They May be Young, but…

From 10-14 July we held a very successful Standard Bank National Schools Festival in Grahamstown, South Africa. Just over 900 matric students from all around Southern Africa came together to experience 5 full days of the Arts. What transpired can only be described as inspirational, not only for the teachers and learners, but for the staff of the Arts Education project as well.

Months of preparation go into organising the festival, and sure, at times, we wonder why on earth we’re allowing ourselves to go through what feels like a gauntlet of stress and anxiety. But oh!, to watch as these future leaders discover more about themselves, engage their whole being in workshops, lectures and productions, mingle with peers from every walk of life and be given the space to stimulate their own creative ‘uniqueness’, is truly a humbling experience for us.

Many of these learners will not choose the arts as a career option, and that’s perfectly fine by us! Our project is not about creating the next soap star or stand-up comedian; what we want to achieve, more than anything else, is to create an experience that allows each person to find themselves and realise that they’re capable of so much more than what has been expected of them before. And if they fall in love with the arts by the end of the festival, then that’s another proud moment for us.

What better way to see the impact and get a better idea of what goes on during our festivals, than to read testimonies from learners themselves? One of the workshops offered during the Standard Bank National Schools Festival was given by Rod Amner, a writing & editing lecturer at Rhodes University’s School of Journalism & Media Studies, and what transpired during these workshop sessions was remarkable! The workshop, Be an Arts Journalist, allowed learners to express their experiences (and sometimes even concerns) that came about during the Festival and place it on a blog specifically created for the workshop. Articles range from show reviews, personal reflections and general festival observations, with each submission taking an honest and often hard-hitting look at their experience.

We recommend that you take a squizz through the blog (address below), absorb what these young minds have to say and just as we have, gain a deeper understanding about the lives and personal experiences of South Africa’s youth. As one learner put it, “The whole experience of the festival has made me question the allocation of titles like Arts Person or Science Person. In an age where information travels so fast and so widely, worlds tend to collide much more often and it feels as though one cannot simply be one thing without being at least a little of the other.” (Simone le Roux)

The blog can be found at: www.schoolfest2011.wordpress.com

A big thank you to Rod Amner and Push Nqelana as well as the editorial assistance provided by Alexandra Smith and Bongeka Gumede. May you continue to challenge and inspire young, creative minds!

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About Schools Festival

The Grahamstown Foundation’s Arts Education Department runs several provincial festivals throughout South Africa. Festivals include the Sasol Schools Festival Series (Mpumalanga, Free State/Northern Cape, and Gauteng) for Grade Elevens and the Standard Bank National Schools Festival for Matrics. Our project serves to ignite a passion for South African arts and develop artists and arts consumers with a culture of ‘paying for the arts’. Self-expression and bridge-building between individuals and communities are focal points while platforms for performance encourage audiences to engage with the best South Africa has to offer encouraging emerging artists to discover and develop their own artistic skills. Some 6,000 participants benefit from these programmes nationally over the period of a year. The need is evident from the enormous demand by schools. Participants from across a wide economic divide get to literally ‘rub shoulders’ because the projects attract large numbers of participants from the most rural schools to the most wealthy. Opportunities to engage with diverse arts experiences is rare, as are opportunities for artistic performance and assessment. The festivals expose the youth to professional work and hands-on workshop experiences with artists. They also engage with intellectuals in lectures and demonstrations. Professionals are drawn from national experts committed to establishing a creative nurturing ground and a sustainable arts industry. Our Educational objectives are to supplement the often under-funded and under-resourced arts and culture components of school curricula recognised as essential to holistic education, by submerging learners in an intensive arts experience that is absent in schools. Further objectives are to expose learners to a range of genres, arts opportunities and career options while encouraging them to further explore opportunities in the arts.
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One Response to They May be Young, but…

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