Net vir Pret is an NPO and PBO in Barrydale which is devoted to social development – they run an enormous range of programmes – amongst others: sport, after-school care, holiday school and farm school outreach, Young Leaders, Matric Outreach, Bursary funding, jazz, pottery, craft, cycling, rieldans and Blikkies Band, and Project Hope, which aims to give hope and healing to school drop outs in conflict with the law.
The Annual Parade The Net Vir Pret Puppet Parade and Performance is a landmark annual arts event in the creative and unique farming village of Barrydale. Every year the parade draws puppeteers, musicians, performers and public not just locally but from all around the world, to work with the local children to celebrate and explore powerful, relevant issues of community, conservation and heritage through the art of puppetry.
What is particularly moving about the Parade is how it physically brings together the different sections of the community, historically and geographically divided in the apartheid era. From one side of town mainly inhabited by white people – amongst them many artists and creatives, spiritual and peace seeking individuals, and a good proportion of lively, feisty retirees, comes one side of the parade, led by children and puppeteers who come to meet them – accompanied by musicians and dancers. When they arrive at the meeting place at BF Oosthuizen School on the brow of a hill halfway between the two main living areas, they meet the second parade. This comes from Smitsville, the area inhabited mostly by the ‘coloured’ community – direct descendants of the Hessequa Khoi. More children and puppeteers have led the way – and now the whole group combines and enter the school en-masse to watch the play unfold.
Past parades have told stories of Khoi traditional and cultural beliefs, of slavery, of relationships between people and the earth on which we live. This year the focus is on the devastating effect of rhino poaching – and how international poaching syndicates are systematically preying on our most endangered large animal, the rhinoceros.
Ukwanda puppet makers, ln association with the Centre for Humanities Research at the University of the Western Cape will bring life-size Rhinos to Barrydale which will parade and perform amongst hundreds of puppets designed and created by local school learners through Net Vir Pret. Aja Marneweck is directing and the original music for the production will be composed by Peter Takelo and Gary Crawford, local residents.
Peter Takelo is passionate about his work – his aim in life is to reconnect young people with their cultural heritage and their roots. The Khoikhoi had a rich culture and spirituality, but they were very vulnerable to the encroachment of the first European settlers who arrived after 1652. They quickly lost most of their grazing land and their cattle, and a large number of them were killed in a smallpox epidemic starting in 1713. Within two generations they ceased to exist as a separate entity, with many survivors working as farm labourers. South African history and national consciousness came to be dominated by the stories and cultures of the descendants of the Bantu-speaking farming groups and the European settlers. So Peter seeks to redress this balance and uses the medium of dance and music to bring young people a sense of pride in their heritage.
He teaches them rieldans –an ancient celebratory dance performed by the San (or Bushmen), Nama and Khoi. It is considered one of the oldest dancing styles of indigenous South Africa. Danced at an energetic pace and demanding very fast and precise footwork it tells stories of daily life as well as celebrating ancestors and relationships with nature and animals imitating animals like baboons, ostriches, snakes and meerkat.
There are now 96 active rieldans groups, and the national championships are held every year in Paarl – Peter enters teams of children from Barrydale – some as young as five years old – and they always come away with cups and medals.
Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. Lewis Carroll
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