Tuesday 17 June 2014

ARROWSA Fundraising donation from k@t jeweller

Lovely yellow gold, fine and sterling silver and smokey quartz stone mask pendant inspired by 

Commedia del 'Arte was donated by K@t jeweller for ARROWSA fundraising.  The pendant is worth 

approximately R1200.00 

See below the pendant photographed from different angles.

Monday 2 June 2014

ARROWSA - INDRA CONGRESS intercultural exchange trip to Lucknow, India  

including the performance of an adaptation of Imbewu Yesizwe: The Nation's Seed

Joy Seidle (ARROWSA School Portfolio leader);
Luthando Ngema (ARROWSA Regional and International Portfolio leader, co-writer of Imbewu Yesizwe: The Nation’s Seed and director of adaptation performed in Lucknow, India); Nonkululeko Dube and Sindisiwe Mkhize (ARROWSA Bechet performers)
Mary Lange (Project convenor)

South African National Arts Council - Airtickets;
ARROWSA and Joy Seidle - Travel insurance;
Lucknow Study Hall staff and community - Accommodation and food;
Pocket money -  Joy Seidle

This report is in the form of a diary compiled by Joy Seidle and Luthando Ngema, photos by Luthando Ngema and Sindisiwe Mkhize

The values learnt on this trip were:

Left for India on Saturday, 29 March.
Arrived on SUNDAY afternoon, 30 MARCH

Nokululeko Dube, Sindisiwe Mkhize and I (Joy Seidle) arrived to a warm welcome at Lucknow airport. Each one of us was given a rose and welcomed by the Indian group of 2 teachers and one of the girls who was to host our performers. It had been decided that the performers be immersed in the culture by living with their host families. I think this was a very good idea.

The first thing that struck me on the long drive to our respective accommodation was the lack of robots. The traffic appeared chaotic, with cars, buses, taxis and the many scooters and bicycles, not to mention the people! There was non-stop hooting. Drivers just hooted each other out of the way, or to gain access into the flow of traffic. Pedestrians walked among the vehicles and just held up their hands to cross.

I was living with Dr Urvashi Sahni who was not present when we arrived as she had unfortunately lost her mother and was away, sorting out family business. The two teachers, Ila and Suman, had dinner with me at Urvashi’s home, where I was being cared for by her employees and all I wanted to do was rest after our long flight.

Sightseeing was scheduled for the following day, Monday, as it was a public holiday and school would be closed.

MONDAY, 31 March
We were picked up at 09:30 and taken to a historical sight called the Residency. It is of very significant historical value to the Indians. It was built in 1857 and destroyed in India’s fight for liberation. It was a massive property which the British kept annexing, bit by bit. The remains bear testimony to what was once an impressive British site, with much opulence.
Thereafter we went to a shopping mall for lunch where we were treated to foods from different parts of India, to tantalize our taste buds. It was an amazing experience. We then shopped for some traditional Indian wear.
That evening dinner was at the home of the girls’ host family. Another wonderful eating experience. Much emphasis is placed on food. Spices, skill, time and love are essential in preparing Indian dishes. There are NO shortcuts. Every Indian girl, no matter what her status or future role in life, is expected to learn how to cook.
Was a long, tiring but enjoyable day.

TUESDAY, 1 April
Today we made a late start as it was a public holiday. We left for the Botanical Gardens at about 10:45 after I had breakfast with Suman.
It was very interesting and the different plants were well presented in the various sections of the gardens. One of the sections even boasted a Jurassic Park theme, complete with dinosaurs.
This was followed by a visit to the museum and CSIR(India) where the plants we had seen in the botanical gardens are used in medical research. The fact that we visited the botanical gardens first and then the museum and CSIR centre helped us to understand the second visit better.

I returned home at the same time that Urvashi arrived. I met her downstairs and it was obvious that she was still very distraught. Visitors were still arriving to pay their respects to her on the death of her mother. I met her later in the evening and dined with her and her sister-in-law. She is an extremely intense, interesting person.


We left for the school, The Study Hall Foundation, at 9:30.
The school has two sections: a primary school and a secondary school. Each has its own staff and principals.
The school is run as a private institution and pupils pay approximately 800 rupees per month. The school day is from 07:30 to 13:30.
Immediately thereafter the afternoon school starts. This is from 13;30 to 17:00. It is amazing how the two schools co-exist. The Prerna school (afternoon school) is for the disadvantaged children (predominantly girls) from the surrounding community. They work as “domestics” in the morning and attend school in the afternoon. They come from very poor backgrounds and pay about 80 rupees per month. This is a negligible amount and is merely regarded as a commitment to the programme. They receive all the resources afforded to the privileged middle class children who occupy the buildings during the morning session.
I spent a fruitful session with Bhani, the headmistress of the Junior Section, who was so welcoming and informative. She also gave me some useful resources for primary school.
Thereafter we had a classical dance/Bollywood session. Sindy and Nonku enjoyed this session and learnt a few moves.
In the afternoon after lunch we visited the Prerna school. We had mendi artwork done on our hands by the girls. It was beautiful. They also showed us some of their artwork. We left the school to fetch Luthando from the airport, and went to another shopping mall and another delicious meal. We also did some shopping.

Back to Study Hall: We received a warm welcome from Bhani, headmistress of the Junior School. We first visited Class IV who recited a poem to us. The work ethic is amazing! The children had been given a 20 line poem the day before. The name of the poem was ‘Crocodile visit the dentist’. The teacher expressed that the class only started learning the poem from the day before. We were impressed with the fact that the children could recite the poem at such a short space of time.  All the children knew their lines and parts. It was very good.

We then visited Class III. They brainstormed a picture of the earth circled by children from all parts of the world. The children had to provide the vocabulary and write it in their work books. They then had to write a paragraph, using this vocabulary. The teacher acted as facilitator, but the children did the work.

 Our third visit was to Class II. The children had to do an exercise on pictorial dictation. They had to be attentive and follow instructions. They were told to hold their books in a sleeping position (I.e. landscape) and write the heading “Picture Dictation” and the date. Their instructions were: to draw a big tree in the centre of the page. It had to touch the top and bottom of the page. They then had to draw 3 branches, two on the right and one on the left. They then had to draw a nest with two eggs in one of the right-hand branches. In the trunk of the tree they had to draw a hole with an owl peeping from it. They had to draw a girl on the left and lots of grass growing under the tree. Next they had to draw 5 fruits in the centre of the tree, 6 tulips growing from the ground and 2 clouds together with the sun just peeping out.
Thereafter they had to colour in the picture.

This was a very good exercise and tapped into so many skills; such as Listening skills, spatial organisation skills, grammar skills and creative skills. Class II would be Grade 2 in South Africa, and it was impressive that in India, their Class II were able to follow instructions and comprehend the exercise set for them. This Class II class further emphasise the societal work ethic that the India people carry.

We then left for the boardroom to listen to a presentation by Dr Urvashi Sahni, the President of the Study Hall Foundation. 

She gave us some background on the attitude towards girls and the skewed statistics with regard to the number of boys and girls in the country. Boys are valued. Girls are “worthless”. Girls are either aborted or left to die if they become ill.
The Study Hall Educational Foundation
Started on 6 January 1986 at her home with 6 children and now has over 2000 students.
The focus is:
They also have a section called DOSTI for approximately 100 disabled children.
She believes that sending a girl child to school does not necessarily mean they will be educated.
There has to be a necessary co-relation between EDUCATION & EMPOWERMENT.
To do so means:
Ø  Becoming aware of one’s subordination and analysing its structural causes
Ø  Perceiving oneself as an autonomous equal person, worthy of respect.

Key features of the Prerna Empowerment Programme is:
Ø  Individual change
Ø  Supportive relations
Ø  Challenge structures

You need to name your reality in order to change it!
She also runs a TUSEME PROJECT which means: TO SPEAK OUT. This project is run in the schools and takes place via probing, in-depth discussions.

The presentation was awesome when one realises the depth and commitment of Dr Urvashi Sahni’s programme. It is more than just a school. It is a life-changing experience, especially for the Prerna girls.

The Study Hall Foundation has a diverse approach to education. The newest is the Digital Study Hall program. The Digital Study Hall uses the internet to distribute education programmes. They use video education- where students are encouraged to make videos that relate to their social ills. Girl Rights, being a major issue in India, therefore allows for the Girls to make a video for instance, about their issue. The videos are edited to short films, which are reposted on the internet to spark debate about that issue. Digital Study Hall further opens the opportunity for sharing knowledge. The mother Study Hall Foundation, produces learning materials that can be found on the internet, and the breaks the classroom boundaries of learning. Through the Digital Study Hall, there is an outreach to about 10000 students and 14, 000 educators. The educators who utilize Digital Study Hall materials, are trained and they excess Digital Study Hall to educate their students. This is an amazing programme that opens more opportunities in education. The digital divide is lessoned through the increasing programing of education materials for people who cannot afford the normal education systems.  

Next we experienced a theatre workshop by a professional theatre teacher. She is a respected Indian actress.

She teaches her craft via the following mediums:
1) Body language / mime
2) Verbal
3) Costume
4) Emotional actions
She then explained the 7 dance forms to us. We tried out a few. We further participated in an interactive exercise to work through all the forms of theatre she had explained in the workshop. We participated in a short skit. We had to improvise the activities, ensuring to use mime, our body language and facial expressions to tell the story.
After lunch there was a prayer meeting at school for Urvashi’s mother who had passed away.

This was followed by an art workshop in the afternoon. We really enjoyed this and each one of us got to keep our framed art work. 


ARROWSA on the arrival of Luthando, was now ready to present to the Study Hall Foundation. The rest of the afternoon was reserved for last minute rehearsals. We were due to make a formal presentation at the schools assembly. However for the assembly we prepared a short version of our presentation, and had a more intimate, interactive workshop session prepared, which include a powerpoint presentation about ARROWSA and South Africa (Durban in particular) (presented by Mr Joy Seidle, and Luthando) and a performance by Sindi, Nonku and Luthando on an adaptation of the Play- Imbewu Yesizwe: The Nation's Seed.
The Workshop entailed various parts.  For warm up, we arranged all the participants in a circle, and Luthando as facilitator- initiated the ice-breakers. ‘Simon-says’ was a fun activity, where students laughed at their mistakes or achievements. The aim of ‘Simon- says’ is to test the listening and attentive skills of the participants. The facilitator (Luthando) informs the participants, that she will do certain movements, and participants follow her movements after she had said ‘Simon-says’. The achieving participants are those that ensure to do an activity after ‘Simon-say’s is mentioned. While the failing participants are those that continue an activity, even after “Simon-says” was not mentioned.

The second activity (part) was a hand mapping activity- where we used hand mapping as a way for each participant to identify themselves. The process was to create an awareness of their identity and further probe to their personal self-knowledge. This was a fun and interactive session, also encouraged creativity amongst the participants.

The third session was a performance of Imbewu Yesizwe: The Nation's Seed by Sinde, Nonku and Luthando, which was very well received.  Luthando wrote the following about the performance:

"The play adapted a short ski style, merging poetry, music and dance. As the play was acted out by three females, it aimed to reflect core African feminine issues. It was told through three generations of women- that being Gogo, her daughter Nomusa; and grandchild Lindiwe. Both Gogo and Nomusa were played by Sindi, where with the use of costume, the two characters could convert and appeared in different scenes. Nonku played Lindiwe- the main character, who represents the centre of the story, as this character represents the ‘girl’ in society, who is overcome by societal pressures but shows courage and strength from the wisdom of the two women in her life (Gogo and Nomusa). Luthando narrated the play and performed the opening poetry act, which recited a poem about the strength of a woman.
Story telling was therefore used as a source to represent African ideology and philosophy. Having three characters of women, further emphasised or highlights the societal issues that women encounter and how they overcome these issues. The adaptation of Imbewu Yesizwe, therefore attests to female orientated solutions, where female driven roles encourage female driven solutions.
The play was well received by the Study Hall Foundation students, made up of both male and female students from Class 10- Class 11 (equivalent to grade 10 and 11). The play had an open ending; where the character Lindiwe had to make a life changing decision. The audience therefore made contributions by suggesting the ending to the cast.

Ultimately the ending was negotiated through dialogue, and the audiences were able to express their views and reflect on the performance. The interaction was very interesting, as we saw more female participation from the audience." 

We were then taken to two other Study Hall Foundation schools, where we were exposed to more great work towards education.
We went to the Study Hall Preschool and as well the Study Hall Centre for Learning. Where the students at that school had prepared some dances and performances for us.

Saturday 5 April

We made an early start to visit VIDYASTHALI KANAAR village school, set in the mango groves. These groves are owned by farmers. The village children would not be educated were it not for Study Hall. It is approx 32 km from Lucknow and a 50 minute drive away. It is different to the city. The first thing one notices is that the cows are tied up, whereas in Lucknow, the city, they roam freely, reason being in the village you need to milk your cow, otherwise someone else will have access to your milk. In the city milk is purchased from the local supermarket / local farmer.
The school has 462 children drawn from 3 villages. It started in 2004 with just 34 children.
There are 18 teachers and they follow the same curriculum as the children in Lucknow.
They have a 6-day week. Half-day on Saturday, till 11:30, hence our early start.
The medium of instruction is English until class 6, then they can be taught in both mediums. They write the same examination as the children at Study Hall in class 10 and class 12. (Equivalent to SA’s grades 10 & 12).

The classes range from Nursery (4 year olds) to class 12. The children pay between 200 rupees and 600 rupees per month, depending on the class level.
The school belongs to Study Hall and is well resourced. There are approximately 20 to 30 children per class. The children are very respectful and disciplined. As I visited classes, where the teacher was not present, the children worked quietly, even if they were chatting amongst themselves, especially the little ones. Their work ethic is strong.
We met some of the younger teachers and learnt that it is compulsory for a married women to wear a sari, especially if she lives with her in-laws. Also, a young girl in the company of adults has to cover her head, especially if she is married. This is the reason why all outfits come with scarves. The symbol of a married woman is: bangles, vermillion in the path of their hair on their heads, mangal sutra and toe rings. As the women ages, she tends to reduce the number of rings on her toes.The younger brides toes all have rings, and she wears a Sari. A woman who has married for longer wears one toe ring, as a symbol of her marriage. The Village people are more abiding to these traditions, but more modern Indian women (Families) do not follow these customs. 

After the village tour, we visited various monuments in Lucknow. We got to see the ‘Chota Imambara- which is an historical landmark of Lucknow, also known as Hussainabad Imambara- displays a curious mixture of Charbah, Persian and Indo-Islamic structural designs. We also visited the ‘Bara Imambara’- this monument is famous for having the largest arch room without any pillars. There is also a belief that this colossal structure holds immense treasures inside it. It was built by the fourth Nawab, Barak Imambara Asaf-ud-Daula, in 1784.

Our penultimate activity included a visit to a Didi’s shop. Here we were taught how to make samosas. The samosa in South Africa is also a commonly known snack, but we were in for a lesson as Lucknow samosas were entirely different.  The Didi shops are part of the Study Hall Foundation and the profits generated at these shops are contributed to the Prerna Girls education. The Didi shops further provides employment for the mothers of the girls. This project further has arts and crafts sold at their offices; the crafts are designed and produced by the families that the Study Hall Foundation assists for them to gain financial and education freedom. This was a project that I found highly inspiring as a South African, because it is community driven and benefits the community. This is a value that South Africans can take from our experience in Lucknow, India. 

After our visit we had lunch and then went shopping at a mall. We were then all treated to a gift of a piece of clothing made from Lucknow’s famous CHIKAN embroidery and then off to a 5-star hotel for our last dinner in Lucknow. Once again, the food was delicious.

SUNDAY, 6 April
Had a leisurely breakfast with Urvashi and said our goodbyes to her at 11:00.

We then went to a mall to shop, have lunch and made our way to the airport by 3 p.m.
The flight home was very long. We arrived in Durban and passed through customs at 6.30 p.m. on Monday, 7 April. 

Sindisiwe and Nonkululeko both visited ARROWSA Bechet in Durban on their return from Lucknow, India and shared with the group their experiences and photographs from the trip.  They inspired the present ARROWSA Bechet participants with what they had shared and learnt through their Indra Global trip.  The community will further benefit from this intercultural exchange when the Indra Lucknow group visits Durban at the end of July 2014.

Imbewu Yesizwe II directed by Bheki Dlamini performed for an enthusiastic Bechet High School by ARROWSA Bechet

The National Arts Council and community including the staff of Bechet High School provided funding for ARROWSA representatives including Bechet High teacher and ARROWSA Bechet coordinator, Bhekithemba Dlamini, to attend the Derry Indra international Congress in 2013.  At the congress Bheki showcased extracts from the play Imbewu Yesizwe: The Nation's Seed which he co-wrote with Luthando Ngema, Tshimanga Tsheteya and Darnell Fortune.  Inspired by the international experience and training received there Bheki came back to Durban, South Africa to take over as ARROWSA Bechet coordinator from Mary Lange and he rehearsed and performed Imbewu Yesizwe: The Nation's Seed for Bechet High School and the public.  In 2014 Bheki went further and co-wrote a sequel namely Imbewu Yesizwe II which was performed by ARROWSA Bechet in May 2014 for Bechet High School Grades 8 to 11 and will be performed for a visiting Indra group from Lucknow, India and the general public later in the year.
Learners across all grades responded enthusiastically to the play Imbewu Yesizwe II.  Bechet High School teachers reported their appreciation of the play and its message of forgiveness. 

Bheki has built up the ARROWSA Bechet group to over 40 talented  participants including some of the oldies such as Darnell and Tsheteya.  The group attended rehearsals diligently even during holiday breaks and assisted  Bheki in choreography, script development and singing direction.

Bheki also performed in Imbewu Yesizwe II both as the narrator and a dancer much to the appreciation of the audience.