Entry 7: June 24, 2009
As I am beginning my preparation to return home I have some time to reflect upon my experiences here in South Africa, both as a Fulbright Scholar, as a dancer and an educator interested in transformative education.
I have learned about “transitional justice” in a society that is still, 15 years after apartheid, searching for ways to find equality in education, jobs, wages, housing, services … especially economically where most of the wealth is still held by whites. And, the “psychological legacies” left by an apartheid government, are even more difficult to address as old attitudes, values and beliefs remain imprinted in how one thinks and behaves. Yet, there is a consciousness of the needed changes and a commitment from most South Africans to become the democracy as envisioned by their new constitution.
The development of a “new South African” identity is still in its infancy. People still live their lives mostly defined by the color of their skin. Segregation of people in where they live, go to school, find jobs, swim, eat, shop continue. Seeing couples of different races is still rare. Gender violence, men on women and girls, is a major problem for the society. Most every week a rape case is reported in the local paper. Most violence is found in the Townships where it is perpetrated on their own neighbors and families.
My personal experience has been one of gratitude to all the people who shared their lives with me – from the group at Gloria Jeans, our local coffee hangout, to the students who opened up their lives to me through my dance work, and Desmond Tutu who prayed with me.
I leave with a full heart which has been filled with kind and gentle people, magnificent scenery, good food, new friends, many invigorating conversations, a better understanding of the difference between “restorative justice” and “retributive justice,” a renewed appreciation for my own work in the arts and education, and a desire to return soon.
I have been fortunate to receive an invitation from the “World Alliance for Arts Education” to participate as a speaker for their 2009 WAAE Summit. The summit is being held to prepare strategic proposals for the second UNESCO World Conference in Arts Education, held May 2010 in Seoul, South Korea. The Summit also aims to develop a paradigm of education capable of nurturing sustainable development, global solidarity, cooperation and human rights.
I look forward to returning to Meredith’s campus where I can continue my work in education towards a more peaceful and just world.
Entry 6: May 15
Jacob Zuma is now the third elected president of South Africa. Election time was full of events. A new party developed out of the ANC (African National Congress) called COPE (Congress of the People). This development came about because of dissention over the deposing of the previous president Mbeki, as well as other issues including corruption, the policy on AIDS, and lack of progress on poverty. The only provincial government in which the ANC did not win was the Western Cape which includes Cape Town. The Western Cape is now governed by the DA (Democratic Alliance) headed by Helen Zille. She has come under fire this week as she named her cabinet, which included only men, and mostly white.
In the midst of this excitement, I have completed my choreography piece which will be performed for the public on May 20th. I will conclude rehearsals this Saturday with recorded interviews of the students which will focus on what they have learned about themselves, others, their culture and the global community around issues of female identity, and specifically African identity.
Last week I also had the pleasure of working with primary dance educators from the Western Cape. Twenty-six teachers attended the workshop and we spent the afternoon discussing teaching dance in the schools. I found the teachers talked about many of the same issues we have in our schools in North Carolina; over-crowding of classrooms, the influence of outcome based assessment on dance, the value of the dance/arts in the larger curriculum, teacher preparation programs, and resources available to students and teachers. I will be teaching a workshop for the secondary teachers in June.
I have had some visitors including family and friends. This has helped me to continue my role as visitor while here over a longer period of time. I have included a couple of touring pictures.
Entry 5: April 1, 2009
It is hard to believe that 1/2 of my time here in South Africa has gone by. I have now been visiting three different schools, observing dance classes and interviewing students and teachers over a period of two months.
The work has been fascinating as I have explored the relationship between the constitution, curriculum and the everyday practice in the classroom. I have learned that most of the changes since apartheid, in terms of the educational system, are more evident at the structural level rather than classroom. You find students attending schools that they might not have been able to attend, schools in Townships with more economic support from the government, and students from different races and backgrounds studying together in the same class for the first time. It is evident that the society still remains heavily segregated when visiting schools, housing areas, shopping areas, restaurants or cultural events.
My work on my choreographic project has now been going on for two months. I meet the students on Saturdays and we spend a couple of hours together. The issue that I have focused on for the dance is “hair.” The project has brought together colored, black and white students from an area township and from the UCT Dance program. Together we have discussed how hair, female hair, is another way that culture shapes and labels identity. Here, in South Africa, being blond not only has the stigma of “being dumb” but it also carries an economic repercussion – that is because of the Black Economic Empowerment government program – being white and blonde makes it difficult to gain employment. On the other hand, as one dancer explained, having dread locks also is an economic hindrance. Dreadlocks here in South Africa are perceived as worn by someone who is Rastafarian (vegetarian, pot-smoking, undependable); in the negative sense.
We have had many rich discussions where, both the young black and colored students from the Township and the more middle-class white students from UCT, have shared how their own lives have been shaped by how they think and feel about their hair as shaped by their culture and the larger global culture. During the project I have been video taping our discussions and the process for creating the dance out of “the stories of their own lives.” The project will conclude with an evening performance on May 20th.
The next two weeks are school holidays and the semester ends early June with exams. I will be traveling toward the Eastern Cape for a few days holiday!
Entry 4: February 23, 2009
I have been able to travel to two of the Townships in the Western Cape. One, Kayalitsha (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khayelitsha) which is the second largest township in South Africa. Soweto is the largest. I am working with one high school in this area. The other Township I visited was in Hout Bay, where the Jikeleza dance students (http://www.jikeleza.co.za/), that I am working with in my choreographic project, live.
I am observing dance classes in three different high schools. One has a population of mostly black, one coloured and the other white. In South Africa there are four distinct racial and ethnic distinctions, black, coloured, white and Indian. Issues of racial identity are very important here as it determines which area you live in, what schools you attend, what opportunities are available, who you date or marry, and whether or not you receive an education which will prepare you for matric exams which determines if you can attend universities.
What are called government (public) schools can be subsidized by parents which means in a more affluent area parents pay higher tuitions so that students are provided with many more resources for learning and teacher salaries are subsidized.
One way in which the government is trying to equalize education has been to develop Arts and Culture focused schools. In these schools, located within more deprived areas, the government is providing more funding. For example funding has been provided to build fully functional and equipped dance studios for dance classes and they have providing computers for libraries. Almost all students pay some amount of tuition to attend public schools, as well as buy uniforms. After working with some of the young women who find themselves in intolerable and oppressive conditions, I am astonished by their ability to keep their dignity, determination and hope.
Entry 3: February 1, 2009
I have had a couple of very busy weeks. After meeting with the University of Cape Town Dance Faculty I met with, and interviewed, Jennifer Van Papendorp, who is the Deputy Chief Education Specialist: Dance, Arts and Culture for the Western Cape. I had met Jenny a couple of times before at conferences concerning dance education for children.
As head of curriculum for dance, she has directed the development of the new dance curriculum to meet the visions and values of the new South African Constitution. As stated in an overview publication; “The curriculum can play a vital role in creating awareness of the relationship between human rights, a healthy environment, social justice and inclusivity.” Since the 1996 Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (Act No 108 of 1996), the curriculum has gone through several revisions. One of the major difficulties is the eleven official languages of the people of SA.
The Manifesto on Values, Education and Democracy identifies ten fundamental values of the Constitution. These are:
- Social Justice and Equity
- Non- Racism and Non-Sexism
- Ubuntu (Human Dignity)
- An Open Society
- The Rule of Law
With such an agenda there are significant obstacles to be addressed including: continuing racial and ethnic discrimination, deep economic inequality, continued sexism, violence, drug abuse and sexual violence, lack of qualified teachers and teacher education programs, and lack of equal access to decent schooling. There is no system that helps in addressing racial and economic balance of students within schools. Therefore, you can find great differences in resources between the public schools and many of the more wealthy white students are sent to private schools. I will begin observing dance in several schools as students get into their new term which began last week.
Entry 2: January 16, 2009
I had my first meeting with the University of Cape Town Dance Department Head Gerard Samuel and Sharon Friedman, who teaches the dance education students at UCT. We are working together to set up my choreography project, which will focus on gender identity of high school girls and "girl gangs." I may be able to work with students from one of the Townships along with some of the UCT dance majors. The UCT dance students will engage in learning about my pedagogic process which focuses on creating a dance story about the lives of the students who are participating in the project—in this case, the focus will be on "What it means to be a 'girl'" within the student's own communities and "What it means to be 'feminine." When you use the term community here it refers to a disadvantaged group.
I am enjoying the warm weather and different culture which is always providing a rich and complex set of views regarding race, class, gender, and education. The political situation here is interesting with the split in the dominant party, ANC (African National Congress), the party of Nelson Mandela. It seems that I will be here fornational elections which will occur in April. I am joining other American friends on Tuesday to celebrate the inauguration of our new president.
Journal Entry 1:
The time has come... Preparing to Leave for South Africa
FBI Fingerprints have cleared,
TB and Malaria tests too
Cat sent to son, dog to daughter and car to sister.
Books boxed and mailed, house readied for sitters,
Hot tub chlorinated, gutters de-cluttered, last of holiday chocolates eaten
Suitcases filled to the brim.
Students advised, syllabi shared, reports written,
Proposal reviewed, contacts made
Apartment and car rented in SA.
Finding the sunscreen, bathing suits and sandals,
Arriving mid-summer will seem kind of strange
But I am now ready for the cultural adventure.
Wishing you ALL best for the New Year – 2009!