16 June is Youth Day in South Africa, a public holiday to commemorate the start of the Soweto Uprising in 1976, when schoolchildren protested the implementation of Afrikaans and English as dual media of instruction in secondary schools (regardless of any locally spoken language). Police opened fire on the protesters, some of whom then also became aggressive, and over 400 people died in Soweto that day. For years, 16 June stood as a symbol of resistance to the brutality of the apartheid government. Today the focus is on young South Africans, and their talents and needs.
My friend Alison had bought us tickets for the Barnyard Theatre at the Willowbridge Centre in the northern suburbs. A group of youngsters from dance projects and school music groups were putting on a show called Uthando (‘love’ in Xhosa), and all we really knew about it was that there was a connection with the Harvest of Hope people, who teach people to plant and maintain vegetable gardens and help them sell their produce. We thought we would probably be able to buy some dewy spinach or yams, then sit around on bales of hay and watch some cute children wiggle and stamp to the beat of fresh marimbas.
We were right about the veggies, but very wrong about everything else.
We were treated to a very slick production of extremely talented musicians, dancers and singers, all of whom had lots of professional experience and enough energy to have carried on for days. And not a haystack in sight. The Barnyard Theatre was ablaze with lights, and the seating arrangements were more like a restaurant than a theatre, with tables and chairs and lanterns. You could take your own picnic, or you could pre-order pizzas in advance. I’m happy to say, Alison chose the pizza route. We were shown to our little table (not sure why it was part of the Honeymoon Suite!) and within 5 minutes our piping hot pizzas and sparkling water in an ice bucket arrived.
The Gugulethu Tenors kickstarted the show, and they are true magic.
The two guitarists from Kubu Strings, the Happy Feet Gumboot Dancers, and Dance for All:
There were many other acts, including the Amy Biehl Foundation’s Township Jive Group and the Jikeleza Dance Project. It was exactly what the programme said it was: an inspiring event for the people of Cape Town (and the pizza was first-class, too!).
My photos aren’t great, but you get the idea :-)
To be continued…