Growing up I never had an opportunity to laugh freely. I remember that if I was caught laughing, I was asked what I was laughing at. They used to say “usineka ntoni?” (What are you grinning at). This question made me not show people my smile because ukusineka is an insult. When a goat or sheep’s head is roasted on open flame, the lips shrink thus showing the teeth in an unsightly manner. So laughing freely was out of the question for me.
It is for this reason that I find joy in giving a gift of laughter to children and adults. Working with CWBSA is an absolute blessing because watching people letting it rip with no fear of who is watching. Seeing those big smiles on the faces of all those watching and to hear their joy when they talk to you after the show.
The trigger of this memory was the Imbokodo Project. For two weeks Gavin, Mr. Fish, Busi and Sussie gave the children, teachers and senior citizens of Tongaat, Verulam and waterloo an opportunity to laugh. It was an amazing hilarious journey that was filled with laughter and amazement. Our show was filled with a combination of magic and juggling skills. The taxi ride was a good opening. The audients laughed so much especially when Mr. Fish came with his giant bags. “Hayi, hayi! On one chair all of you and bags” said a young boy. We received great welcome in most schools but others were challenging. At some schools it took long to organize the children as the teachers were not helpful when came to communication with each other. However when all was ready everything went smoothly. This tour was also unique because it was mostly Indian communities.
The hospitality shown to us at most of the schools was heart warming as we were treated to snacks and hot beverages after shows even samosas. The children were very appreciative and there were many individual thank yous and requests to come again. The tour was a huge success even though it did not finish on schedule as we had lost two days of work because of the rain. We did the last three schools the Tuesday after the scheduled finish. So over 12 000 children got an opportunity to laugh and be carefree. On Tuesday we had to do three shows to finish the project of 21 performances. It was a blazing hot day. The last show we did was a bit off because the school was not organized. It has over 2 000 learners, from grade R to grade 12. The show had to stop at some point the show was put on pause because the children were stepping on each other to get closer to the stage. They were not allowed to bring out chairs which actually help with creating a clear boundary. The learners were literally on top of the clowns and the juggling was a challenge as the jugglers were worried about the clubs landing on a child’s head. It was not an ideal way to end our tour but there was still laughter in the mist of chaos.
Laughter is an amazing simple gift that brings beauty and joy. I am grateful that I can help spread it especially to those who are under-privileged and are in an abusive environment because laughter is also a good stress reliever.
Thank you Waterloo, Tongaat and Verulam!
– Sussie Mjwara
Project Imbokodo was made possible thanks to the generosity of the AfriSun Foundation, Europcar, and individuals like YOU. Siyabonga kakhulu!