Monday, 31 May 2010

Music Academy - April/May 2010 update

The past few months of teaching music in Hamburg have been intensely rewarding. I have seen the students grow in self-discipline and in their love of music and of one another. The group dynamic is very strong and yet individual ability and talent is also shining through, as the students grow in confidence.

We have entered 19 students for UNISA practical exams, and 4 students for theory exams. These exams will take place in August and October respectively. We are grateful for the input of Senja Barthel, our professional recorder teacher from Berlin, in preparing our exam candidates. Senja is also doing a great job in motivating our new intake: we have admitted 9 beginners so far this year. A generous donation of new recorders from Yamaha made this possible.
On the teaching side, we have added capacity with the input of Janna Regenauer, a volunteer from the German Development Service (DED). Janna helps the students structure and implement their practising programme, to be fully ready for their lessons.

So our Saturday ensemble time now features three passionate teachers, Senja, Janna, and myself, all brimming with ideas and enthusiasm... and occasionally, we are joined by Helen when she is down from Jo’burg – and those are the really exciting times! We have expanded greatly on our ensemble repertoire, incorporating improvisation, extended techniques, and new instruments including the indigenous Xhosa uhadi bow, and (coming soon) the chromatic marimba.

The uhadi element, combined with recorders, is critical as it gives us the opportunity to tap directly into traditional Xhosa music. Our efforts in this direction were kick started by a workshop held in Hogsback facilitated by Jonathan Ncozana from the University of Fort Hare. The workshop was part of a camp that we enjoyed together with children from the Health Project, and staff from the Trust.

Other highlights from the past months were the Easter concert in the Old Hall (especially the jam session afterwards with Gaba!), and the shooting of a music video on the beach under the direction of Robert Hofmeyr.

The ensemble also successfully participated in the Eastern Cape Eisteddfod held in Grahamstown in May, achieving a gold award with their performance of a Mozart Rondo and the African-American spiritual, Go Down, Moses.

The ensemble looks forward to three performances at the National Arts Festival from the 22nd to 24th of July under the title “Keiskamma Songbook”. These performances will be the culmination of all the hard work and preparation over the past months.

Daniel Hutchinson - Teacher (Keiskamma Music Academy)

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Volunteering at the Keiskamma Art Project, by Sofia Grönvall - Student in Fashion Business

My name is Sofia Gronvall and I just got back to my home in Sweden from having volunteered with the Keiskamma Art Project during two months. Just to get things straight, when it comes to trips I’ve never been the planning kind of girl.

Needless to say, the day prior to my departure to South Africa I still didn’t have much to say when my friends and family asked what the heck I was about to get myself into. Not because I was about to enrol in secret activities but more because I had no idea what was awaiting me.

At the airport I was instantly introduced to the culture differences as the laid back lifestyle of the "Hamburg:ers" clashed with my Scandinavian importance of being on time. Consequently, I managed to call the Keiskamma office three times in half an hour before the driver arrived, clearly surprised with my impatience (which, if I may add was a result of nerves and not how I usually am).

Together with another volunteer I started off living with a wonderful couple, named Gay and Jens, in a big colourful house on the top of a hill facing the ocean. The view was marvellous and I couldn't believe my eyes when I first got there. Being a volunteer I figured I should be grateful if I had a bed to sleep on so this simply blew me away. Here I stayed for two weeks, paying 80 African rands/day (which included excellent food made by Gay herself) while getting accustomed to the community and my job within the trust. Thereafter I moved to a charming house close to the beach that I shared with three other volunteers and medical students who worked with HIV education. Along with our friends from the project we truly had some wonderful parties in that house!

Together with Florence "Flo" Danais, Manager of the art project, I discussed what my main tasks would be the two upcoming months. After having wandered the beautiful beaches in the area I had come up with an idea of creating a range of accessories made of beads and materials from the sea, such as shells and bits and pieces of things that had been washed up on shore. Flo was very positive and before I knew it we were off to purchase supplies to get on with the project. Within two weeks I had made my first earring and soon I began collaborating with fashion designer, capoeira instructor and Keiskamma artist, Msindisi "MC" Mva.

The first month I spent the morning helping Flo with everything from photographing new crafts to teaching locals basic computer skills. In the afternoon I went down to one of the studios where we kept the tools and shells to make new creations together with MC. Later I started focussing more on the jewellery, working full time to make samples for the Keiskamma artists to be inspired by and make their own.

Throughout my time with the Keiskamma Art Project I always felt like I was surrounded by the best of friends which made me feel very safe and appreciated. Flo was always exceptionally caring and happy about letting me decide what part of the project I would like to engage in. After only two months I had made a whole bunch of new friends while I got to know the Xhosa beliefs and culture. My stay in Hamburg turned out to be the experience of a lifetime and I hope to go back as soon as time allows.

Please note that volunteering opportunities are limited. For any queries regarding that matter please contact Unathi Meslane:

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Gardens - Success story for the organic gardening trainings

The gardening trainings of the Keiskamma Organic Garden started in August 2009. From the beginning, Cebo Mvubu, Ayanda Gcezengana and Thobisa Nknani were part of the group who attends the training sessions regularly. They are artists who work with the Keiskamma Art Project as designers, ceramicists, print makers and wire workers. While Thobisa grows his vegetable at home, Cebo and Ayanda have decided to start their vegetable garden on the grounds of the art studio.

They are currently preparing artworks that will be part of the Keiskamma installation for this year’s Grahamstown National Arts Festival. As they spend much of their time at the Art Studio, the opportunity of using the land there and having some food to bring back home was best for them. With funding obtained through a talk at the Interesting Gardening Club in France, Franck Danais – who runs the organic gardening programme - supplied gardening tools to Cebo and Ayanda, and thanks to private donors, seeds and manure are supplied on an ongoing basis. So far they planted spinach, onions, lettuce, green peppers and carrots. Cebo says: ‘I like gardening. I tried at home even before Keiskamma started the gardening programme, but I didn’t have much success. Then I went to the Keiskamma pilot garden run by Franck, Princess and Samantha, and I found that it was a beautiful and fruitful garden. It was my inspiration that pushed me to try and have my own vegetable garden and make it successful. I went to their trainings, and started the garden at the art studio with Ayanda. Thanks to our garden, I can help my family with food: my two nephews, my mother and myself’.

‘I am really happy about what Cebo and Ayanda started. They are really motivated and they are the right example to show that gardening is not only for old ladies. They have the right idea about taking initiative to improve their lives, starting with the basics: healthy food, and cut back on food expenses’ (Franck Danais, Gardening Programme Manager).