In mid-year, a chance remark at a staff meeting concerning The First People sparked interest and soon there was a structured weekly seminar on Thursday mornings to find out more about the KhoiSan, the original inhabitants of our part of the world. Who were they? How far back can we trace them? How did they live? What were their beliefs? What were their values? What happened to them? Who and where are their descendants?
These discussions grew in intensity and depth with participants undertaking research into particular aspects and reporting back. In this we were joined by 5 Barrydale enthusiasts – Ulla Mussgnug, Dawn Bernard, Janice Mentz, Shirley Marx and Di Chappell – each bringing their own unique and valuable input. Atma attended when she could and provided encouragement and Michelle Berry helped the Young Leaders understand the principles of San rock painting.
Soon it became clear that we had stumbled on the theme for the December Reconciliation Parade. We consulted with the Handspring Trust – our partners in the Parade and work began in earnest.
SEPTEMBER HOLIDAY SCHOOL
It was agreed that a start would be made at the September Holiday School in introducing the KhoiSan to our children and youth so that they could appreciate their importance in the history of our country, and indeed in the history of the world.
Seventy children participated and as ever we were assisted by our team of 21 Young Leaders. Day 1 focused on historical aspects and after lunch children made their own versions of San rock paintings – examples of which are present in the Tradouw Pass, 15 minutes outside of our village.
Next day each group began design and construction of KhoiSan artifacts (bows and arrows, spears, straw huts, headdresses, the kaross) and on Wednesday work began on improvising a play using these artifacts as props for performance at the end of the week. Thursday was spent rehearsing and adding songs and dances and performances took place on the Friday.
By the end of the week everyone had a good idea of who the KhoiSan were and how they lived and also of the differences between them – the San were hunter-gatherers and the Khoi pastoralists and herders – although if the Khoi lost their herds through famine or disease they would revert to a San mode of living.
DECEMBER HOLIDAY SCHOOL
The highlight of the Net vir Pret year is the December Parade to mark the national Day of Reconciliation, presented in partnership with the Handspring Trust and the Centre for Humanities Research at the University of the Western Cape.
As mentioned above, preparations had begun way in advance of the event and intensified as December approached. The Thursday meetings continued and several Saturday workshops were held with all stakeholders to thrash out a narrative for the performance and identify the giant puppets which would lead the parade.
In the end the story told of a confused and alienated local young man (Booi) who took shelter from a storm and fell asleep in a cave where there were San rock paintings. He woke to find the rock paintings come to life and stumbled out to find himself in the world of the KhoiSan many, many thousands of years back in the past.
The giant puppets were the Eland, beloved of the San, and the Mantis, or Kagg’an, the San creator of everything and the event was named Kagg’an Dreams. The Eland was designed by Beren Belknap, the Mantis by Luyanda Nogodlwana.
Booi is initiated into the KhoiSan way of life and in a rite of passage, eventually tracks and spears the Eland, whose spirit rises to bless the world and call for peace and brotherhood.
The event brought together the skills and energy of many people. Jill Joubert contributed her wonderful expertise for a week to train the Young Leaders in construction of the hand-held puppets (bokkies, dassies, the rock painting images) which the 150 children would make in the week of preparation and would take into the performance. Each child would make and carry a puppet.
The initial stages of formulating the story were co-ordinated by Mongi Mthombeni from the Centre for Humanities Research and the show itself was directed by Aja Marnawick with help from Kelly-Eve Koopman. Net vir Pret’s Jazz Monkeys and their teacher Gari Crawford provided wonderful musical backing.
As usual Handspring’s Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones kept us on track and provided valuable input.
The event was a great success with a huge crowd following the giant puppets to gather at the BF Oosthuizen school for the performance. All agree that Kagg’an Dreams took this annual event to new heights and it is certain that the participants and the spectators had an experience they will remember for the rest of their lives.
During August the Interns continued their tour of Skillie Die Skilpad, the puppet play about a young tortoise who wanted to learn to fly, taking the show to 17 schools and créches as far afield as Zoar, Ladismith, Buffelsjag, Suurbraak and Swellendam where they always received a rapturous reception.
In September they embarked on a research project on Tik (meth amphetamine) which has become a growing problem in Barrydale and other rural villages in recent times. Gathering information about the drug (how it’s made, what it looks like, what draws people to its use, what its long-term effects are, what symptoms worried parents need to look out for, what can be done to break addiction), they constructed a wall information newspaper and also a take-home pamphlet on the drug and its dangers. The wall newspaper was displayed at the Barrydale Library, both schools and also at a succession of local churches.
They then compiled 3 questionnaires to gauge public awareness of the tik problem; one targeted 12-15 year olds at the schools, the second they took to parents and the third was for drop-out youth standing on street corners. Some of the statistics were startling – a third of the 13-15 year olds said they knew someone who used tik and a 18% of them said they knew where it could be accessed.
After this the Interns focused on the research into the KhoiSan people and again constructed a portable wall newspaper providing information for the public to prepare them for the December parade. They played leading roles in the Kagg’an performance. Barrydale librarian Rina de Villiers and her staff provided invaluable resources as well as encouragement. Their internships came to an end on December 16 after 13 months with us during which time they all learned many new skills and indeed contributed in no small way to our achievement in 2014.
Funding from the DG Murray Trust will allow us to take on 5 new Interns in 2015.
Thanks to the efforts of Jaqueline Dommisse and Yvette Hardie of ASSITEJ and funding from Rand Merchant Bank, 60 young people from Barrydale were able to travel to Cape Town to see the Handspring Puppet Company’s War Horse.
Among them were all the Net vir Pret Young Leaders and Interns and the experience provided them with inspiration for their own Kagg’an show which followed a week later.
The entire ArtsCape Theatre was packed with young people who must have been the most enthusiastic and appreciative audience ever. The performance was superb and the puppets astounding.
All young people attending the performance were required to attend a workshop in the weeks before to prepare them for the experience. This was designed by Jill Joubert and delivered with the assistance of Net vir Pret’s Angelo Endley to schools in Cape Town, in Barrydale and at Net vir Pret.
Jill also presented a Theatre-in-the-Box workshop to our staff, interns and Young Leaders to inspire them with innovative ideas on work with children.
THE ART GROUP
The Art Group under Joan Peeters continues to produce work of high quality and great promise. They made very attractive cards for sale at the Barrydale Blooms open garden event in October and held an exhibition of work with Joan at her studio in December.
THE JAZZ GROUP
The eight young men who have joined the jazz training continue to make excellent progress under the guidance of their teacher Gari Crawford. They play at the Barrydale Hotel on Saturday nights, performed in the Swellenmark Mall in Swellendam one Saturday morning and are often invited to play at different events. We only have one set of instruments which they share and which we cannot allow them to take home and a challenge has been to provide them with their own instruments. A solution is in sight: Sharon Dean, a friend and supporter of Net vir Pret who works in the music industry in the UK, has acquired a room full of donated instruments and we are exploring ways of getting these to Barrydale.
The jazz programme got a big boost from the donation of a piano by Juan Maloney which came with three conga drums. The piano is proving a great attraction and some of the little ones are already picking out tunes.
In October a large removal truck arrived and off-loaded 50 bikes with the help of Benbikes – the Bicycle Empowerment Network South Africa. These were donated as the result of a sponsored bike ride from George to Cape Town undertaken by UK couple Kevin and Noëlle Ablitt in 2013. Kevin and Noēlle visited soon afterwards and we were able to thank them in person for their wonderful gift.
We plan to run a biking club as soon as we are able to provide secure storage for the bikes at Net vir Pret. Until then they are locked away in Derek’s garage.
On 23rd December Derek, the Net vir Pret bakkie and no fewer than three Father Christmases took to the road to pay a surprise visit to children on local farms. On board were just over 200 presents, half of whom had come from Louise Pharo and family and the rest collected at the OK Grocer from warm-hearted Barrydale residents. The toy ride took all morning. Nine farms were visited and toys distributed to close on 200 children. The children were delighted and it was a great pleasure to see them all so happy.
As readers of these reports will know, Net vir Pret is the facilitating partner in the PETS Foundation teacher development initiative in Barrydale which is working with 17 teachers from the two local schools, four farm schools and Net vir Pret staff.
In 2013 the programme focused on fractions and in 2014 this moved to the number line and decimals. The course is being developed in close co-operation with the participants and in response to their needs. An interactive website enables them to work through material online and obtain immediate assessment of their responses to quizzes and tests.
The PETS model ensures that teachers take responsibility for their own learning. They volunteer their time and energy in pursuit of their own intellectual and professional development.
Tips for Teachers is an sms service developed by PETS in which participants receive a weekly message on their cellphones covering aspects of the course and its application in the classroom.
In a further advance, Doug Hoernle has taken the Tips for Teachers idea and developed the technology for an app which PETS has offered at no cost to the W. Cape Education Department which will allow them to send text messages to all 33 000 teachers in the province gratis.
The PETS team met with Mr Jowal Pieterse and Mr André Pekeur, senior education officials in the Overberg District during the course of the year. Both expressed their support and commitment to recruiting new participants from the farm schools. PETS director, Dr.Michael Rice, had two meetings with the MEC for Education in the Western Cape, Debbie Schafer, and the Director General, Penny Vinjevold, both of whom showed great interest in what has been achieved.
In 2015 the course will tackle the teaching of percentages.
Martje Nooij (secretary and co-chair) and Riekie de Vries-Pels (chair) of Stichting Projecten Zuid Afrika visited during August, accompanied by Riekie’s husband. SPZA have supported us since the beginning and it was a pleasure to be able to show our work to the visitors and discuss problems and plans with them.
David Harrison, director of the DG Murray Trust, visited with family and friends over a weekend at the end of October. We were able to take the visitors on the Barrydale trail which runs through a World Heritage Wilderness site and also to show them the San rock paintings in the Tradouw Pass. Peter ran a drumming session with them and the children in the group were introduced to the riel dance. The DG Murray Trust had provided funding toward the completion of the new building earlier in the year and we were particularly pleased to be able to show David the completed structure.
Piliswa Ngcwabe, Project Officer at the DG Murray Trust who has responsibility for us spent the day at our office in mid-November discussing our plans and advising us on shaping a new proposal to the Trust. We enjoyed her enthusiasm and appreciated her valuable input.
Anne Page from the UK who supported both our Bursary Fund and the Building Fund during the year joined us for the December parade, as did Michael Rice and his wife Ruth. Also present were Prof. Premesh Lalu, Director of the Centre for Humanities Research and current chairperson of the Handspring Trust and Prof. Jane Taylor, past chair of the Trust.
The prospec ts for the project at the beginning of August looked particularly bleak. Funds were set to run out at the end of that month and nothing had been secured for the rest of the year. In this dire situation, Mr. Bill Frankel OBE, chairman of the Claude Leon Foundation, came forward, sending R100 000 as soon as he heard of the problem. In fact, he did the same a year ago when we found ourselves in a similar situation.
This kind and generous gesture got us through September and into October. A further R34 000 from EDSA and an early payment of a R25 000 instalment from SPZA got us to the end of November and in December we were delighted and immensely relieved to hear that the DG Murray Trust had granted a very generous R380 000 renewal of their support. At the time of writing (January), the Belgian King Baudouin Foundation has also agreed to renew support of R100 000.
All this heartening news is enabling us to enter the new year with renewed enthusiasm and commitment and we are already hard at work.