They may come from a poor Eastern Cape village but this is not stopping talented Hamburg artists from flying high at the Arts Fest in Grahamstown.
After six months of collecting local stories about birds and their traditional Xhosa meanings – and many more months putting together the orchestral music, storytelling and backdrops of tapestries by village women – the acclaimed Keiskamma Trust production opened to a full house yesterday.
Called Indalo, the performance showcases the multidisciplinary talents of youngsters from a poor rural village who have been given the chance to sparkle on a bigger stage.
A national arts council-funded flagship project, the Keiskamma music, art and creative development initiative also has other festival offerings this year that showcase village talent.
Appearing for the first time at the festival with the orchestra, 13-year-old soprano and alto recorder player Ayabulela Paliso said he hoped the experience would open up bigger opportunities for everyone.
“I am very excited. It has been a good experience.
“It makes me feel good,” he said after the opening show.
Multitalented Thabo Ngoxo, who plays recorder, Spanish guitar and oboe, said joining the music academy in 2011 was the best decision he ever made.
“I was not able to do the sports I liked in Hamburg so I joined the academy to do music.
“Now I am travelling the world meeting wonderful people and extraordinary musicians.”
He said besides nurturing his and his 18-year-old twin brother Thabiso’s musical talents, the academy had also got involved with their personal lives and wellbeing, which in turn had improved their work at school.
“It has helped us a lot; our mom and dad are deceased – music has been life-changing for us,” the 18-year-old explained.
An academy member since he was 10, flautist Lihle Mtshonisi said he doubted he would be doing a second-year BComm degree at the University of Fort Hare if he had not joined up as a child. “It has been a life-changing experience in so many ways; I am the person I am today because of the Keiskamma music academy.”
Music director Anthony Drake – who leads the youthful orchestra – said they had more than 100 students in the academy aged between seven and 21.
“There are not many opportunities for young people in Hamburg; the music academy is one of the only places where young people can access the world.”
Originally from London where he worked in banking and IT, clarinet- playing Drake said tiny Hamburg had become his home after he joined the academy two years ago as music head.
“This is the best thing I have done in my life – working in a place like Hamburg, creating opportunities for people and children is as rewarding as it gets.”
Indalo director and writer Mojalefa Koyana has worked at the trust for two years, teaching art that is underpinned by early childhood development and art therapy.
He also loves helping people to realise their full potential.
“I wrote the story to remind people about the ancient relationships they had with animals. This is an opportunity for the cast to spread their wings and fly.”
Besides the orchestra, Indalo also features five storyteller-actors aged between 11 and 32.
The play runs at Memory Hall daily until the end of the festival. — firstname.lastname@example.org