Well today has been a ‘once in a lifetime’ day! African Impact were involved in a Community Day, which was a bit like one of our Eistedfodds but with extremely loud music, (think rock concert level) a hall packed with about 800 people, and vaguely organised chaos!
On our way up to the community (the equivalent of a village back in the UK) where it was being held, we passed a funeral. We had seen two long marquees and a road lined with cars from the bottom of the hill, and when we got there we had to stop to let the funeral procession pass. It was amazing and very moving, and reminded me of a very old James Bond film with Roger Moore as 007, where there is a funeral scene in the black community in New Orleans. There was a brass band with its members all dressed in uniforms of blue and white. Following the band were close family and the ladies all wore white and blue too, which are the colours they wear to church. (People go to church here wearing a uniform) There were dozens of people in the procession and they were heading down the hill to the marquee, which we had just passed and seen that it was already filled with people. Apparently a rather prominent person had died, and the whole community had turned out to pay their respects.
Myself and the Business Manager Stuart were guest judges at the community day, and we’d been told that the competition part of the day might last up to a couple of hours. It was due to start at 09.15, but that was 09.15 ‘African time’. It actually started at about 11.00 and the competition finished at 3.15 p.m. which was about 3 hours too long! Until we got there, nobody had been able to tell us exactly how many entries there were in each category, and the programme of events was a handwritten list probably compiled this morning! There were two other judges, one of whom was wearing bright yellow trousers, a blue checked shirt, and patent shoes with no socks – interesting look!
We took most of the staff from the lodge with us, and they had a great time. Nonnie, our chef, really has a great time whenever there is music, and can’t stop her feet and arms from dancing! She really is a wonderful character, and there are always peels of laughter coming from the kitchen here.
Our intern Andrea organised a sale of the clothes that have been donated from volunteers- we took about 10 assorted bags and boxes full of clothes, and sold them for between R2 and R20, which is 12p – £1.20. It ended up being like a jumble sale, but most of them sold. When we were setting up the table with the clothes, people kept coming & going through the door next to us. I assumed it was a toilet, but when I glanced inside it was a store room where the meat was being prepared for cooking. It was being cut up and was originally in a wheelbarrow. Needless to say I didn’t partake!
The music was so loud that we had to go outside to speak to each other before the competitions started, and when judging, Stuart & I had to shout into each other’s ears – my ears are still ringing a few hours later. Below is our group with Andrea struggling to cope with the noise!
I was aware that the hall was filling up but couldn’t believe it when I turned round and saw just how many people were piling in.
It got to the point where people were standing outside looking through the windows, and I had visions of our table (which was at the front) being pushed forwards towards the stage with the sheer tide of bodies. When there was a popular performance the crowd was cheering and screaming – The X-Factor judges must have a similar experience with the noise behind them, but that’s where the similarities end! Occasionally during performances people would rush onto the stage and give the performers gifts of money, sunglasses, hats and even an umbrella for some bizarre reason. Women would dash up and mop the performers brows too – in the middle of the performance! One of the banks in South Africa (Absa) sent a few representatives – I don’t know why- but one of them gave a short speech – she was animated and working the crowd – a complete contrast to what would happen in the Western world – it would be somebody in a power suit standing at a podium with notes in front of him or her!
All in all, a very strange and different experience, but one that was absolutely amazing! Here are some of the performers.
And when the competition had finished, people just came up onto the stage and started dancing. I’m sure dancing is in the blood here – nobody seems self-conscious and they just loose themselves in the rhythm of the music. The photo below is taken from the back of the stage and shows the table where I was seated as one of the judges!