Learners were hard at work preparing for the Flight of Dreams parade. Here, learners from Floreat Primary and Harmony Primary create bird masks with some help from PCAC's Fabian Hartzenberg
Lotus Primary learners created colourful kingfishers on sticks
John Graham Learners worked with black paper to create some exotic kingfisher masks.
The learners around Princess Vlei know their coots from their kingfishers, thanks to Alice Ashwell's fabulous introduction to bird species around Princess Vlei. In these sessions, learners research their birds, get to know what food they like, where they prefer to live, how much the weigh. how big they are, and what sounds they make. First it was FLoreat Primary's turn
Then Harmony Primary learners came to meet our feathered friends
John Graham Science Club was next
Then the Lotus Princess Guardians from Lotus High - this was very useful when they came to perform the Great Bird Race on September 15.
‘I want to thank everybody this morning who is here for Neville … we all feel each other’s pain, and this was a very good idea so when the days come that I miss him, I know I can go and sit by the tree that we are planting here today.’
These words, spoken by Marie Genniker, expressed the feelings of many who came to plant trees in memory of loved ones at the Princess Vlei Forum event on July 28 this year.
The event was dedicated to Neville de Koker, an EPWP worker at Princess Vlei, who was shot by gangsters in a drive-by shooting, while walking near his home in Retreat on July 4. He was accompanying a neighbor to the shops as she did not want to walk alone. He passed away later in hospital due to his injuries.
Marie Genniker spoke of the devastating loss and shock to the family, how difficult it was to come to terms with his passing, and to answer the questions of the children. ‘And the shooting is continuing… so let’s pray for each other, for each other’s family, so that God can strengthen us, and I know he is going to pull us through this because he is the only comforter that we know.’
Neville’s sister, Carmen, spoke about the pain of losing her brother, and of the many questions the family faced about why such an innocent and loving person should have been so brutally killed. ‘I used to visit Princess Vlei with Neville when we were children, and when Denisha told us about the tree planting, I thought that is so awesome because by planting a tree here it as is if I was returning to that childhood with my brother … I really want to thank the person who donated these trees … we must be strong and we are trying to be strong as a family.’
Also at the ceremony were the EPWP workers who had worked closely with Neville in the last eight months of his life.
Another woman who lost a family member tragically was Leslie Wyngard, whose son Rory had been shot after he’d witnessed a crime. She said she was part of a movement called Moms for Justice, which counselled mothers who had lost their children to violence. ‘I miss him every day, but I know that he is in a safer place now, that he is free in Heaven.’
Charlene Houston spoke of her mother, Juanita Houston, who passed three years ago. ‘We all feel the loss but we feel for the family who lost most recently. I want to thank everyone involved in starting this project… our people have lived for so long in spaces that were not green, where trees have been cut down .. and just have a sandy, barren existence … so this is a very important, very symbolic, very significant gift. My mom was also part of the campaign to save the Princess Vlei so that makes this also very special for us this morning to honour her, along with you, and to see the project growing from strength to strength.’
Sarah Oliver spoke of her father John Oliver, a founding member of the Princess Vlei Forum, who died five years ago of a heart attack.
Ebrahim Abrahams planted a tree on behalf of Beverley Johnson the principal of John Graham Primary, a school that has greatly supported the campaign to save and beautify Princess Vlei. Beverley lost her mother, Daisy Hermanus, earlier this month.
Susan de Vos planted a tree in memory of her mother Marie Leeman Hoorn. Susan told the gathering that her mother had always wished for her family, the Leeman family, to come together. After her death, the family resolved to honour her wish and gather at Princess Vlei every year on Heritage Day. So the Vlei has a special significance for the family.
After planting the tree for Neville, the family sang together a hymn “Count on me through thick and thin, His strength will never end.” They had first sung this song at the birthday celebrations of Neville’s cousin in April this Year. They then presented a beautiful photograph of Neville with Denisha to the Princess Vlei Forum.
Thirty trees were donated to the Forum by the Platbos Indigenous Forest reserve, and are all indigenous species –Olea europaea, Sideroxylon inerme, Maurocina frangula, Chionanthus faveolatus as well as a few Sersia. They were planted in a thicket – a tight circle so that the trees can support each other and draw nourishment from rotting stumps that were buried in the centre of the circle.
Cllr Kevin Southgate extended deep condolences to all those who had lost family members. ‘But its such an honour to be part of this gathering and to know that we are going to be establishing a little sanctuary here at Princess Vlei … Princess Vlei has sometimes been reknown for all the wrong reasons but today we are part of that turn around strategy of creating a good space, a beautiful space for the community of this area. We are a sanctuary and hope all will feel welcome to visit the sanctuary.’
In his closing prayer, Philip Bam of the Princess Vlei Forum said that ‘as the tree grows its roots deep in the soil let us be reminded that all things are possible if we are rooted in the deep and all-embracing love of God.’ He called on God to heal the suffering of those present, and to ‘bless and Sanctify these trees that it may serve as a sign of hope and a reminder of the good of those that came before us…’
What was clear in this event was that every tree was planted with great love. The trees bring together people of all ages, from all walks of life - the remarkable extended family that is held by the nature, history and presence of Princess Vlei. What was also evident was that while the community around Princess Vlei is torn apart by the tremendous pain caused by economic hardship and crime, it is also held together by generosity, kindness and love. We hope that the Vlei can truly be a place of comfort and sanctuary to all.
We would like to thank Francois Krige for facilitating the donation of the trees, and providing guidance and support in their planting. Thanks also go to the Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust Managed by Nedbank Private Wealth, for supporting our work in rehabilitating and replanting Princess Vlei.
Neville De Koker was born in 1979, and attended Sibelius High School. His wife, Charlene Stroebel De Koker said that he was passionate about helping his community and neighbourhood, and hoped for a full time job at the City so he could continue doing this work and support his family. He also loved soccer, singing and pool. ‘He was really one amazing guy who got along with everyone. A friend of his told me how the kids miss him in the area because on a Sunday he always played games with them.
‘All he wanted was to be together with his family, and to be the best husband and dad. He was the best, but he didn’t always see that.’
Neville leaves his wife, Charlene, three daughters, Tiara, Chyler and Chalia, and stepson Chadwin, as well as his sister Carmen and his father. His mother passed away last year.
At the end of 2017, nine EPWP workers were deployed to Princess Vlei under the supervision of the manager, Denisha Anand. The workers have added huge value to the site through clearing aliens, removing litter, preparing soil for planting and helping with the restoration of fynbos. They have also prepared the ground for the planting projects by local school learners and other community members - including the spiral Healing Garden.
At the end of their time at Princess Vlei, the Princess Vlei Forum held a workshop with the workers to tell them about the history of the Princess Vlei campaign, and to ask them to share their insights gained by their work on the site, and explore their ideas of what they would like to see at Princess Vlei to make it a fabulous park for nature and the community.
Their ideas included an amphitheatre, gym park, a mini-golf course, more spiral gardens, and a walkway around the vlei. Watch the video below to see their report back to the group on their ideas.
The Forum would like to thank Shane Wilkinson, Fernando Petersen, Shafiek Louw, Clayton Mampies, Claudette Smith, Carl Oppelt, Sydney Clavert, Quintin Adams and Neville De Koker. We hope that they will come to enjoy Princess Vlei with their families, and will get an opportunity to work with us again in the future.
Members of the Lotus Princess Guardians Eco-club, and other Lotus High learners, have been growing their wings.
Over the past month, the learners have been meeting regularly to create wings for bird puppets to feature in our Flight of Dreams Parade on September 15. The parade is organized every year by the Princess Vlei Forum, with the help of the Peter Clarke Art Centre and Jungle Theatre. The parade aims to raise awareness of the beautiful birdlife at Princess Vlei and other wetlands in the region, and to showcase the amazing talent of young people in the area.
The Lotus learners have been studying the wing structure and colouring of eight wetland bird species found at Princess Vlei: the Great White Pelican, the Flamingo, Grey Heron, Sacred Ibis, Blacksmith Lapwing, Crested Grebe, Red-knobbed coot, and the Pied Kingfisher.
They have then been working together to draw and paint the feathers and cut the giant wings out of fabric.
The third workshop was held at the Peter Clarke Centre, giving learners the opportunity to look at the wonderful art on display at the Centre.
In the next term, there will be a number of events leading up to the parade, including a teachers workshop on using puppet making in the intermediate and senior phase science and arts curricula; further puppet making workshops for other schools; an art exhibition and performance by the Lotus High eco-club.
We encourage all community members to join in these activities, and to join the spectacular parade on September 15. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org; or phone Bridget 0824621308.
Thanks to Fabian Hartzenburg of the PCAC, and to the Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust managed by Nedbank Private Wealth for sponsoring our citizen conservation project.
Princess Vlei was alive with activity on June 16, when over a hundred people gathered for the Forum’s Youth Day clean up and planting event.
First to arrive were members of Church inCreation, a group of Anglican environmental activists. The group gathered for a prayer, led by Bishop Geoff Davies, followed by a silent meditation.
Then the Community Education Environmental Trust arrived with a group of young volunteers, while other community members gathered until there were about a hundred pairs of willing hands – some old, some very young, but all ready for some hard work.
The first task was to complete the Garden of Healing, which primary school learners had started the week before. The garden is planted with Dune Strandveld plants indigenous to Princess Vlei, with a particular focus on plants of medicinal or spiritual value to the local Khoi people, past and present. This still needed the inner spiral path to be marked out with river stones and wood chips for a path. We also planted another 300 plants.
While one group was busy with this, another was tackling the invasive water hyacinth which is creeping over the vlei – with volunteers donning body suits to go right into the water. Another group gathered litter. After a break and a snack, the groups swapped around, so that every one had a chance to do some planting.
Kai Bi’a Hennie van Wyk was there to do some planting, and later spoke to the young people there about our cultural heritage.
While community volunteers were busy, music was provided by an informal prayer group which had arrived at the Vlei to play their instruments, sing and pray – apparently a regular activity.
By the end of the morning, volunteers had laid the Garden and path, collected about 30 bags of rubbish, and removed a large pile of Water Hyacinth from the vlei. With community care like this, the Vlei is sure to grow into a beautiful and well-treasured sanctuary for people and nature alike. The Forum would like to thank CTEET for their assistance, and the Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust, managed by Nedbank Private Wealth, for sponsoring our citizen conservation programme.
“We are learning about the Khoi in history, and actually we are learning about all of us, hey?”
This was said by a Floreat Primary learner after taking part in creating the Garden of Healing at Princess Vlei on June 08 2018.
The garden was planted with indigenous Dune Strandveld plants with a particular emphasis on those which have a medicinal or spiritual significance for the Khoi people and other South African groups. Ninety children from Levana Primary, Harmony Primary, Floreat Primary, John Graham Primary and Lotus High came to do the planting. This is part of the Princess Vlei Forum’s program to rehabilitate and beautify the vlei, and to use it as a space to enable children to experience nature and learn about their natural and cultural heritage.
The garden is traversed by a by a path in the shape of a Fibonacci spiral to sympbolise eternal life, and to connect it to spiritualism and nature. As one of the oldest known symbols, spirals and have been used since ancient times. The first people in South Africa drew spirals on the walls of caves and carved them into rock. The Fibonacci spiral occurs frequently in nature, and is also the shape of our Galaxy.
The children began the afternoon by exploring the vlei to find and record other examples of Fibonacci spirals and other patterns in the flora and fauna at the vlei. They were very excited to discover a leopard toad – one of the many that have been repopulating the vlei thanks to our restoration efforts.
Members of the House of Xoraxoukhoe came in full regalia to bless the garden. Bi’a Bradley Van Sitters, and spoke to the children about our Khoi heritage, and taught them songs and prayers in the Nama language.
He explained that this tribal group, the Xoraxoukhoe, lived throughout this area. “When Van riebeeck came, the Khoi Khoi people were here, and here are the khoi Khoi still. We are the descendants, the children of the Khoisan - anyone who stays here. We are not coloured, we are the Khoi.’
He taught the children the Nama name for the Cape Flats, which means 'where the clouds gather'.
The leader of the Xoraxoukhoe tribe, Kai Bi’a Hendrick van Wyk, said it was important to know that many cultural practices of the Nguni people originated from the Khoi. He encouraged the children to feel proud of their Khoi heritage and identity.
The group led the children down to the garden, accompanied by music played on a traditional bow by Bi’a Kingsley Saralina. At the garden, they burnt imphepho, conducted prayers and planted the first four plants of the garden, which were imphepho plants, in the centre of the spiral. Bi’a Bradley Van Sitters led a prayer, calling on the Creator to bless the plants and to help bring unity to our people.
The children then planted the remaining plants. With each plant, they placed a stick with their name written on to show what they had planted. Three hundred and fifty-three plants were put in the ground.
Afterwards, children from different schools thanked the Princess Vlei Forum for organizing the event. In the words of Dean Andrews from Harmony Primary, ‘We loved the activities here today. We are in the environmental club, and we love working with plants. We loved the planting today.’
The Forum would like to thank Kai Bi’a Hendrick van Wyk, Bi’a Bradley Van Sitters, Bi’a Gary Adriaanse, Bi’a Kingsley Saralina, and Adnaan Salie from the House of Xoraxoukhoe; Councillor Kevin Southgate for once again being willing to come along and get his hands into the soil - and all his support for Princess Vlei; the teachers who gave up their Friday afternoon; Princess Vlei Forum volunteers; Pick and Pay Grassy Park for donating hotdogs, and the Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust, managed by Nedbank Private Wealth, for sponsoring our citizen conservation programme.
It was a great day for birds at Princess Vlei on May 11, when 50 visitors from the year 3018 came to learn about birds.
The visitors, from Levana, Steenberg, Floreat, Harmony and John Graham Primary schools (yes, they are still there in 3018!), had come on a rescue mission. They reported that there were no birds in the year 3018, but they had discovered images and old movies showing birds. They wanted to know more about them, and to warn residents of the present day to take steps to make sure that there would be birds in the future.
They were guided by a spirit guide, who told them what Princess Vlei used to be like many years in the past, when the only human residents were Khoi groups who lived in harmony with nature and did not destroy it. Two bird guardians from the 2018 Bird Club, Gillian Barnes and Priscilla Beeton were there to lend the visitors binoculars and tell them more about the birds. Brendon Bussy, the Chief Time Lord, and other time lords ensured that our visitors returned to their time travelling ship in time and did not get stuck in 2018. The visitors wore face masks so that they did not infect the birds and plants with viruses from 3018.
The visitors spent the afternoon carefully observing the birds and Princess Vlei, and making notes on what food and nesting materials there were for them, and what dangers there were that might have caused birds to go extinct. They also drew maps of the area. They found interesting objects such as a skull, which the 2018 manager of Princess Vlei, Denisha Anand, told them had once belonged to a mole rat.
When they had completed their observations, the visitors reported their findings back to the others. All groups reported that one of the dangers to birds was the litter that was found, which they felt might have caused birds to go extinct – and they warned us to tell the people of 2018 to stop using so much plastic and leaving it lying around.The Bird Guardians were asked to assess the presentations and choose a winner – this was a difficult task, as all the presentations were so interesting. They awarded a team from John Graham a prize of a R500 voucher to spend on bird friendly plants at the school. The group from Harmony came second.
Below are some of their sketches and notes:
All thanks to Brendon Bussy for his fabulous game, available as a shared document here, for use by non-profit groups for educational purposes. Also thanks to the wonderful bird guardians for their help and support; to the teachers for being such wonderful Time Lords; and to the Hans Hoheisen Trust and National Lotteries Commission for making this possible. We look forward to hosting visitors from the future (and perhaps the past?) again.
Below is a video of the presentations
VISITORS to Princess Vlei will have noticed a number of improvements recently. These are part of the ongoing project by the City and the Princess Vlei Forum, to transform the area in accordance with the community vision for Princess Vlei.
For the past five years, the Forum has been consulting with community members to develop this vision through workshops, surveys and meetings. The Forum also has a team of architects and professional designers who are donating their time to work with the planning department of City Parks to make sure that developments are done according to the wishes of the community.
Many of the improvements have been made possible by Councillor Kevin Southgate, who has allocated a large proportion of the ward budget to Princess Vlei every year. Cllr Southgate has also been instrumental in assisting the Princess Vlei Forum with leveraging other resources from the City to improve the environment and facilities at Princess Vlei.
Recent developments on the eastern shore include:
Trudy Gibbons from the City offers regular community walks from the Eco-Adventure center on the Western side of the vlei, and there are plans to host a weekly Park Run around Princess Vlei later this year. These activities will help to transform Princess Vlei into a rich and vibrant asset to both community and nature.
Progress made by the Manager at Princess Vlei
Denisha Anand, the manager at Princess Vlei, is settling into her job and making a huge difference to the area. Denisha's work includes restoring the strandveld and fynbos on the site, working to improve the water quality, alien clearance, monitoring of flora and fauna species, liaising with the community and the City, and environmental education.
The Princess Vlei Forum raised money from the Hans Hoheisen Trust, with the help of CTEET, to employ a full time manager. Denisha works in collaboration with the City management team.
Having a full time manager has enabled the City to free up some resources to the site, such as the deployment of a team of EPWP workers who have been involved with alien clearance and many other tasks. We hope that the City will take over the funding of this post in due course.
To find out more about Denisha's work, download her latest report here.
Our wetland wildlife just got a whole group of new friends, thanks to the Princess Vlei Forum’s Wetland Wizards project. The project, which was run in collaboration with the Peter Clarke Art Centre, aimed to encourage local school children to discover more about the amazing life that is sustained by the wetlands at Princess Vlei.
On the afternoon of 13th March, forty school kids from Levana Primary, Harmony Primary, and Floreat Primary, gathered at Princess Vlei with binoculars, nets, sample boxes and worksheets. The learners discussed what they understood by the word habitat, and why a healthy habitat is so important for all living things. Then they went out to see what creatures they could find, and discovered water beetles, dragonflies, bees, beetles, spiders, lady birds, moths, stick insects, as well as a great variety of birds. Creatures who were caught were treated carefully, examined, and returned to their homes without being injured. Sadly they also discovered many things that don’t belong in the habitat such as old car tyres, discarded bottles and other litter.
We met again on March 22 at Steenberg Primary, this time with Steenberg Primary learners as well. This was a chance for the learners to translate what they’d discovered into beautiful artworks, guided by Liesl Hartman from the PCAC. The learners worked in groups to create dioramas showing some of the wonderful plant and animal life that makes up the Princess Vlei wetland. Each panel of the diorama showed a different part of the wetland – under the water, underground, on the water and land surface, up in reed tops and the tree canopies. Unfortunately, due to a change in the date, Floreat Primary could not join us for this.
The artworks produced showed the children’s powers of observation, as well as their remarkable creativity. These wonderful dioramas can be assembled together to form a ‘Wetland wall’. This will be displayed at our art exhibition to be held at the Grassy Park Library later this year.
Thanks to the National Lotteries Commission for providing funds, to Steenberg Primary for providing a venue, to the teachers for giving up their valuable free time, and of course to the learners for their enthusiasm, curiosity and creativity.
Below are the wonderful art works produced by the children.
Posts by Bridget Pitt unless stated otherwise.