November 20, 2008

Everybody Dance Now

We had quite the party in Itipini on Wednesday - two dancing troupes, food for hundreds, speeches, and much more - and we had nothing to do with planning it. It was an event designed to celebrate the conclusion of an art workshop put on by the provincial department of arts and culture for some women in Itipini, designed to “heal” them through “art therapy.” (Their words, not mine.) We have had a sporadic and frustrating relationship with this department because they are spasmodically eager to help us and then pay us no mind for months on end.

The preparation was a cultural lesson for me, mainly in how little and disorganized the preparation for an event can be and still lead to success. The planning and run-up to this event deserves a post of its own, with confusion about the dates, who the workshop was for, and so on. Suffice it to say, however, people began showing up in Itipini this morning and they said they were having a party so we just let them go to work.

In fact, I felt a bit like the fish in “Cat in the Hat,” who is continually flummoxed as the Cat brings in unexpected toy after unexpected toy. It seemed that every time I turned around, there was something new coming past me - first one dance troupe, then another, then all the benches for people to sit on, then the pre-schoolers wandering past with their own chairs, and one car after another that blocked up the road more thoroughly than I have ever seen it blocked.
What was particularly entertaining for me is that one dance troupe brought a substantial amount of sound equipment with them. Apparently, no one had told them THERE IS NO ELECTRICITY IN ITIPINI!
We do, however, have a creaky old generator. The last time it was used was when Mkuseli used a power drill on the new swing set and it took three days (I’m not making that up) to get the generator work and even then it could barely handle the drill. I tried to explain it wouldn’t handle the load of all the amplifiers but no one listened. Instead, it became a game of how many people does it take to start a generator. Miraculously, it started but couldn’t even make one microphone work.

One dancing troupe was a group of Thembu women.
The other was a group of Pondo children, with one very dynamic and showy leader. Instead of their sound equipment, they played a CD off a car radio.
It was fun to watch how people from Itipini just joined right in when they felt like it.
Like any good party, it degenerated into an informal dance circle, which was a lot of fun for all involved.Eventually, we got into the act too and I learned a few Xhosa dance steps and showed off what I could remember of Inupiaq dancing from Western Alaska. It became a mixing of cultures that has likely never been seen before… and never will be again!The food was at least two hours late but no one seemed to mind. When it came, the dancing troupes (who were being paid to be there) got fed first while all the hungry people of Itipini waited around to see if there would be any left for them. There was. And there was even some left for the children, the last to be served.

To say that I am a plan-ahead person is like saying the pope is a good Catholic. It’s in my genes. So I always get a little frustrated when people do so little planning and still pull off a successful event. But I suppose I should be happy that everyone in Itipini had such a memorable experience. It certainly was for me.
I've got some video and when I get enough time on a fast-enough Internet connection, I'll try to post some of those too.


Anonymous said...

Just want you to know that one of my visions here is to have an exhibit of all our parish artists. Who knows to what it may lead?