We arrived in Ingwavuma on Sunday quite late. We had a great, but long journey. The countryside is beautiful. Long straight road past the sugar cane cutters. Then logging. Then the landscape became more flat and the distant mountains became closer. After a missed turn off, we had a beautiful detour almost entering Swaziland, passing a huge lake. We arrived at our destination: Zisize in Ingwavuma.
The next day we were met by our lovely contact person Fanna Matonsi who is running physiological support groups with the parents at Zisize. These projects help parents to raise their kids. It is very good for bonding and to help them feel comfortable to talk together about issues as becoming men and woman, sexual activity and other gender issues. The projects have has many good outcomes. He will come with us to all the schools and has been the main contact person in organizing our visits to all 30 schools. He is very positive and said he is very much looking forward to it. It is great to have him on board to help navigate us through Ingwavuma and speak to teachers for relationship building.
We also met the very enthusiastic Andrew Swift who is the Principal at Khethani P.S and Manager at Zisize. He also was involved in organizing our whole tour and they did such a good job.
MPONTSINI Primary School and NYAMANE High School. Our first 2 performances in 30C. At the first school we saw 620 children, at the second 372. Not bad for a first day eh?!
Setting up and performing went very well. The first show we all tried to find our rhythm, voices and play after having rehearsed indoors. Now we are standing on a field, cows roaming, no shade, rocks and cow pads everywhere. Setting up is fun, although we needed a chat afterwards to see who does what exactly, to let it all run smooth. I suffered quite a bit in the heat. Almost fainted in the second show. The sun hits us very hard and the show is very full on.
I love the pre-show. Whilst we are setting up, some of us are always engaging with the children to keep them entertained and happy during the long wait till everything is ready. Then I can see all the individuals. The shy children, needing more time, or distance. The very happy children who immediately want to engage, the cool ones at the back, trying very hard not to crack a smile, but during the underwear, juggling and rapping they burst out in laughter and you can really see them become children again. It is wonderful to see. When performing they turn into a mass of laughter and engagement of shouting with us and clapping.
Although performing is challenging because of the heat, it is thrilling and great. The children are in awe of Mr Fish and his skills as a juggler. They love being part of the washing scene. They laugh so much and to see them enjoy so much gives me so much pleasure I can not describe it. Even the teachers are in stitches most of the time and it is great to see the support and the good support they have for the children in these schools. I wonder if this will be the case in all the schools we will visit. One lady came running and screaming with happiness when Mr Fish started the juggling and started to scream and dance onstage. It was a brilliant moment.
Most of the children want to be teachers and doctors. I met one girl who said this when I asked her what is her dream to be later:” I want to be sooo many things; I want to be a hairdresser, then a doctor, then a cook, then a scientist!”. She must have been 7 years old.
So, it has been a wonderful, amazing, heartwarming and fun experience. My 1st two shows in Africa. With a great team. Jayne directed us very well. Now upwards and onwards. Already when we had our meal yesterday at our cottages a child ran along the road down the hill shouting: ‘MR FIIIIIIIISH!!!!’, so we are well known and wanted already. Soon our songs will call over the beautiful rolling landscape of Ingwavuma.
Head teacher: “Thank you so much for coming. When are you coming back again? I hope very soon. The children liked the show very much. Even the children with learning difficulties and autism. Please come work here. You do so much good.”
Khethani Primary School
Headteacher: “The children loved it, they said it could have gone on for the whole day”.
Nyamane High School
Headteacher: “We enjoyed the visit, it was fantastic. The skills of Mr Fish are amazing. Both learners and teachers were laughing endlessly and relaxing their minds. The art that was displayed was amazing.”
Learner:“We enjoyed the day with the clowns and what they did made us laugh so much. We also learnt a lot from what they were doing in unity, so we will copy this, to be united.”
-By Elizabeth van Zwet aka Mbali