Let’s weave a world where ‘we’ means all humans, all creatures, all plants. Let’s weave these connections, let’s weave a world….
So ended a poem performed by Lotus High learners Azrudien Gabier and Tracy Lee Daniels at the Princess Vlei Dream weavers celebration on 16 October.
The celebration followed a two month project in which children from areas around Princess Vlei developed a vision for a better, kinder world, based on their observations of relationships in the natural world as seen at Princess Vlei.
The rain showers on Saturday meant a shift in the programme, but did little to dampen the spirits of the 140 youngsters who gathered at the Retreat Civic for the celebration. Prominently displayed in the venue were the two large artworks which had been created collectively by 120 young people from Lotus High, Harmony Primary, Hillwood Primary, Levana Primary, Muhammadeyah Primary, Primrose Park Primary, and the Peter Clarke Art Centre. It consists of two giant spiral webs, symbolising our connections with each other and nature. In the webs are depictions of plant and animal species found at Princess Vlei. Around the outside are the children’s visions for a better world.
On October 16, the artists were joined by youngsters from the Masiphumelele Creative Hub, the Jungle Theatre Company junior club, volunteers from Fairmount High Ecoclub and the Fairmount High Marching Band. The participants began the afternoon by creating imaginative headdresses from coloured card, to be worn in the procession later, with many taking the opportunity to get their faces painted.
After a snack, Bridget Pitt introduced the web artworks. 'Over the past few weeks, we have been learning about connections by watching nature. These artworks are an expression of what can be achieved when we weave strong connections and work together. These collective visions are powerful because they give voice to the wishes of so many young people for a better future.
Accompanied by VIncent Meyburgh on the drums, Tracy Lee Daniels and Azrudien Gabier read, 'Lets weave a world,' a poem created from the collective wishes expressed by learners during the Dream Weaver's project. The participants then watched a performance of ‘The River of Life’ by the Jungle Theatre Company. This highly entertaining play demonstrates what happens to our rivers if we pollute and abuse them, and how precious they are for our spiritual, emotional and physical health.
After the play, the rain had cleared enough for the procession. Led by the Fairmount High Marching Band, the procession carried the Dream Weaver artworks through the streets of Sasmeer estate. The learners also carried nine huge bird puppets; and some wore angels and baboon costumes provided by the Masiphumelele Creative Hub. The colourful display and drums drew many Sasmeer residents who came out of their homes to watch and film the parade.
The procession wound through the streets to Princess Vlei, pausing to disperse ‘seed bombs’. These were balls of soil and seed for indigenous strandveld plants, which the procession participants threw into our restoration site. This act was a wonderful commitment to creating an enlivened future of living in harmony with nature and each other. The procession concluded with a display of the Fairmount High Marching Band’s skills in military tattoos.
The artworks will be installed at Princess Vlei, but we plan to display them in other venues first. There will also be an on line exhibition.
The project was a collaboration between the Princess Vlei Forum and the Peter Clarke Art Centre. Huge thanks are due to all our wonderful volunteers; to the Tempo, Galeforce and Grassy Park Neighbourhood Watch, the Grassy Park Community Policing Forum and Commumed for keeping us safe; to Mr Roomany for donating juice. And of course to our funders, the City of Cape Town Grant in Aid fund, and the Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust, managed by Nedbank Private Wealth.
Below is the Dream Weaver's Poem in full.
Lets weave a world
Where kids are safe
And we all have homes
And a warm bed at night
Where soft rains fall
And the air is clean
And we all can breathe
Where wild animals roam
And wild flowers bloom
And forests grow tall
Lets weave a world
Where rivers run free
And sweet waters flow
For all to drink
Where there is no waste
We eat what we need
And we all have enough
Where coal’s in the ground
And our energy comes
From the sun and the wind
Lets weave a world
Where fynbos flourishes
And wetlands thrive
Where songbirds sing
Where the ocean is clean
So whales can breathe
and coral reefs grow
Where nature’s our teacher
And animals our friends
And plants help us heal
Let's weave a world
Where we all get along
Where guns are gone
Where we are free to be
Where we all have rights
Where we all are equal
Where we all can learn
Where people are kind
Where we comfort the sick
and care for the old
Let's weave a world
Where there is laughter and life
Where we love and take care
Of each other and the earth
Where ‘we’ means all humans, all creatures, all plants
Lets weave these connections
Let’s weave a world…
‘This is a victory over the selfish needs of capitalism.’
So said Cllr Kevin Southgate at the unveiling of the Provincial Heritage Site Plaque on 12 October.
Cllr Southgate commented that he was fighting for Princess Vlei long before he was a councillor. ‘I remember standing on Prince George Drive with a placard reading, ‘No to the mall of death, Yes to the Princess.’
All the community’s efforts culminated in the decision by the city in 2014 when it agreed to stop the proposed development of the mall. When elected as ward councillor I committed myself to assisting and bringing to reality the people’s plan for princess vlei. Over the past six years the city has contributed millions as part of its commitment to the restoration and development of Princess Vlei Park,’ Cllr Southgate said.
The Councillor quoted Chief John Jansen in his submission to HWC: in a community facing extreme social and historical challenge, such as loss of identity, resources, land and way of life it is as important to restore the cultural ecological link of helping to rebuild a semblance of our past, to ensure a future for our children. A past representing a people whose lived values of sustainable use of resources, expressing their history to the care and stewardship of nature, a people who lived by the collective values of sustainable development can be restored once again.’
Gary Stewart, Chairperson of the Princess Vlei Forum, commented on how proud he was of the Forum, and the hard work done by all its employees and volunteers, and all community stakeholders, to secure this victory. As important was the ongoing work to restore the biodiversity heritage of the vlei by re-indigenising the vegetation on site, and to make local schools and community members aware of the cultural, social and natural value of the site.
Stewart reflected on the historical neglect of Princess Vlei, and said that achieving heritage status was not the end of the road, it was a significant milestone in the struggle to restore the vlei. However, there was still much to be done. ‘We thank the councillor and and the City of Cape Town for all they have done, and which to assure both the CoCt and HWC that in the Forum you have a very passionate and committed community partner. We may not always be agreeable, but we are fully behind any efforts to enhance the vlei and to deepen its value as a place of heritage for our community.’
Delivering the keynote address, Minister Anroux Marais, provincial Minister of Cultural affairs and Sport spoke about the rich history of the vlei, and its cultural significance to the community., describing it as a ‘unique landscape of people’s identity.’
She spoke about the significance of the Princess Vlei myth in our history, and said that ‘The Princess Vlei represents a place of unity, healing and identity, all of which is much needed in the current climate. The heritage status communicates clearly that the heritage community and agencies consider this site to be an asset that warrants serious and focussed conservation attention from all parties.’
This is indeed a significant milestone. However, as the Forum we are acutely aware that much needs to be done to secure the heritage value of Princess Vlei. The legacy of decades of neglect is not easily overcome, and we welcome the minister’s statement that the site merits serious and focussed conservation attention from all parties.
This does indeed represent a victory of people over profit, for it has been the sustained action of thousands of community members, from school children to pensioners, which has led to this victory. Our young Princess Vlei guardians represent a new generation who will take this legacy forward. We look forward to working with the City and Heritage Western Cape into transforming the Princess into a precious community treasure, embodying our cultural, social and environmental identity for generations to come. To quote Ian McCallum, 'In damaging the landscape, you damage the soul of the community.’ Equally, restoring that landscape can heal the soul of the community. That is our over-arching mission and dearest wish.
No pollution… end to global warming… people respect nature… children are safe… plants can grow… we all have what we need…human rights for all…
These are some of the wishes for the world expressed by Lotus High learners at a workshop held at the Princess Vlei Eco-centre during the school holidays last week.
Fifteen learners came together to study the relationships existing in nature at Princess Vlei, and think about what nature can teach us about healing the world and making it a better place for all beings who live in it, human, plant an animals.
The group started off with an exercise to create a web, exploring what makes a web strong. They then went into the natural areas around the vlei to study the relationships in nature.
‘We observed a snail and a slime lily, and a feather indicating the bird, and a piece of glass. The slime lily benefits the snail, and the snail benefits the bird, but the broken glass benefits nothing and is harmful,’ one group noted.
Later, the learners discussed the different types of relationships in nature - parasitic, commensalist, and mutualist, and spoke about how these can teach us to live with nature and each other in a way that is not harmful, the benefits those who are connected.
The learners drew mind maps to show these relationships and came up with a number of wishes for how we could create a kinder, more sustainable and just world. These were then narrowed down to 9 wishes, which the learners painted on boards to form part of the collaborative artwork that will be installed at Princess Vlei at a celebration event on October 16
The artworks will take the form of giant webs. They will incorporated contributions of creative work of over a hundred learners from Harmony Primary, Hillwood Primary, Levana Primary, Lotus High, Muhammadeyah Primary, Primrose Park Primary and the Peter Clarke Art Centre.
Learner’s also tie-dyed fabric to be used as part of the art work. This was a popular activity, with some learners being inspired to dye their clothes and shoe laces as well!
The learner’s visions, and the visions of primary school learners from five schools, will be woven into a poem which will be performed by Lotus High learners on the day.
The celebration on the 16th will include a procession through from the Retreat Civic through the streets of Sasmeer estate to the eastern shore of Princess Vlei; a ceremony to install the artworks, and a performance of the River of Life by The Jungle Theatre Company. We invite members of the public to come and view the procession and the wonderful artworks.
We also plan to share some of the artworks in an online exhibition and a display at the Grassy Park Library at a later date.
There are many wondrous tales about the mermaid or water monster that lives at Princess Vlei, but not so many know about the giant octopus on its banks.
The ‘octopus’ plant, better known as a waxberry, or Morella cordifolia, is a sprawling member of the Dune Strandveld plant community. This one, planted four years ago by school learners on the eastern shore as part of the Forum’s restoration project, now has tentacles spreading over eight meters in all directions. In a natural setting, these waxberry plants would be controlled by herds of eland moving through.
The ‘Octopus’ plant was one of many wonderful plants featured on the Princess Vlei Forum Spring Walk on October 2. While the weather was more wintry than springy, twenty die-hard enthusiasts braved the weather to accompany restoration expert Alex Lansdowne and discover some botanical treasures at Princess Vlei.
Lansdowne explained the Princess Vlei is located on a gradient between the acid soil of the critically endangered Cape Flats Sand Fynbos, and the alkaline soil of the endangered Dune Strandveld. This provides the potential for restoring unique endemic plants that are found almost nowhere else
These include the Serruria foeniculacea, or Rondevlei Spiderhead, a plant brought back from extinction by Howard Langley in the 70’s and cultivated at Rondevlei. Seedling and seeds planted at Princess Vlei are thriving, and the site has the potential to host the biggest community of this rare plant.
Also thriving are other protea species grown on site from specially prepared seed such as the Protea scolymocephala (aka Wit skollie, or sugar bush), and the leucadendron florid, and the beautiful Pelargonium Triste and Pelargonium betulinim.
After the walk, damp chilly walkers were warmed by coffee, muffins and rusk generously donated by Tony Klein at the Jolly Carp Saturday market.
In the words of local resident, Erica Williams: ‘The kids got to be out in the fresh air, with the sun on their skin. We learned about the names, which we'll try to remember, and were made so much aware of the plants that are important. We'll be able to point the plants and flowers out. We’re glad, we joined in with the walk, and want to make a difference to our vlei, as little as the kids are now, so that when they are grown, they will have all the beauty restored to our Princess vlei.
I found the network, unity and just people who want to do more and hopefully get more people involved. We are connected, just as the vlei's flow… how the one vlei, leads to the next. We need each other, we love our vlei. All , I can say is, Thank God, no mall was build on it’
Posts by Bridget Pitt unless stated otherwise.