A Magical Year

By Heather Gielink

As we prepare for 2023’s curtain call, I look back in awe of this year that was. And what a year! We kicked off by doing what we love most – activating young minds to step away from the pressures and challenges faced in their communities and to gather in the name of fun, fantasy, and creativity. Over 100 participants from Westlake and Khayelitsha came together during the DCAS holiday programme in their respective communities. The weeklong programme in early January brought inspiration and mindfulness to the participants who stretched their imagination – telling stories, and creating plays, costumes, and props. Last day: nerves and excitement electrified the spaces as bright-eyed performers got ready to give the performance of their lives! Drumming reverberated through the halls, accompanied by groovy dance moves, sweet songs, and heart-melting action.

This was not the last for holiday programmes. October had more in store with Guardians of The Deep’s Eco Club at Soetwater’s Eco Centre. The lightning-fast ideas bolted out of the group, oftentimes leaving me, the facilitator, being the one who’s directed. “Geesh! Was I this creative at their age?” I find myself questioning.

I can bet my last lollipop that Jungle’s facilitators have the same line of questioning at their Creative Arts Club sessions that run during the school terms. The weekly activities across 5 clubs stretch far and wide: from Khayelitsha to Hout Bay, and crescendos to a colourful festival in November, where club participants from different walks of life mingle and make, what we like to call, ‘Jungle magic’.

The thing about Jungle magic is that it can’t keep still. It’s infectious and tends to travel a lot! Flowing into the Cederberg, we brought River of Life and Bongi Bird performances at Wolfie Family Festival in February. River of Life meandered around schools in the Overberg in early March. What good is a tour without a home performance, right? Bongi Bird and River of Life, along with Hoerikwaggo spread some magic at the infamous Zabalaza Festival, whose audiences always feel like home to us. Both River of Life and Hoerikwaggo were hot off the first term’s run of the annual African Folktales Festival.

But that wasn’t the end for festivals or tours. Taking the newly created Elephants come Home (a title change from Ouma Olifant/Mandlovu) to be part of the Franschhoek Literary Festival was something special, almost predestined! Organisers let us in on some trivia, that the town and surrounds where the tour is set to take place, is situated not too far from the…get this… Olifantsrivier!

Allow me to dwell a little on this production. This was the first Jungle Theatre production that your scribe created. The play was the final product which came out of the Theatre and Development Programme that commenced in early February. Jungle welcomed Marvin Safoor at the same time, to its fold of multi-talented artists. This process was truly special and stretched me creatively as well as from a place of leadership and responsibility. The final offering was beautiful. The genesis of its creation was a Kenyan folktale. As work on the floor continued and the story emerged, it became evident how this story of humans and elephants drew strong parallels to South Africa’s turbulent history and current socio-economic crises and the resilience we possess as a nation to forgive and to move from a desire to understand our collective stories. Vincent Meyburgh, thank you Oupa Jungle for holding my hand throughout this wild journey of creation. Honestly, I still haven’t wrapped my brain around the fact that you won’t be around to check in on things – a Zoom call, please!

The Elephants did come Home to Muizenberg as part of the June run of the annual African Folktale Festival, accompanied by When Lion Had Wings. The final part of the festival was held in the last week of September’s school term with performances of Dassie’s Tale and Python and the Qunube Tree.

I pause to take a moment to appreciate all the schools that brought their learners to experience live performances throughout the year and in many cases, giving learners their very first experience of theatre. Also, to all the schools who invited us to bring theatre to them – thank you for hosting us!

This appreciation extends to all partners, donors, and friends, who’ve invited us to either perform or be part of their networks and ensure that we keep lighting up stages in communities across the province and beyond. Jungle looks forward to partnering with old and new stakeholders in the new year to bring that signature magic to our beneficiaries.

PS: We have some exciting projects brewing for 2024! We’ve already kicked off our Thundafund Campaign in aid of raising funds for our Creative Arts Clubs next year. Artists from in and around Muizenberg will come together for a Sensory Fusion Festival to awaken your artistic senses. It will take place from the 11th to 13th of April next year at the Masque Theatre, in celebration of their 65th birthday!

To donate to our Thundafund campaign please click here

With all that has been said, Jungle wishes you a happy, safe, and prosperous festive season!