(Published - 4 December 2019)
What will happen if humanity continues on our course of the overuse and abuse of the planet and its resources? What will the world look like when we’ve poisoned the Earth so much that we can no longer live here, and humanity finally causes its own extinction? What will be left?
These are some pretty weighty ideas to explore with puppets - but that is just what The Final Spring aims to do at the 10th annual Barrydale Giant Puppet Parade and Performance this December.
“The Final Spring weaves a story of survival and hope in an Afro-futuristic world after a planetary ecological catastrophe which wipes out all of humanity,” says CHR@UWC-based puppetry artist and visual theatre maker, Aja Marneweck, who is directing the unique event. “With only the most resilient and quirky of insects surviving in the post apocalyptic landscapes of the Klein Karoo, the last bees and plants become the greatest treasures of our dying planet - at least in the eyes of a curious visitor from another planet, come to check out the mess we’ve made.”
With dramaturgy by Donna Kouter of Net vir Pret, and assisted by puppetry directors Siphokazi Mpofu, Luyanda Ngodlwana and Sipho Ngxola of Ukwanda Puppetry Arts and Design Company based in Cape Town, the large-scale creative production will explore the concerns of our global climate crisis and the imminent threats of ecological disaster to our planet.
“In recent weeks it has been reported on how more than 6 million protestors around the globe, across time zones, cultures and generations, including thousands of school-going children, have joined in international movements calling for urgent action on the escalating ecological emergency facing the planet,” explains Marneweck. “The Final Spring invites us to imagine where that can take us, and entices us to look at our planet through different eyes, from the micro-view of insects, whom we mostly ignore, but who are left to clean up the consequences of our actions.”
The production will showcase the latest puppet creations by Luyanda Nogodlwana, from the award-winning Ukwanda, who are also fellows of the Factory of the Arts at the CHR@UWC, supported through the DST-NRF Flagship in Critical Thought in the Humanities. Performing amongst hundreds of puppets designed by Clarisa Jonas and created by local school learners through Net Vir Pret, under the mentorship of puppet maker Jill Joubert, an impressive cast of more than 150 performers will bring the story of The Final Spring to life.
Rural-Urban Mobilities: Helping Youth Dream Big - And Achieve
The Barrydale Performance, a partnership between Net vir Pret and the Centre for Humanities Research at the University of the Western Cape, is a highlight on the South African creative calendar for young and old alike, and brings community performers together with leading artists from South Africa and around the world, offering a truly unique experience. This landmark public performance event is part of the Barrydale Arts Meander (BAM) which is organised by the award winning Magpie Arts Collective - a feast of creativity in which many galleries and artists in the town open their doors to the public for the whole weekend.
“The event engages more than 200 local community members, youths and children. The community co-creates the parade and performance, using puppetry as a metaphoric and mythic tool to explore their own complex legacies of identity, cultural heritage, ecology and community,” Marneweck notes. “The process offers the community an artistic engagement, not only with making and creating original puppets, but also with magical realist thinking and experiences. It also facilitates a creative exploration of the possibility for self and communal renewal in this complex landscape.”
Barrydale is an isolated village on the edge of the Karoo, some 290 km from Cape Town. The project is in its 10th year and works with children and young people in the village and on the surrounding farms.
“The scripting of the production has involved the Barrydale community, and particularly youth members of the community - who also help to build the puppets.” Prof Lalu notes. “Many of these youths go on to higher education institutions, and bring their experiences and skills into processes of education - some of them are undergrads at UWC right now.”
The performance is the culmination of a year-long exploration of a particular theme by the CHR - the theme this year being Robots & Insects. Earlier this year, the CHR took a group of youth from Barrydale to Sutherland to explore the incredible telescope employed there, meet astrophysicists, and be inspired.
“People in rural areas can feel trapped, unable to see a wider world beyond - in much the same way that young people are trapped in the geographies of apartheid in the cities,” says Prof Lalu. “With this project we want to help them cross the rural-urban divide, and build a bridge between the world they find themselves in, and the world they dream of.”
It’s a different way of looking at a familiar problem.
“The Barrydale Reconciliation Day Festival has become a model for building shared rural-urban projects,” says Prof Premesh Lalu of the Centre for Humanities Research. “It helps develop new ways for thinking about how we build educational links between universities and spheres of public culture, and how they can challenge and enhance our understanding of the human condition.”
The Final Spring will be performed on Sunday, 15 December at 6:30pm at BF Oosthuizen Primary School, Tinley Street, 6750 Barrydale. All are welcome.