CTO’s Youth Development and Education (YDE) programme conducts various activities throughout the year in disadvantaged low-income rural and urban areas. The areas in question are ravaged by social ills as a result of the destructive cycle of poverty every generation is subjected to. The YDE programme aims to engage the youth by presenting them with an alternate lifestyle that will develop their hitherto hidden talents and promote a life of self-worth and dignity.
More than 20 artists have been employed to implement the schedule of activities for 2019. They range from singers, choreographers and directors to composers, sign-language interpreters and coordinators. All the activities are provided to the beneficiaries free of charge.
It has been a busy year for the YDE to date, but that has not dampened their enthusiasm because October marks one of the highlights of the year: A musical theatre production presented by learners from the Chris Hani Arts and Culture School and the Lathi-tha LSEN School of Skills and follows two earlier collaborations with the Chris Hani Arts and Culture School, namely Finding David (based on Athol Fugard’s Tsotsi) and The People of Nyalashishi by Mhlanguli George. Mhlanguli has again written the book and lyrics of Imivumba YamaQhawe:The Scars of Our Heroes and he also directs the production.
Masixole Makwetu, YDE Coordinator, explains why CTO includes learners from the Lathi-tha LSEN School of Skills: “Our department prides itself on inclusivity. We realised that at schools for learners with special educational needs that there was as much talent to be unleashed as in the other schools. In fact, five of the learners we used in Finding David are actively pursuing their dream of becoming performing artists. It is also a reminder to them that they can be anything that they want to be, provided they work hard enough to achieve it.”
Sipumzo Trueman Lucwaba composed the music, strongly rooted in African choral music, while Theo Ndindwa had the task of choreographing the energetic teenagers into a cohesive whole. Rabia Davids, wardrobe manager of Cape Town Opera, ensured that the learners would be clothed in costumes appropriate to the various eras depicted in the musical which is focused on the aftermath of the Soweto uprising.
Credit must also go to six of the CTO Chorus members who mentored the learners throughout the rehearsal process and generously gave of their experience and skills with voice coaching. They were Babongile Manga (soprano), Nonkululeko Nkwinti, (mezzo soprano), Mthunzi Mbombela (tenor), Simphiwe Mayeki (tenor), Andile Tshoni (tenor) and Lindile Kula (bass baritone).
In talking to the learners, one cannot help but notice the profound impact this particular CTO Development and Education project has had on their lives and how proud they are to be a part of it. They have learnt to persevere and try again if they do not succeed at first, they have experienced first-hand the hard work that goes into creating something meaningful and beautiful and they have worked with professionals who have their best interests at heart and have helped each of them to identify and hone his or her particular talent or skill.
The following is what a few of the learners had to say about their participation in Imivumba YamaQhawe: The Scars of Our Heroes.
I am Thina Makhendlana from the Chris Hani Arts and Culture School. I did auditions last year and I was taken. It was the first time that I played a lead character and I was afraid. “What if I make a mistake?” I thought. Mhlanguli George is a very strict man, but he is also a good guy. He pushes us a lot and sometimes I think that I’m sick and tired of it, but then I realise it is my dream. I want to do drama at university. I am starting to see that there is a desire to do this. I am one of the narrators, so I am getting more skills. My other dream is to be a director and I am getting skills from Mhlanguli George and others. I love theatre. I actually want to learn more about musical theatre. In school I am not in the choir. I am not singing. To be honest, I really hated music, but now I am starting to enjoy it. I am learning that acting is not just acting. There is more to it and I am realising that I can do more things. I love it.
My name is Aphelele Ntsaluba. When I saw the production being performed at Chris Hani Hall (last year), I just felt it. It was me. It was what I wanted to do. Some of the others do not understand, but when I watched it, I said: “I want to be a part of it, because I feel it.” So, when they did auditions in the hall, I wanted to try, even if I was not going to be chosen. I just wanted to try. So I went there, I tried and voilá! I came in. When we do rehearsals, it is challenging, but I like it. Mr Mhlanguli pushes us and says: “No no no, go for it! It is you dream!” I like the experience and it is quite easy for me. I try because I feel as if I am meant to do this.”
My name is Luyolo Mpemba. I got involved in this production because, just like the other learners, I want to improve my skills in music, drama, and all that. This is the perfect opportunity for me to improve my singing skills, etc. The challenge is mostly in the music. We are used to simple music and this music has so many dynamics. We call our music “Ikwitsho”, traditional music. This music is smooth and we have to sing softly. We are so used to singing loudly. You have to learn to level your voice, and that is quite hard. The drama part and the dances are much easier. But I think it is good and it is a great opportunity for us.