"I Loved everything... I attend every year because nature is part of who I am, and it's lovely to be outside connecting to my God's creation... It was inspiring. "
These were some of the comments made by Lotus High learners about the Just Earth Celebration and Procession on October 21 this year.
In the poems performed at the event, the Lotus learners commented on the calm and quiet that they appreciated at Princess Vlei. But on this day, the Vlei was filled with the sounds of drumbeats and children chanting, as 200 learners and adults joined the Just Earth Procession from Retreat Civic to Princess Vlei. The blustery southeaster added to the excitement, setting the tassels and wings of the giant bird puppets and dream catchers rippling in the breeze.
The day formed part of the Princess Vlei Forum’s ongoing programme to instil passion and knowledge about nature at Princess Vlei and beyond. In the weeks before the procession, learners gathered to paint creatures from Princess Vlei on T-shirts, and to create totem poles, with messages to promote social and ecological justice on earth, such as ‘We fight for birds of light’ ‘Make Mother Nature safer’ ‘Our goal: no coal’ ‘restore what we adore’ and many others.
Before the procession, learners gathered at Retreat Civic. Because of a roaring South Easter, the decision was made to do the performances at the Civic before the procession, rather than at Princess Vlei as was originally planned. Before the performances, the learners had an opportunity to create a headdress for the parade inspired by the Princess Vlei wetland. They also had their faces painted by the Lotus High volunteers.
Then it was time for the performances, introduced by Thimna Stokile in his colourful cloak. The nature-inspired dances were first, featuring young performers from Levana, Harmony, Buck Road and Rosmead Primary undulating like snakes, leaping like frogs and gliding like birds on the stage. As they danced, the creatures they'd painted on their t-shirts seemed to dance with them. Drummers from the same schools kept good time on their djembe drums. The dances invoked the spirits of our ancestors who would dance to connect with nature on the shores of Princess Vlei.
Next, the richly textured and evocative poetry written by the Lotus High Guardians was performed by Paige Eden , Nashiekah Louw, Deirdre Louw, Zia Booysen, Jade Witbooi, and Tracy Daniels. The poems were introduced by Toni Giselle Stuart.
The next performance was by Jungle Theatre Company of the Python and the Qunubu tree. This lively performance of Naledi Tlailane, Mario Matiya,Siyawandisa Badi and Marvin Safoor carried a strong message of the need to listen to and recall ancestral wisdom in caring for the environment and surviving times of drought. The audience watched with delight, especially when some of the audience were called on stage to help the characters with their mission to find the Qunubu tree.
At last it was time for the procession. The learners lined up outside the Civic, undeterred by the wind that was rippling the banners. Walking and jiving to the beat of the djembe drums, they set off through the streets of Sassmeer estate. The bravely held their bird totems, with their messages for a Just Earth, despite the gale buffeting around them. Sassmeer residents came out to enjoy the spectacle. The python from the play joined the procession, along with seven totem poles and three bird puppets. When they reached the vlei, the learners formed a huge circle and joined together in calling for a Just Earth.
The event was attended by learners from Levana, Rosmead, Buck Rd and Harmony Primary, Mkhanyisile Primary, Zenzeleni Primary, Azande Theatre Village Club, and Black Girls Rising.
Huge thanks to our funders City Grant in Aid and the Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust managed by Nedbank Private Wealth, and to Pick and Pay Grassy Park for donating refreshments, as well as all our volunteers, teachers, facilitators and learners.
in love with nature,
we put our hands in the soil
sand and plants are in our palms:
planting at the vlei and helping at a garden
we want to bring back what was
and what used to be
how are we gonna
live without trees
when they relieve stress from our shoulders?
spread the word:
it is better to live
bring more life to beautiful earth
These are some of the verses created for a group poetry performance as part of the Just Earth project.
The poems were created by Lotus Princess Vlei Guardians in a series of workshops facilitated by Toni Giselle Stuart. Toni is a poet and performer, and part of the Hot Poets collective. Earlier this year she created a poem inspired by Princess Vlei, Great Grandmother Wetland.
The workshops started with a visit to Princess Vlei, where Toni invited the learners to open their minds and senses to what was around them, and write freely whatever came into their minds. In the workshops that followed, they synthesised these thoughts into individual Haikus and poems, then wove these together into a group poem.
At the Just Earth Celebration on October 21, Paige Eden , Nashiekah Louw, Deirdre Louw, Zia Booysen, Jade Witbooi, and Tracy Daniels performed individual poems and the collective poem to an audience of about 200 learners, teachers, parents and Princess Vlei Forum volunteers. Toni then compiled the poems into a booklet which was distributed at the school.
The poems beautifully express the sense of calm, freedom and release that these learners feel when visiting Princess Vlei. Together they represent a powerful testimony to the richness Princess Vlei brings to those who visit, and especially those who take the trouble to put their hands in the soil and work to restore its vitality.
Down load the complete anthology of the poems composed by the learners below.
Watch a performance of Toni's poem about Princess Vlei below.
In September and October, young Princess Vlei Guardians were hard at work preparing for the Just Earth Celebration to be held on October 21. Their preparations included composing and practicing dances, painting T-shirts, creating totem poles and composing poetry.
Respect, love, joy, kindness, gratitude, protect, calm, empathy… these are some of the words that learners painted on their t-shirts to honour the creatures at Princess Vlei.
Seventy-five learners from Rosmead, Levana, Harmony and Buck Road Primary came together to paint T-shirts to wear at the Just Earth Procession and Celebration.
Before painting the T-shirts, the learners discussed the meaning of the Just Earth logo, which was printed on the back of the T-shirts. We talked about what a Just Earth might mean for human and non-human species, and why we need social and ecological justice to make the world a kinder and safer place for all. We discussed the significance of the Khoe figure holding up the earth, and how our ancestors taught us lessons of how to live in harmony with nature and each other, many of which have been forgotten.
Learners were invited to choose an animal species which lives at Princess Vlei, and to paint it on their T-shirt. They were also invited to think of a word that they would like to give to that creature. At the end of the day, we had a parade of colourful birds, insects, crustaceans and amphibians to walk with us on the procession.
Creative activities such as this help to forge a strong emotional connection between the children and the species they are depicting on their shirts, while giving learners a sense of empowerment and achievement at their creations.
Even the Principal joined in...
In addition to painting the T-shirts, the learners were also hard at work practicing their dances for the procession. The dances were inspired by the learner’s observations of how creatures move at Princess Vlei. They were choreographed into dance pieces by our talented dancers and movement teachers, Thimna Stokile and Xoli Fuyani. In Thimna’s words, ‘When the Principal joins from the back you just know it’s a vibe.’ - this after Ms Charity, Levana Principal, joined the learners as they wriggled like earthworms and hopped like grasshoppers.
Jungle Theatre Company’s Siyawandisa Badi and Marvin Safoor taught learners how to keep time on djembe drums so that they could give the dancers a beat for their jive .
Rhymes for restoration
While the younger Princess Vlei Guardians were painting t-shirts and practicing their dances, fifteen senior guardians came together to create totem poles to carry on the procession.
The poles were topped by bird heads made by learners in previous year’s projects. Each had a pair of totemic wings with a message from the birds to the local community and beyond, and a woven dream-catcher like hoop to represent the web of life. Inside this was painted animal or plant linked to the bird.
The learners brainstormed all the issues facing planet earth, and devised messages to be painted on the wings. Their poetic inclinations came to the fore, as they devised slogans such as Stop pollution and find a solution; We fight for Birds of Light; Stop plastic, be fantastic, Just Earth for its worth, Our goal: no coal, Restore what we adore, Go on a mission to stop carbon emissions, and many others. Fourteen of these were chosen to paint on to the wings. The learners also painted the animal boards and wove the webs.
The end result was seven stunning totems to carry at the procession.
The Just Earth Project is a collaboration between the Forum, Jungle Theatre Company, Peter Clarke Art Centre. Xoli Fuyani and Thimna Stokile provide the dance expertise, and Toni Giselle Stuart the poetry input. The overall project was funded by the City of Cape Town Grant in Aid fund, while certain elements were funded by the Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust, managed by Nedbank Private Wealth.
The heron moves its neck in and out, it moves stealthily to catch its prey… the hawk glides through the air … the grasshopper leaps… the snail slithers ….the bird flaps its wings… the butterfly zigzags
These were some of the observations made by learners at the Just Earth field trips in August and September this year. Seventy-five learners from Levana Primary, Harmony Primary, Buck Road Primary and Rosmead Primary attended the field trips, which launched the Princess Vlei Forum Just Earth programme. The learners attended the field trips to see how animals and plants could live with balance and harmony, and also to see how the animals moved.
After closely observing the animals, the learners created their own dances inspired by the movement of the animals. They were led by Siyawandisa Badi and Marvin Safoor, who played Djembe drums to bring rhythm, and Xoli Fuyeni who guided the dancing.
The project aims to use dance and creative media to guide learners in exploring the concept of a Just Earth - just in the sense that it is the only home we have, and also in the sense of a the vision of an earth where relationships between humans and between humans and other species are fair and harmonious.
Observing how the different creatures move at Princess Vlei gave the learners a new observational lens, and also fostered a connection with the creatures as the learners incorporated their movements into their own bodies.
Movement in a beautiful natural area is also uplifting and releases stress that many of these learners carry, despite their young age.
In the coming weeks these movements will be crafted into a dance to celebrate the diversity of creatures living at Princess Vlei. The Just Earth Project is a collaboration between the Forum, Jungle Theatre Company, Peter Clarke Art Centre. Xoli Fuyani and Thimna Stokile provide the dance expertise. The overall project is funded by the City of Cape Town Grant in Aid fund, while certain elements are funded by the Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust, managed by Nedbank Private Wealth.
Posts by Bridget Pitt unless stated otherwise.