage our congregations to boycott them,” he said. “If you say, we will be breaking the law, they must know that they are breaking the laws of God and the natural laws of the universe.
“The Council must simply not allow the shopping mall. If they persist, we have a legitimate and legal way of expressing our views – we don’t vote for them at the next election!” (Listen to Bishop Davies' full address: [bishopgeoffdavies.m4a](#file_5ac5be208e#))
Sheikh Dr. Muhammad Ridwaan Gallant, speaking on behalf of the Muslim Judicial Council, reflected that in 1975, South Africa signed the RAMSA treaty to protect wetlands. “Now forty years later, we have to fight to save the vlei.”
Gallant commented on the importance of wetlands for sustaining human and environmental health, and reminded people of the words of the Prophet: “if you cut down a tree without justification, Allah will send down hell fire ... If a person kills a sparrow senselessly, Allah will make justice between them and the animal they killed.... We have so many malls, why do we want to establish another on on this sacred place?”
His words were echoed by other speakers, including Rabbi Greg Alexander, Pratiba Daya (Baha’I faith) and Nigel Crawhall from the Hout Bay Buddhist group. All three performed blessing rituals for the vlei. Archbishop Stephen Brislin was also present, but had to leave before speaking.
The meeting ended with the creation and blessing of a cairn. Functioning as a symbolic grave for the Khoi princess, the cairn serves as an expression of commitment by the different faith leaders to conserving this site into perpetuity. Those attending added stones to the cairn, after which Emma Oliver, wife of the late Reverend John Oliver, sprinkled water from the vlei around the cairn. The water flowing over the stones represented the unity of purpose of all the diverse cultures present there.
The prayer meeting celebrates our vision for the transformation of Princess Vlei into a heritage and nature park, which will offer a space to grow a future Cape Town that is united in diversity. This remarkable gathering demonstrates again how powerful the Princess Vlei is as a bridge builder in Cape Town. We call again on the authorities to work with all of us in realising this vision, and to put a stop to the sale of the land for a mall.
Those who took part:
Those who took part:
Philip Bam, Chairperson of the Princess Vlei Forum, LOGRA civic and the Community Policing Forum
Mrs Mary Jansen, Headwoman of the House of Cochoqua.
Chief Hennie van Wyk, House Of Xoraxouhoe
Bradley van Sitters, House Of Xoraxouhoe and scholar in Nama language and traditions
Stanley Fredericks House of Cochoqua.
Elder Geoffrey Dayawana, Gospel Church of Power
Senior leaders from the Cochoqua House and House Of Xoraxouhoe:
Bishop Geoff Davies Founder and executive director of the South African Faith Communities Environment Institute (SAFCEI)
Reverend Rachel Mash, Environmental Coordinator at Anglican Church of Southern Africa
Sheikh Dr. Muhammad Ridwaan Gallant, Head of the Environmental Desk of the Muslim Judicial Council; on the board of the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI)
Most Reverend Stephen Brislin, Archbishop of Cape Town Catholic Church
Pastor Elliot, Gospel Church of God
Rabbi Greg Alexander, Rabbi of Temple Israel, West Coast, Cape Town, South African Association of Progressive Rabbis (SAAPR)
Pratiba Daya, Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University
Nigel Crawhall, International Network of Engaged Buddhists, International Union for Conservation of Nature, Western Cape Religious Leaders Forum
Pastor Andrew Williams, Fellowship of Love Ministries
Youth Choir from the Gospel Church of Power
Hyde Park Primary Brass band
Prayer flags sewn by Maggie Isaacs, and inscribed by children from Lotus River High, John Graham Primary, Plantation Primary and Steenberg Primary
When it was remarked that defenders of Princess Vlei were crazy to stand in the rain with their posters, on Sunday 15 September at 7 am, while hundreds of runners thundered past, the rejoinder was, “The athletes and marshals are getting wet, so there is no reason why we can’t.”
Only a handful of Princess Vlei Forum Members braved the torrential rain and low temperatures to stand along the M5 on Prince George Drive and cheer the Three Vlei Race participants, waving posters calling for the protection of Princess Vlei from a proposed mall development, but the occasion was one of laughter and camaraderie; and the serious message was once again reinforced: the people do not want a mall on the shores of their Vlei.
Passing motorists hooted, runners gave the thumbs up, and poster-holders stamped to keep warm. Despite the rain, the posters, covered in cling film, survived to be used another day.
Then, suddenly it was over and hot coffee and doughnuts next to the Vlei were just rewards for an icy start, near-frozen hands and wet clothes.
The Princess Vlei Forum, in collaboration with city community arts colleges, will be holding a Flight of Dreams parade and art display at Princess Vlei, on Monday September 23 from 6 to 10 pm.
The event is a collaboration between the Princess Vlei Forum, the Frank Joubert Art Centre, the Children’s Art Centre and Battswood Arts Centre. Its intention is 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 event will incorporates a parade past the vlei with lights, bird masks and bird puppets; a display of art, writing and photographs inspired by Princess Vlei; and cultural performances, both to be held at The Jolly Carp. Refreshments will be on sale, or people can bring a picnic.
School learners have been preparing for the even through the year. On 23 August, over 100 learners form various schools came to the vlei to do observational drawings, and learn about the birds at the vlei. Shaun Overmeyer from the Cape Town Bird Club gave a powerpoint presentation stressing the importance of maintaining a healthy habitat for brids, and introducing the rich birdlife of the vlei. “If a place is not healthy for birds, it will not be healthy for humans either,” he explained.
The learners were also entertained by cultural performances from the Wynberg Senior Secondary Drama Group, the South Peninsula High Jazz Band, and Emile Jansen and Mixed Mense hip hop group.
Jennifer Motlanke, Grade 12 learner at Wynberg Senior Secondary said this about her group’s performance the of the Princess Vlei story: “We are performing this drama to save the vlei, to restore it to the time when people would come and picnic here and be peaceful. We want to teach other learners about the vlei, to be ambassadors for the vlei.”
The parade will start and end at the Jolly Carp, Sassmere Rd, We invite all to come and enjoy this fabulous spectacle.
Posts by Bridget Pitt unless stated otherwise.