"It was a fun, exciting and awesome experience parading through the neighbourhood of Grassy Park." - Anishka Ruiters, Hyde Park Primary
The rain did not dampen the spirits of Flight of Dreams parade, held in Grassy Park on Saturday 26 September.
The annual parade, organised by the Princess Vlei Forum to raise awareness of the bird life and other natural richness of Princess Vlei, features giant puppets of birds created by local school children. Also featured was a running performance of the KhoiSan legend of “The Great Bird” race. In this legend, the weaver bird outwits the eagle to win a race and become the king of the birds.
This year, the puppets were made from recycled waste, to raise awareness about the importance of reducing and recycling plastic and other waste, and the risk this waste poses to our birds and other wildlife. Pupils from John Graham Primary, Hyde Park Primary and Lotus high have spent several weeks giving up afternoons and Saturdays to create the puppets.
The parade is a collaboration between the Princess Vlei Forum, Frank Joubert Art Centre, Jungle Theatre Company and eMzantsi Carniva;, and Brendon Bussy and Paul Hendricks in their individual capacities. It follows a year long program with school learners, which involves studying the bird life at Princess Vlei and creating the puppets.
Below is a report on the day in photos, taken by Malcolm Campbell, Phendu Davis and Bridget Pitt:
The day began at LOFOB, where students from Lotus High gathered early in the morning to make colourful head dresses and put the finishing touches on the puppets.
At 1 o'clock, children stared arriving from John Graham Primary, Hyde Park Primary and elsewhere. Lorraine and Michelle were there from eMzantsi Carnival to help organise everybody, and instruct the Neighbourhood Watch in marshalling the parade. The colourful puppets represented ten key bird species from Princess Vlei: Most regal was the magnificent Fish Eagle, with his wings made from ginger beer bottles and black plastic bags. Then there was the pied kingfisher, Grey Heron, Sacred Ibis, Flamingo, Crested Grebe, Red-Knobbed Coot, Weaver, and Teal. There was also a mantis, created from green cool drink bottles.
The cavalcade set off and headed down First Road. Drawn by the energising beat of the "Blokka" band, local residents came out to their front gates and watched in amazement as these unusual giant birds flew past their homes and down the street. The parade turned into Fourth Ave, walking towards Victoria Avenue
Opposite Busy Corner, we stopped for the first part of the performance of "The Great Bird Race". This ancient Khoisan legend tells the story of how once upon a time, the birds had no king. They were all fighting about who should be king. The Mantis god declared that the birds should have a race, and the winner would be King of the Birds. The bird puppets set off on their race to Princess Vlei, led by the magnificent eagle.
The parade heads down Victoria Road after the racing birds, and turns down Fourth Ave towards Perth Rd Park.
At Perth Rd Park, the parade stops to watch another episode from The Great Bird Race. The birds have been racing, and are getting tired. All are convinced that the fish eagle will win, as it is still flying strongly. But the Fish Eagle does not notice that the little Weaver Bird has flown up and is perching on his shoulder - ready to be carried to the end of the race.
The Bird Race carries on, followed by the paraders, across the park, down Perth Rd to First Avenue, across Prince George Drive to Princess Vlei.
The last episode of the Great Bird Race is performed on a rise at Princess Vlei. As the eagle surges forward to claim his place as the winner of the Great Bird Race, the little weaver slips off his shoulder and flies quickly to the waiting mantis. The eagle is completely confused as to how the weaver has beaten him, but he has to admit defeat, as the Weaver is declared king.
Ebrahim Abrahams, John Graham science teacher and Princess Vlei Forum committee member, likened the great bird race to the struggle to save Princess Vlei. ‘All the birds thought the little weaver could never beat the eagle. Just as they thought that the community could not win the battle to save Princess Vlei. This illustrates how even the “small guys” can win big battles.’
The event was followed by the planting of Eric verticillata. This Erica once carpetted the area around Princess Vlei, and is the heath after which Heathfield was named. It is unfortunately now extinct in the wild. These plants were donated to Princess Vlei by the City of Cape Town, on behalf of 28 schools in surrounding areas. Sigi Howes from the the Centre for Conservation Education which arranged the donation, said “We would like to plant these 15 plants on behalf of all the 28 schools, thus making our contribution towards 'putting the heath back in Heathfield'. The Ericas were planted by the youngest members of the Flight of Dreams Parade. The event was filmed for a documentary to be shown on SABC next year.
The Princess Vlei Forum would like to thank all who made this parade such a success, and look forward growing our parade even bigger next year!
Comments from Hyde Park Primary kids and Teachers:
"It was a fun, exciting and awesome experience parading through the neighbourhood of Grassy Park." - Anishka Ruiters
"It was made even more special because our families were included." - Jenino Blanckenberg:
"The telling of the " The Bird's Great Race" story was very different compared to last year but still exciting and we really felt like we were truly a part of the race." Even the weather challenges did not take away from the fun of the experience". - Kacey Jacobs:
"The music provided was awesome as well and it was great when people came out of their house to see what was happening. Maybe next year we can provide flyers that we can hand out to make people more aware of the purpose of the parade even if it is advertised in the newspaper." Llewellyn Samuels
"It felt even more special because we had a hand in making the puppets that were used in the parade.
So the whole experience was very educational as well because besides learning to make puppets we also learned about a particular flower the Heath that grew in the area and so being a part of trying to get it to grow in the wild again is pretty awesome." Anishka Ruiters and Tameryn Adams:
"We as young people must learn to be more responsible for our environment. Thouroughly enjoyed the parade experience never having been a part of something like this back home and just wished more people had participated overall." Sarah Latimer an American Volunteer at Hyde Park Primary.
"Thank you to an organisation like the Princess Vlei Forum for leading our communities, especially our learners in understanding the importance of looking after our environment. If we don't, no one else will so it's a matter of taking ownership and being a participant in the process. I am constantly learning new things about the area and I truly believe that more than half of the people living in the Parkwood/ Greater Grass Park area has no idea about the true history of the area they live in. Through no fault of their own but it is actually quite sad and therefore the learners are not being encouraged by their own parents to take ownership and look after their inheritance (their environment)." - Ingrid Solomon, teacher.
Comments from John Graham Primary kids below
Posts by Bridget Pitt unless stated otherwise.