The forced suspension of this years’ carnival became a bridge of opportunities for a larger number of Cape Town communities, performers, artists and artisans from across the Northern and Western Cape took part. In preparation for the 2021 Cape Town Carnival, a monthly open, on-line workshop is being held, reaching out to historic communities and cultures and broadens the diversity that will be shown on our streets.

Designed to keep participants in its year-long community-driven programme connected and inspired despite lockdown challenges, the first two-hour workshop – “In the Footsteps of the First Artists” – focused on reclaiming our identity as individuals, and as a nation, with specific exploration of South Africa’s First Peoples, with guest Chief John Jansen of the Cochoqua Khoisan tribe.

Workshop participants were introduced to the origins of human creativity with a moving performance by recording artist, musician and facilitator Glen Arendse of Khoi Konnexion, who played a traditional mouthbow to awaken imagination, thoughts and feelings, inspired by ancestral memory. “The sound and vibration the bow produces, connects with a very ancient part of us, deep inside, beyond words,” says Arendse. “Part of its mystery is that it shows us how instinctively talented and gifted the San and Khoi-Khoi were and are.”

Arendse, one of three musicians from the acclaimed Khoi Khonnexion group, uses a variety of indigenous and contemporary instruments including percussion, hand-drums, shakers, rattles, mbira, flutes, whistles, guitar and found material to perform deeply moving musical experiences. “Part of my mission is to bring attention to the rich heritage of our first nation,” says Arendse. “The mouthbow, for example, is a means of awakening the imagination, thoughts and feelings around the talent of the San and Khoi-Khoi.”

Western Cape Khoisan Council leader Chief John Jansen of the Cochoqua Khoisan introduced two greetings from the KhoeKhoegowab language which prompted group activity pronouncing the words using African clicks and vowels. In conversation with artist, curator and social-cultural adviser Khanyisile Mbongwa, Chief Jansen emphasized the importance of reclaiming one’s identity, and Khoisan culture and heritage in particular, as part of healing our humanity. On the remarkable legacy of Southern African rock art, Jansen commented “The cultural insights we can gain from these visual legacies are tremendous. They are treasures to humanity. They change behaviour through awareness. They are the Khoisan’s title deeds.”

Photo by Chris Hitchcock / CTCTT

Examples of artistic symbolism in rock art were shared, including the eland, exquisitely depicted in rock etchings and paintings and regarded as a spirit animal by the Khoi and San. Franco Pascoe, workshop coordinator at Cape Town Carnival, addressed participants from the Carnival’s workshop in Maitland, giving a behind-the-scenes preview of the giant eland sculpture in the making that was originally scheduled to appear in this year’s Carnival street parade in March, but will now appear at the next major Carnival event.

The Cape Town Carnival is a big street parade and cultural party, bringing representatives of different communities to showcase their best colors and celebration traditions. African bits and an explosion of shades that shows the best of our Rainbow Nation, every year at mid-March.

With our borders now open for travel, make it your business to get to Cape Town.


Recommended Posts