Although our University of Johannesburg International project is in hiatus at the end of a busy week of performances, master classes and interviews; we will continue through publication and documentary development as we look forward to the future. Meanwhile, Dennis and I headed over to Windhoek, Namibia for a short weekend of fellowship and a meeting with Ms. Kapena Vetira. Kapenangutjiua Vetira is the founder and director of Children of Namibia (ChiNamibia) Arts Education for Development, a non-profit organization founded in 2013, which educates, develops, and empowers children and young people through arts and culture.
Kapena is a Mandela Washington Fellow who completed her fellowship at Appalachian State University this past summer. She is writing a grant proposal for continuation of the ChiNamibia organization, headquartered in Windhoek.
Kapena and I headed out to a game ranch to clear our heads and ride through the bush looking for rhinos and giraffes. Some people close their best deals on the golf course, but I like to get the job done over a nice afternoon game drive.
MMMM....pap and stew - eat it with your hands and share among your table mates! The restaurant in Soweto was one of many stops along the way, as we taught master classes for the students at the Funda Community College. The students are studying the performing arts with the purpose of obtaining skills that enable paying jobs in the community.
One afternoon, we performed in the University of Johannesburg library. The percussionist found students and like a pied piper, called them to the performance by playing music as they walked up the stairs with students following. Dennis video recorded by walking backwards up the stairs (to the 6th floor!!!) with his GoPro camera on a selfie stick. I can't wait to see THAT video.
After the performance, we hurried over to UJFM, the university radio station, where we were interviewed.
Left to right: Dr. Sonkanise Nkosi (South Africa), Dr. Peter Okeno (Ghana), and Dr. Rama Mani (India/France).
Sitting with me here is Mr. Bill Cisco (USA and South Africa), along with the news reporter studying the internet news feeds for the hourly report. Bill is a member of the well-known band THE DRIFTERS, and his R&B music complemented the African tradition drums, my spirituals and Rama's poetry and testimony from genocide survivors around the world.
NGO directors from around Johannesburg hosted a dinner with very active discussion about music in the protests and emancipation/liberation activities around the globe. This diverse group of guests included academics and artists from Muslim, Hindu, and Christian backgrounds as well as activists from Syria, Turkey, African and European nations. Much discussion about the concerns for immigrants and refugees in the U.S. surprised me, since my early visits to South Africa involved more concern about African social justice.
I have to admit, I L-O-V-E radio performances and interviews! You never know who you are reaching, and the mystery listeners are as precious as the audience members who are sitting in the performance spaces with us.
Song: Mapambano kiSwahili from Kenya – Peter, Drummers and Suzi
Vijana Musialale means that youth should not give up, withdraw or back down because the struggle for a better community and life is still on. They should resist oppression and injustice and fight on. The song has been used many times by many social groups struggling for their rights. The word “vijana” is interchanged by “Wazee” (elderly), “Kinamama” (Mothers), “Wasichana”(girls), “Wavulana” (boys), “Wananchi” (citizens), and so on.
Song: Mwafanazala/Rero Zaramo from Kenya and Tanzania - Peter, Sonkanise, Suzi
English translation:“You cannot dance if you did not eat”…a song about workers not paid; and taxed but not provided service.
Bahatizz Sisters (Testimony from DRCongo)
Song: What’s Going On – Bill, Suzi, Sonkanise
Song: Gjia Ndeble
composed by guitarist Nothembi Mkhwebane
Sonkanise, Peter, Suzi, Bill
English translation: “The black government, people who are ruling and traditional leaders. Our land will come back, and cows, and farms.” The song reminds us that artists and participation in political conversations are crucial.
Song: Wake Up Everybody – Bill, backing vocals all
How the Change Came (Poem from The Gift of Peace)
Song: Solidarity Forever - Suzi, all
We, having struggled with the fear and realities of violent death, unjust circumstances and painful separation, commit to each other. Solidarity to our union of community, whose members sing, dance, drum and share our stories as we strengthen and change our world.
The team is now together for our multiple projects. The first event is described here, followed by a week of masterclasses, performances, and panel discussions. From the time of this writing it is about 48 hours from now. Teamwork is sometimes described as forming, norming, storming and finally: performing. I'm hoping that now we have formed, we will quickly norm, avoid much storm and get on with the performing in time for our first public event. Dennis Mills is not listed, as he is a "behind-the scenes" team member. He is photographing and video-recording all of it!
Mr. Bhekani Buthelezi and Suzi working on a Ph.D. proposal for the University of Zululand
The long journey from home in Boone, NC, USA to the beautiful port city of Durban, South Africa took about 30 hours , which included three airplane rides and a good deal of ground transport. My first reward was an early morning meeting with Bhekani Buthelezi, a faculty member at the University of Zululand who came to Durban from UniZulu to attend the South African Society for Research in Music Congress with Dennis and myself. The conference opened with a lecture given by Dr. Louise Meintjes on the topic of Ngoma performance practice, a type of Zulu warrior dancing, in which the dancers both compete and inspire each other through their singing and drumming. The entertainment that followed included an amazing array of South African dance, drum and song styles...an aesthetic feast.
Re-enactment of Ngoma Music and Dance during competition at the Old Mutual National Choir Festival. Photo by Dennis Mills.
And another South African adventure has brought us to our last day in our 2017 trip to KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape, South Africa. Sitting in the Bloemfontein airport Mugg & Bean cafe with Elene and Dennis, I'm typing up one last comment before boarding the flight to Johannesburg, and then the long haul to JFK.
Our last sight-see at 7,000 feet at a mountain pass called Otto du Plessis. What we can see there is a vast portion of the Eastern Cape, including the Indian Ocean behind us on a good day. This area of South Africa includes the formerly named Transkei and Ciskei, where homelands or Bantusans were established for the relocation of Xhosa speaking black South Africans. Nelson Mandela's original home was in the Transkei.
Farewells are part of the journey, and they can be wonderful, and a little tearful, too. The most beautiful departures are the musical ones and the University of Zululand Choir did not let me down. The choir sang my arrangement of "The Parting Glass" and a very improvisational version of an old Girl Scout song called "Tumba - Ta - Tumba" that I taught the choir as we sang together for the past three weeks.
I am now happily reunited with Dennis in the high veld of the Eastern Cape, foothills of the Drakensburg Mountains. Just minutes from southern Lesotho border, we are planning some shopping at a border town tomorrow, mostly for 1 Basotho blanket and small souvenirs for friends.
Also reunited with my dear Elene Cloete who has just finished her Ph.D. in Social Anthropology at the University of Kansas, we are heading up to the border today to greet some culture bearers and friends who participated in her dissertation fieldwork. Yesterday, we greeted a culture bearer and friend of the Cloete family who showed me around the music of this region 7 years ago, named Vusi Marinoti. It is an amazing blessing to see each other again, and catch up. Vusi has recently secured a South African government grant for his musical ensemble to record and produce their own and other groups' music in Barkly East, the town nearest the Cloete farm, here in the high veld.
This is an unusual time for me in South Africa. I have actually spent most of my daylight hours in meetings with faculty for the last couple of weeks. We have had our fair share of singing and socializing, but the curriculum development is coming to an end on Tuesday. The daylight hours are important to note, because it is winter, so darkness begins falling at about 5:00 p.m. and happens quickly.
These students attend Dlangezwa High School, a really rockin' school with a dedicated administration and staff. Guess what time is study hall? EVERY night at 6-9 p.m.! Seriously?
Dennis' last day in KwaZulu-Natal, we are sending a happy birthday message to my sister Cindy, and posing with Bhekani, next to the mosaic on the side of the Creative Arts Building.
The smirk on this face indicates that Dennis is taking off to one of his favorite places on earth, the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, where gyrocopter rides, trips up to the Lesotho border and barbeque smoker grill business awaits him. Bon voyage, Dennis! I miss you!
New Post -Here is core group of people working to develop the curriculum in music for a Bachelor of Arts Degree. We are quite diverse, as we have a Theorist/Pianist, a Choral director, a Music Education specialist, a Saxophonist and a South African National Competitive Choral specialist. In small departments, everyone pulls together to get projects across the finish line and collegiality is critical to daily operations and happy successes. The team is teaching me about accreditation and approval processes, meeting to arrive at agreements about curriculum content, solving course module problems by imagining alternatives and learning about each other and our various performance interests. We are joined at meal times and occasional conversations by the dance and drama faculty, as well as the Dean of Arts, Teaching/Learning and Curriculum Approval representatives.
The UniZulu choir is is singing the song "The Parting Glass" affecting Irish pronunciations and arranged especially for them by yours truly. When you arrange music for such a choir, you don't really have to work hard, because the amazing singers have wonderful interpretation of a variety of musical styles and are quite flexible in trying out new musical passages as they are being written.
Our relationships begun in professional circles several years ago have now become rich friendships, counting each other among our respective loved ones. Here's our longtime friend Gugu Gule, whom we first met as a University of Zululand Linkages Director. She taught me a great deal about working internationally and taught Dennis and me both so much about living up to one's Zulu name and family. So here we are, from left to right, Nozibusiso, Gugu and Kanyezi Sibusiso (Suzi, Gugu and Dennis), doing our level best to live up to this family and these names.
Yesterday was the 41st anniversary of the transformative event known as the Soweto Uprising. On that date in 1976, South African youth marched in the streets to begin the process of making their voices hear throughout the world. At choir practice yesterday, I asked the singers to sing something to commemorate the day and remember their fallen elders, who were youth at the time. They sang me a the jam session of my lifetime. I suggested a freedom song, or a protest song, and they sang a medley, complete with toyi, toyi (protest dance steps), moving formations, multi-part harmonies, calls/responses and meaningful memorable texts. I had actually been a little concerned that the present day generation of young singers might not remember the old songs and struggle music, but I was dead wrong. It was remarkable and I thank everyone who takes the time to teach the songs, stories and other details of historical events, the old fashioned way...by singing and remembering together in community.
In case you are wondering about wildlife in the rural areas, well we awoke to an invasion of the mongoose this morning. Dennis had to search the internet for a little while to figure out what the animals were, as we are a little rusty on our mongoose identification. Mongoose
Sawubona is the "hello" we exchange here in the Zululand area of South Africa. We have arrived in South Africa, and are taking some time to drink in the beautiful scenery in the province of KwaZulu-Natal and reconnect with old friends. Meetings with the Music faculty at the university began last week, and we are working together to create course content for a curriculum in Music that will enable students at the university to earn a Bachelor's degree in Music. After work, I go to choir practice where I get my fix of South African singing and beautiful harmonies. Of course, Bhekani sends his love to everyone, and of course, we are only getting started and settling in.
Our fast food of choice is called "Wimpy" - like Popeye's buddy - because Dennis loves the fresh mango juice there.
Our party shot below with Dennis and all the women took place at the home of our friends who had a birthday in the family, so we got together for a braai (South African cookout), cake and kid stuff.