Our students will be performing this weekend at the Maboneng Arts Festival in Gugulethu. The festival is an exciting new initiative that aims to turn the Maboneng district into a hub for creatives. The students have spent the last two months preparing a piece for this event and we can’t wait to see them in action! The performance piece centres on the theme of womanhood. It incorporates poetry, song, dance and movement to explore and challenge the different roles woman are expected to play in society. For many of the students this will be their first live performance. We are grateful to the festival organisers for providing them with this opportunity to gain valuable experience as performers.
Kelly Eve Koopman has hosted the last two workshops. We are busy working on a collection of poetry that explore the idea of womanhood, “Phenomenal Women” being one of them, in order to create a performance piece that the students can show to the school.
Kelly Eve Koopman hosted this week’s workshop in which we continued to create a performance piece from the poem Still I Rise. We would also like to say a big thanks and congratulations to one of students, Momsoe Mesewane, who performed at Femme‘s opening event on Friday.
In this week’s session we did things a little differently. The women from a fantastic initiative called FEMME came to host their workshop on women’s health and it was opened to any students from Marian High who wished to attend. It was great to have the opportunity to support this initiative! If you want to support check out their opening event
The fabulous Lesoko Saebe came in again to co-host this week’s workshop with Kelly Eve Koopman. After a long warm up session which focused on building acting skills we continued to work on the poem “I Rise” by Maya Angelou. We worked on turning the poem into a performance and pushed the students to explore different interpretations of the text in their performance of it. The results were creative indeed!
We’ve had a very busy weekend with The iNtombi Workshop students. On Friday we took them on an outing in celebration of women’s month. The girls went to Zanele Muholi’s photography exhibition, entitled Looking Back, at the MOCAA gallery in the Waterfront and then to the Artscape to watch Mamela Nyamza’s play Hatched.
On Saturday we had our weekly workshop as per usual. The first half an hour of the session was spent discussing the play and the exhibition. Bianca de Klerk then took over the workshop to continue working on the song “Amazing Grace”.
During this week’s workshop we continued to work on Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I rise”. Bianca de Klerk, an exceptionally talented actress and musician, then took over the workshop and taught the girls the song “Amazing Grace”.
Lesoko Seabe our wonderful host, facilitated a workshop centred around imagery in lyrics and poetry. After a thorough physical and vocal warm up, we all calmly sat in a circle and listened to some soothing , soulful sounds by Nina Simone and Simphiwe Dana. Lesoko then facilitated a discussion where the girls analysed how and why they responded to the music and lyrics.
After a break and a warm cup of soup made by the multi-talented Lesoko, the girls worked on interpreting “ Still I rise” by the iconic Maya Angelou. It was the first time the girls had encountered the poem and they were inspired and exhilarated by it’s imagery and it’s message.
Thank you Maya Angelou for leaving a legacy in your words that will inspire generations of young women to come.
Our term write up aims to give you more of an in depth insight into the work we have done so far than the weekly updates have to offer. The hosts have done such amazing work and the students have made so much progress in both confidence and skill and we want you to know all about it.
We began with the auditions. We were looking for ten students who showed talent in any sphere of the arts but, more importantly, showed that they would be dedicated to the programme. On the day of the auditions twelve girls arrived and there was certainly no shortage in the talent department. We could hardly believe that the majority of the girls answered “no” when we asked if they had received any previous formal training. We were also taken aback by the variety of talent displayed. Auditions ranged from dancing to singing to acting to stand up poetry. On top of that, most of them are multi-talented. One of the girls, for instance, delivered a moving recital of a poem she had written herself. When we asked her if she had any other areas of interest she nodded and proceeded to belt out a verse from a hymn in an effortlessly powerful voice. Of course, after all this, we could not bring ourselves to exclude two of the girls from the programme. We announced, to their delight, that all of them had made it through.
Our first term at Marion High consisted of eight workshops that focused loosely on the physical and vocal aspects of performance. Kelly Eve Koopman, a founder and director of The iNtombi Workshop, hosted the first workshop as an introduction to the programme. Mikkie-Dene Le Roux,an actress with a passion for yoga, hosted the second workshop on just that – yoga. Lesoko Saebe hosted the next three workshops in which she taught the girls a dance routine to Beyonce’s “Get Me Bodied”. The sixth workshop was taken by Kelly Eve Koopman again and focused on introducing vocal work. Koleka Putuma, an accomplished poetess (check out her writing here), was our final external host. She gave a workshop on poetry writing. Catherine Saint Jude, a founder and director of The iNtombi Workshop, wrapped up our first term with a workshop on creative writing and voice.
It is important to us that our students’ have agency over the creative process and are able to bring in their own narratives and creative voices. Kelly did an activity with the the girls in the introductory workshop which set the precedent for this. They had to choose a random object from a bag and create a story around it. They were then put into pairs and had to create a short skit which involved the stories from each others’ objects.
When we said the girls grew in confidence and skill, it was during Lesoko’s workshops that this was most evident. It was fascinating to witness the relationship between the two, how confidence facilitates the growth of skill. As Lesoko began teaching the dance the girls were unsure of their ability and so could not commit to it fully. Lesoko stopped them and spoke to them about how important having confidence is in the industry. She pointed out that what makes someone stand out in an audition is their confidence. As soon as the girls were brave enough to commit to the dance, their ability improved massively.
Koleka did an interesting exercise during her poetry writing workshop called “Tell me five lies about the sky.” The girls had to write down, yes you guessed it, five lies about the sky. The exercise aimed to get the creative juices flowing but, on a deeper level, to question what defines poetry. What stopped their list of five lies from being a poem? This question was the premise of the exercise. Well, their lies were certainly creative enough to be poetry. “The sky is made of stay-soft”, “No other country has a sky, only South Africa does” and “The sky is made of happiness” are some of our favourites.
We think its safe to say, our first term was a success. It has been so amazing getting to know the girls and watching them grow. We have so much belief in their potential and are so grateful for the opportunity to help them realise it. We are also incredibly grateful to all the hosts who gave up a bit of their valuable time to help our programme run successfully and we know the girls are too. Our second term has already started and we will begin posting weekly updates about the workshops soon. Thanks for reading!
When the name “Animal Barn” was suggested for our organisation what we thought was “How clever! How profound! How astute!” How suited to our cause, we thought, that our name should reference George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” from which the famous quote “All men are created equal but some are more equal than others” stems from. How perfectly reflective that is of the problem in this country we are concerned with – a constitution that promises equality but a social reality in which access to basic human rights is determined by class. Yes, “Animal Barn” is a reference within a reference within a reference. “How convoluted” was unfortunately not what we thought. More importantly, we did not think of how misleading it would be to give a such a name to an organisation that has nothing whatsoever to do with animal rights. We let our tendencies towards loftiness and over-intellectualisation (every artist’s tragic flaw!) get the better of us and for that we apologize.
In light of this we have decided to change our name and to take the opposite approach in doing so. And our new name is…. (drumroll please) ….The iNtombi Workshop! For the non-xhosa speakers amongst you, “iNtombi” means “Girl”. Alright, to be honest, none of us are actually xhosa speakers either. But the majority of the girls we work with are and we feel it is important to represent them in our name. We used the word “workshop” because, well, hosting weekly workshops is what we do. But the word is also a reference to the workshopping process. This is a method of creating theatre in which scenes are improvised and refined until the play or piece of theatre is performance ready. This method was popular in creating protest plays during Apartheid ( think “Woza Albert” and “Sophiatown”) as it is all inclusive. It is a democratic process and literacy is not required. It is the method of theatre-making we employ with our students. And there you have it, a name that is straightforward and clear-cut!
So, to recap, The iNtombi Workshop is an arts education organisation. We realise that arts education within South Africa’s school system is only accessible to the privileged. Many disenfranchised schools have no arts department nor do they have the means to create one and so a career in the arts is often not seen as viable. This means that a huge amount of talent and potential is being overlooked and the arts industry remains exclusive. We also realise that, as both artists and women ourselves, it is especially difficult for women to make it in the industry. The iNtombi Workshop seeks to solve these problems by implementing an arts education programme which focuses on empowering women through art in disenfranchised schools in the Western Province. We are currently working at Marion RC High School, an all-girls’ school in Elsies river, with a group of 12 girls. We facilitate workshops every Saturday and source successful female artists to host them on their particular area of expertise. We see the work we are doing at Marion High as our pilot project and although we plan to continue our work there for at least the next two years, we hope to expand to other schools in the future.
Lastly, we want to explain the thought process behind our new logo. It is essentially a culture jam. Our logo aims to comment on the ubiquity of westernised approaches to art. We feel that the mass institutionalisation of western aesthetics have resulted in a system where western modalities and aesthetics are seen as more legitimate than African ones, even within a contemporary African context. That the Greek masks of tragedy and comedy are the most well-known symbols of theatre illustrates this fact. We have “Africanised” the Greek masks in order to symbolise a reclaiming of space in the art world. Lofty and over-intellectualized you say?
Lastly, lastly we want to say a HUGE thank you to Jendrick Schroeder (who is, ironically, from Germany) for designing the logo and to everyone who has hosted workshops for iNtombi Workshop so far. We will be posting a review of the work we have done during the first term of running the programme at Marian RC Girls High School soon.