The sound of young voices harmonises like a well rehearsed choir, leading me to a guitar-playing Argentinean accompanying a dozen boys, half chanting, half singing but mainly having fun.
For ten days during the National Arts Festival, local street children learn various artistic and performance skills from professional performers at the Art Factory. They also receive a cooked lunch.
The Art Factory, a collaboration between Sakhuluntu Cultural Group and the National Arts Festival, has recruited the youths in an effort to equip them with life skills and help them improve the quality of their lives through art. The impact is two-fold.
Sakhuluntu hopes to provide a source of enthusiasm and purpose for children who may be feeling unmotivated as a result of their circumstances. At the same time, the participants are able to put their newly learned skills into practice and earn a bit of money during the Festival.
As artists arrived in Grahamstown and registered with the National Arts Festival they were told about the project and asked if they wanted to participate.
Sakhuluntu chairperson Merran Marr said she was pleased with the response so far.
“Since the project started (on Saturday) there have been a few very helpful artists.”
The promise of ten fun-filled days and meals and the prospect of learning something new was all it took to recruit more than a dozen children. Marr was initially concerned they would just come for the meal and not return the next day for the programme, but was pleasantly surprised when almost all of them pitched up, eager to get working.
“It was so good to see the kids returning, and to see the level of engagement they have is amazing,” says Marr.
Two of the volunteer teachers are Argentinean performers from Proyekto 34°, and are currently here as part of the Hands on! Masks Off! programme.
When Juan-Manuel Caputo offered the children his guitar, they playfully pushed one another in their excitement to be the chosen student.
Cristian Palacios, who among other things showed the children how to do a pyramid formation, said teaching them had been fantastic.
“My English is not so good but even the language difference is not an impediment,” he said.
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