THIS past week I attended a Jikinya function at Mabutweni Hall. The last time I was at that venue was long back — I don’t really remember what the function then was about but I remember very well that Beatar Mangethe was still alive and famous because after the function a friend walked me through Mabutweni and showed me the house where Beatar once stayed in. (May her soul rest in peace). That was long back and during that time the hall was in a better state than it is now. Now the state of neglect is beyond shocking. The performance area (stage) is so bad, and very dangerous that organisers of the competitions had to ask the young dancers to perform on the floor, away from the stage.
Sadly Mabutweni Hall is not the only city council hall in a bad shape. Macdonald Hall, Stanley Hall and others have become a danger to those that use these venues, especially for performances. I believe if as a city or even as a nation we are serious about performing arts in schools and within our communities we should also be serious about the venues and spaces we expect to see these performances being done — at least they must be safe for our performers.
So there I was eMabutweni in a hall full to the brim with excited students ready to showcase their different talents. There were about six primary schools gathered to compete in the different disciplines of choir, percussion and dance. Over 400 students, all performers, were jammed into the hall. Four hundred aspiring artistes gathered in one place is a very good number. However, what struck me as very strange was the absence of parents supporting the children. Their absence was haunting and chocking to say the least. Where were the parents? Did they even know their children were performing? Did they even know the kind of talent possessed by their children? And if they were not aware how would they push their children to the next level? These questions flowed in my mind like Umguza river after some heavy rains.
All things being equal parents must always be part and parcel of their children’s cultural and artistic growth. They should be there every time their children are on stage — they should help their children prepare for their performances, help with costumes and other small props that might be needed for the performance. All things being equal parents must be aware of their children’s talents and should be part of those nurturing it.
Sadly, their total absence at Mabutweni Hall said something very profound — that parents are too busy with other things to be bothered about their children’s artistic and cultural growth.
Parental support can change children’s attitudes towards whatever activity they participate in at school.
I have observed the same with secondary schools competitions too. Children/students tend to perform for each other.
No parents or outside audience come to appreciate their talents. But if we are preparing these young people aspiring for the world out there they need to start performing for an audience — not fellow competitors.
Anyway away from the absence of parents and the sad state of the venue the event itself went well and without any accident. The young ECD classes that did percussion looked beautiful in their costumes.
Some were standing before an audience for the first time. The choirs too, looking bigger, more confident in their colourful uniforms performed well.
The traditional dance section was full of energy and even attracted people who were passing outside the hall. The heads and teachers were also having a great time. It was a great day of cultural activities.