Trading Live for Mandela Day is an annual, joint initiative of the Directorates of Community Engagement and Human Resources at Rhodes University, with various NGOs and activist groups in Grahamstown.
Trading Live for Mandela Day is an annual, joint initiative of the Directorates of Community Engagement and Human Resources at Rhodes University, with various NGOs and activist groups in Grahamstown.
Started 2012, it celebrates Nelson Mandela’s birthday by giving Rhodes University staff and students a chance to volunteer at least 67 minutes of their time to a worthy cause.
Various campus organisations partner with the Grahamstown community, choosing what they want to 'trade'. This year, some 90-odd events took place across Makana in honour of South Africa's most famous citizen.
Students from the Rhodes School of Journalism were there to capture some of the moments.
“Bend and up. Bend and up. Bend and up. Now turn.”
Eleven little girls stand in a circle doing their utmost to follow a teacher’s instructions during their first ballet class at Boy Boy Mginywa Pre-school in Joza.
Thirty other boys and girls sit and watch as the teachers, with the aid of crèche assistants, tackle the pre-primary ballet syllabus.
With straight backs and necks tilted so that they face the ceiling, hands on hips and feet in first position, they learn to point their tiny toes without “squashing the fairies”.
Skipping, galloping, balancing and jumping — always with pointy toes — the tiny ballerinas move around the room like fairy princesses with their fairy wings, antenna headbands and wands.
When the syllabus is complete the creche teachers join all the children in a big circle to do stretches, standing up and lying down.
The little ones smile and giggle as they lie on their backs and try to get their legs as close to their faces as possible.
I was one of the teachers.
Before leaving with co-teacher Kendal Quicke, we organised to return for weekly ballet classes. Everyone curtsied and we received many sticky kisses on the cheeks.
Hearing 40 voices shouting “bye!” repeatedly, we left believing that there would be many more dance classes in the weeks to come.
Future Grahamstown-born Lara Crofts and Indiana Joneses from Mary Waters Secondary School enjoyed a tour of the Albany Museum last Friday.
Museum education officer Nozipho Madinda showed the 20 pupils around, also explaining the interesting career options they could follow in museums.
From archaeology to various other scientific professions, she said they didn’t have to become teachers or nurses if those jobs didn’t interest them. “You could be a palaeontologist or a botanist working in the museum. You can do anything,” she said.
Madinda said Albany Museum is the second oldest in the country and is a significant part of Grahamstown’s heritage and future.
The tour started in the planetary room where learners were introduced to fields relating to the study of outer space. The Grade 10 and 11 pupils had plenty of questions, like 'why is Pluto no longer a planet?’ and whether dreams did come true after wishing on a shooting star.
The most interest was roused by a presentation of the Eastern Cape’s natural history, given by museum officer Luvuyo Mayi.
Mayi stressed the importance of knowledge regarding our rich fossil heritage. “Our ancestors took the time to carve out their landscapes for us,” he said “and we must do the same for our children”.
After the tour several pupils expressed interest in the field of archaeology, especially after seeing movies such as Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider.
Thirteen members of the Rhodes housekeeping staff volunteered two hours of their time last Friday to give Noncedu Pre-school some professional cleansing attention, leaving behind a haven of cleanliness and ordered creativity.
Cleaning staff supervisor Sylvia Maqanda said they were happy to do things like wash floors and windows at the pre-school. “We are cleaners and we are proud of it. Now when the community asks us what we do at Rhodes, they can see,” she said.
“We are happy to take 67 minutes for Mandela,” Maqanda said, “We are happy to come, which is why we are smiling all the time.”
Siphokazi Yako, another cleaner, heartily agrees with Maqanda: “Mandela has done a lot for us. We are free today because of him.”
Thembi Fuku, one of the cleaners, was especially happy with their choice to volunteer at Noncedu. “I wanted to clean here because I have grandchildren. The children at this pre-school are also all grandchildren,” Fuku said.
Rhodes University housekeeping staff gather their cleaning equipment after making Noncedu Pre-school squeaky-clean for Mandela Day. Photo: Stephanie Papini
Sakhuluntu Cultural Group gave traditional Xhosa dancing lessons to a group of Rhodes students from Lillian Britten House at the Botanical Gardens.
Sakhuluntu juniors kicked off the event with a performance, followed by lessons from the Sakhuluntu seniors. They also sang dongs about Mandela accompanied by lively clapping, dancing and drumming.
Primrose Shakwane, Lillian Britten community engagement and environmental representative, said she had learned a lot in 67 minutes. “It is always fun to interact with people who are different from you, to learn their culture and dance moves,” she said.
Sakhuluntu founder and coordinator, Vuyo Booi, expressed delight at the event. “We are all children of Mandela,” he said, adding that the day should be celebrated by all humanity.
Booi, however, said there is a persisting gap between people of different races in South Africa. “Mandela played his part, it is left to us to free our minds from racial segregation,” he said.
Booi believes Mandela Day should be taken to all sectors of Grahamstown and Rhodes University should merge its community engagement ideas with local people. “I believe it would be better if we are included in the plans, rather than being always invited when plans have been finalised,” he said.
Six girls from Lillian Britten attended the event, somewhat less than had been hoped for. “I wish a lot of people from my house had come here,” Shakwane said. “I would encourage everybody to come and participate.”
“We must use time wisely and forever realise that the time is always ripe to do right.”
These astute words uttered by Tata Madiba himself set the tone for the unravelling of festivities at St Mary’s Day Care Centre.
Rhodes University Community Engagement members hoped to impart relaxing yoga techniques on a group or energetic children ranging from age seven to 10.
Instructor Puleng Naketsane had the challenging task of warming the class up with a few stretches. Soon enough the buzz of voices hushed to a hum as the space filled with outstretched limbs bending in all directions.
Being an observer was not an option, as little hands pulled me in to join the circle.
The bodies and spirits of these youngsters were kept at peace for as long as humanly possible, but excitement soon turned the planned yoga session into a dance-off.
This incorporated the popular kick-boxing aerobic martial art form, tae-bo, and was accompanied by Black Eyed Peas song ‘Party Rock Anthem’.
In spite of the change in plans, new friends were made and the atmosphere of fun and laughter was felt by everyone. The gift of imparting joy and happiness to others is what Mandela day is all about.
St Mary’s Day Care Centre kids reach for the stars during their yoga class with instructor Puleng Naketsane. Excitement soon transformed the relaxing stretches into an action-packed tae-bo dance-off though. Photo: Niamh Walsh- Vorster
Raglan Road Pre-school is seldom quiet. With at least 100 children between two-and-a-half and six years old, how could it be otherwise?
Last Friday morning though, one classroom was particularly noisy, with about half the school shouting, jumping and running between its blue-and-yellow postered walls.
Teachers watched from the side lines as seven Rhodes students from the early childhood literacy society, Inkwenkwezi, took charge, armed with nothing but sheets of A3 paper, paint and paintbrushes.
For this community-wide Mandela Day, the society’s painting workshop was what they were “Trading Live”.
After Inkwenkwezi committee member Mapula Maponya observed that another local pre-school’s classroom walls had scant decoration, helping children to create their own seemed a simple and fun idea.
However, the day primarily marked the start of the society’s involvement in “super-early” childhood education, society chairperson Hannah McDonald said. Currently, Inkwenkwezi only gives primary school pupils literacy skills.
“This lets us see how they are doing research-wise, so later we can contact them and say, ‘Last time we saw you, you needed this and this… now we can help you with that…’. The possibilities are endless,” McDonald said.
The Raglan Road teachers were happy to oblige.
“They learn a lot from the [Rhodes] students,” Nombulelo Teyise said, explaining that the change of scenery and interacting with people from all races makes the experience very enriching for the pre-schoolers.
At the predominantly Xhosa-medium school, it also helps them learn English, added teacher Sister Zondani, which they need for primary school interviews and future learning.
But above all, the day was one for enjoyment.
“The teachers are wonderful, the kids are amazing. We had a lot of fun,” McDonald said, once the pictures of people and houses were complete and all remaining paint pots had become decidedly brown.
But don’t take her word for it.
“It was nice today,” two-and-a-half-year-old Inathi Mbiza shyly said in isXhosa. After washing her hands she followed their classmates outside to play some final games with the Inkwenkwezi girls – before their next visit, anyway.
Yogita Kunvar shared some family secrets and ancient Eastern wisdom on healthy cooking at an Indian cooking workshop at the Rhodes Human Kinetics and Ergonomics Department.
“That’s something I learned from my mom,” the Masters students says, pouring boiling water into a mixture of softened mung beans and grated tomatoes.
Her mother is an ayurvedic nutritionist, an ancient Indian medicinal practice that focuses on balancing tastes for individual body types. Kunvar’s cooking reflects this. “Whatever is made is made with a conscious awareness of health.”
Adding cumin seeds to a sizzling pot, she adds: “The tempering of the spices release the curative properties.” The cumin counteracts the wind from the mung bean, she explains, “It brings the body back into balance.”
The heady aroma of spices draws the four workshop participants away from their seats to huddle around the stove. It even tempts a robin that waddled in through the back door.
“This is like Masterchef. We’re having a master class,” quips participant Andrew Todd.
As the bird waits for some stray crumbs, Kunvar prepares a raita side dish. Participants get involved in the process, grating cucumber that is then mixed with yoghurt, coriander and cumin.
“I always thought it’s for curries, and that’s where it stays,” Jono Davy says of cumin.
Davy, much like a Masterchef judge, comments on a slightly burnt poppadum. “You’re imbibing the Indian and you don’t even know it,” Kunvar jests in response.
Before her 67 minutes are up, Kunvar’s mung dish was cooked and the rest of the time is spent eating. After a few minutes of silent digging in, peppered with “oohs, aahs” and “mmms”, the tasters give glowing verdicts.
No criticisms about presentation or texture – perhaps it wasn’t quite Masterchef then, but it was still a useful 67 minutes.
The Rhodes University department of Human Kinetics and Ergonomics (HKE) hosted five students at a workshop designed to show them how they could train in their rooms and eat a more nutritious diet.
Jonathan Davy, a PhD student in the HKE department, said the workshop forms part of a broader community project aimed at helping people to take control of their own exercise routines and living a healthy life.
The project is aimed at people who may not be able to afford a gym membership and may not be aware of the elements of a healthy lifestyle. Davy said their goal is to “to understand humans in all spheres”.
The workshop was divided into three sections: an exercise presentation, a workout session and a nutritional talk. The presentation highlighted 44 basic exercises that can be done using mainly one’s body weight.
Then 10 personal trainers form the Rhodes Health Suite demonstrated the exercises to the men, from Cullen Bowles residence, and asked them to try it themselves. Simple things like moving ones arms further apart in a push-up to get better results were explained.
They concluded with a talk on nutritional information, highlighting the importance of eating right.
The workshop showed how easy it is to exercise in the comforts of one’s own room.
A young man with sheepskin slippers, dreadlocks and a large red beanie stands in front of 20 people at the Rhodes English Department and performs a poem in isiXhosa. He is one of three Grahamstown poets who were invited to collaborate in honour of Mandela Day.
“My name is Uliswe – call me Word,” he says when he’s finished. “I’m a writer. This is my crew,” he says and gestures to his two friends. They have been performing together for 12 years and have a very close bond, which is clear in how they joke around but also through how they appreciate each other’s art.
One of them, who goes by the moniker ‘Zion Eyes’, had a poem called ‘Voices from the silences of women’, which was dedicated to rape victims. His poetry was concerned with unequal society and the need for Ubuntu. When he’s not working on his poetry Zion Eyes writes for Grocott’s Mail and tries his hand at theatre directing as well.
Deborah Seddon, a lecturer at the English Department, arranged the event. “We organised this poetry reading to celebrate the life of Mandela,” she said. “We hope to have a longer-term relationship with them.”
The third poet, Andile, performed a poem called ‘21 Slum Salute’. His style was very rhythmic and the audience was captivated from the start. All three poets were not only good writers but also engaging performers, as they crossed the language barrier and presented a very entertaining way to honour Nelson Mandela.
Students from the Department also read poems. Most were of their own creation but some read well-known poems, such as ‘Ulysses’ by Alfred Lord Tennyson. The event was clearly enjoyed by everyone present and is hopefully the first of many collaborations between the English Department and artists from Grahamstown.
Monica Hendricks, head of the Institute for the Study of English in Africa, took a team to Little Flower Day Care Centre for a fun filled visit with stories, kite flying and a lesson on planting trees.
They were greeted by cheerful songs from the smiling toddlers and were immediately embraced by the warmth of Lungelwa Mtwala, the director of the school.
They kicked off story time with “What are you doing?” which was a fitting question to ponder on this day, followed by a story about the adventures of a kite and kite flying. This turned out to be difficult as most had not flown a kite since childhood, but the children seemed to find it just as entertaining.
The older children were then able to help Hendricks plant the beginnings of a hedge around one of the school’s fences. This provided a great educational moment as they were shown how to care for plants and the importance of not damaging the roots. This was a great way to end the visit as the future generation of leaders are nurtured in a South Africa that Mandela helped to save.
We all left feeling encouraged to do more to give back to the community. So what are you doing?
Photo: Tiffany Majero
Rhodes University’s housekeeping delighted participants with traditional Zulu and gumboot dancing lessons that thrust them into a Mardi Gras of colour, beads, tassels, heavy boots, animal skin, and jingle dresses.
There wasn’t a person in the room who wasn’t smiling or jiving along to the rhythm in the Emfundweni building, at the Rhodes University Community Engagement centre.
During the gumboot dancing, the crew cried “attention!” while slapping their boots and thumping their feet into the ground.
The ongoing beat and rhythm was enthralling and utterly hypnotic, as the dancers advanced their audience in a looming, determined fashion; made more intimidating only by the Rhodes University grounds staff ‘whites’ uniform they were wearing.
The dancers demanded the devotion of spectators.
The spell of the gumboots was only broken when the Zulu dancers, in all their colour, took to the floor in celebratory dance. Standing in an arc around one member, they took turns in commanding centre stage while the rest sang, smiled, danced, clapped their hands, and ululated in sheer elation.
The defining feature of the dance was its volume – the performance was loud. As the piece reached its crescendo the main dancer performed high-flying kicks that landed him flat down on the floor; much to the ecstasy of fellow performers, who cheered and petered off with laughter and panting.
The event culminated in the two groups merging and colliding with ferocious intensity. The dominance of the gumboots collided with the rhythmic luminosity of the Zulu celebration to create an unreal experience for the viewer.
The noise was a spectacle to behold – at its apex, the din was so loud that curious faces were spellbindingly drawn to peer into the crack in the door. At this point audience members were invited, nay, summoned up to join in the dancing and the smiles around the room only grew further.
All of the members danced until they had nothing left to give. They spoke about the origin of both the Zulu and gumboot dancing, so along with the jubilant carnival of dance and colour, there was also enlightening information to be had; albeit through sweaty brows and panting breaths.
One dancer said afterwards: “Although this was hard, it was all done for Mandela – to celebrate the actions he did for our country.”
It is safe to say that Mandela would certainly have been proud of the 67 minutes given by the Rhodes University housekeeping staff and the few participants from the audience.
For the second year young women from Courtenay-Laitmer Dining Hall at Rhodes have spent their 67 minutes of service covering and sorting books at the Grahamstown Community Library on Currie Street.
The handful of students gathered in the tiny library also helped to insert security strips into the spines of many non-fiction books.
“I don’t understand why more people don’t want to do this,” said Roxanne Thomas, a sub warden from Courtenay-Laitmer Hall. “It’s not strenuous and it’s a great way to start your weekend; knowing that you did something good for someone else.”
In between the laughs and excitement of helping out, the students had to be humorously reminded by librarian, Melanie Daniels, to keep the noise levels down. “It is important that we get people in who are enthusiastic about the library,” said Daniels.
The library caters not only to school children, but also to many adults who need constant assistance. Library staff are kept so busy throughout the day they rarely get a chance to maintain the books.
“We, as a Hall, are hoping to get more involved in working with the Community Library, so that we can send students out here more often,” said Warden Veronica Moodley, who joined the students for the day.
Moodley would like to see the 67 minutes turn into a regular service in which the students help the library every Friday.
Nelson Mandela, himself once said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” For the women of Courtenay-Laitmer, community engagement projects involving education are greatly valued.
“Mandla stood for education and we should try to help build up education any way we can,” said student Sekai Chirenje.
Vibrant music and rhythmic slapping of gumboots against skin celebrated Mandela Day last week as Amasango dancers shared their love of dance with members of Rhodes University’s Student Representative Council (SRC). The entertainment kicked off at 11:30 on Friday 26 July with dancers from Amasongo School entertaining the SRC with traditional Zulu dancing and gumboot dancing.
They then took the SRC members through thier paces. Later, the SRC painted a classroom at Amasango as part of thank-you.
“When we submitted our trade-off, I wanted it to be something fun for the SRC," laughed community engagement councillor Thabo Sheshoka.
"I wanted dancing lessons because I knew the SRC really couldn’t dance. I found it really amazing because it gave me the chance to actually interact with the community as opposed to doing admin, policy and meetings. It is something the entire SRC could get involved in.”
Added SRC Oppidan Councillor Sixolile Timothy: “I think the whole thing is about interacting with the community. We group together in the spirit of giving and getting. It is a fun project."
The dancers also enjoyed teaching the SRC to dance according to gumboot dancer Siphokazi Liwani. “It is my dream to dance; I I like teaching it to other people a lot.”
Dancing teacher Bukiwe Goqo could not agree more: “It is Mandela’s birthday and we are very happy to be doing something good."
The SRC found that dancing was not as easy as they thought when they joined in a traditional Zulu dance with the girls and a gumboot dance with the boys, before joining the dancers for well-deserved cool drinks.
Students from Kuyasa School for the severely mentally handicapped received a cooked meal and dessert consisting of chocolate cupcakes and ice cream from the Centre for Higher Education Research, Teaching and Learning (CHERTL) as part of the Trading Live, the local celebration of Nelson Mandela's 95th birthday.
Many organisations and volunteers joined hands to complete their 67 minutes on Rhodes University’s makeshift version of Mandela day on Friday 26 July.
Lynn Quinn, the head of CHERTL, said that her team chose to bring home-cooked meals to Kuyasa School for a bit of change from last year’s proceedings when groceries were bought for the House of Joy.
“We wanted to step it up and put in a bit more effort by cooking,” Quinn said.
Kuyasa School has about 140 pupils with mental and learning disabilities. The kids, who have no matric certificates, are taught skills from which they can make a career. “We want them to be able to take the skills home and sell something from nothing,” Elisma Hawlier, the educator for the skills and internship group said. “Right now we are teaching them how to make cat scratch polls with some carpet that we had lying around.”
Hawlier’s class and the vocational class, taught by Khuthala George, sat to a meal of roasted chicken, potato bake, garlic bread and vegetables. Grace was sung and the teenagers ate as they chatted.
One of the preschool children looked on at the activities. Ruddie, a chatty eight-year old grabbed one of the volunteers' water bottles, emptied it on the ground and started drawing smiley faces with the droplets. Hawlier greeted him with a hug as some of the volunteers started to leave.
CHERTL is an academic department at Rhodes University that aims to develop teaching and learning in higher education.
It was not a case that too many cooks spoil the broth when students of Drostdy Hall gathered to conduct a cooking class for Guy Butler residents as part of the Trading Live for Nelson Mandela Day events last week.
The Prince Alfred road was turned into a makeshift kitchen on Saturday, 27 July with the sound of sizzling onions and whipped cream competing with sights of dollops of tart being layered enticed for the attention of students of Guy Butler Hall as they learnt how to make spaghetti bolognaise and a peppermint tart.
Gender stereotypes were frayed as both male and female students of Drostdy Hall shared cooking tips.
“I found it unusual that there were not that many confident cooks in the male residence, mainly because in my childhood, if you can’t cook you won’t eat,” said James Drury, community engagement rep for Graham House.
More than just a cooking demonstration, the afternoon turned into an interactive session when the Guy Butler gentlemen and their warden, Jono Davy, assisted with some of the recipe steps, while sharing laughs with the Drostdy students.
“Community service doesn’t have to correspond with helping underprivileged people only,” said Danica Laios, who helped to make the tart.
“I think that this touches on an important part of community engagement, I don’t think that it necessarily has to be about the disenfranchised all the time but can also include those who are actually within our immediate community who we never interact with,” added Drury.
The productive session ended with a meal being shared between the students.
The Botanical Gardens were filled with song and dance as the Rhodes English Department and the Jabez Aids Health Centre swopped skills in the true spirit of the Mandela Day Trading Live initiative.
The English Department hosted a poetry reading, which was attended by a group of Grahamstown poets headed by writer Nthuthu Blow. In return, children of the Jabez Orphaned and Vulnerable Children’s program taught the group isiXhosa songs, which is what they had requested, but they also performed plays and sang.
“The whole system is a give and receive. So it’s not just a kind of charity thing,” said Deborah Seddon, a lecturer in the English Department.
“The drama was completely unanticipated,” she added. “What I thought was so amazing was how brilliant the kids are in terms of embodying much older people.”
One of the songs that the children performed was about Nelson Mandela. “Basically it’s saying there’s no one like him who could spend 27 years in jail, fighting for the freedom of the whole of South Africa,” said Ayabonga Mnqanqeni from Love Life. “Most of these songs are a tribute to Mandela and his selflessness.”
Mnqanqeni helped with directing the plays, which were mostly written by the scholars with an educational role in mind. “We learn life skills and talk about HIV and Aids with them,” he said.
Andrew Tudhope, an English Honours student, said the experience left him feeling “educated and enlightened”.
“We received as much as we gave this morning,” Seddon said. “I think the whole day is a really good idea because it gets people in touch with people that they wouldn’t normally get in touch with, and also to get a better sense of the larger Grahamstown community.”
The two groups finished off the morning by banding together to sing a rousing version of Shosholoza.
Members of the English Department show off their newly-learned dancing skills to go with their Limpopo River Song. Photo: Kendra Dykman
Children from the Jabez AIDS Health Center perform in plays and dances in the Grahamstown Botanical Gardens as a part of Trading Live for Mandela Day on Friday, July 26, 2013. Situated in extension 9 of the Joza location in Grahamstown, the Jabez AIDS Health Centre is a non-profit organisation (NPO) that cares for people infected and affected by HIV and AIDS. Photo: Jason Cooper
Pupils from St Phillips Pre-Primary School collect litter at the Raglan Road Clinic as part of the Trading Live Mandela Day. Photo: Kate Janse van Rensburg.
See a series of short video clips made by Rhodes University School of Journalism students here!