By: Dick Scanlan
In preparation for a game I want to play with the kids at Nkosi’s Haven, “Trivial Pursuit: The artsINSIDEOUT Edition,” I compiled a list of the volunteers who’ve been part of our team since our first program here in 2011: 53.
I was astonished. I was thinking, “It must be over three dozen.”
Since Kobi Libii (Team Member 2012-15) suggested that artsINSIDEOUT expand the number of South African artists on its team—which in each of our first two years totaled two—we’ve done precisely that. This year, 8 of our 18 team members are South African. One of them is a Co-On-Site Administrator, a crucial role in managing a team this large. Another is our director, who will decide how the work the teachers are doing in the classroom will fit together in a presentation that is cohesive despite having been developed simultaneously in two different classrooms. And of our nine returning teachers, six are South African. The result is a community of artists that I’ve come to love and admire, and that can (and do!) take the kids to shows, dance concerts, interactive arts festivals and all sorts of cultural outings year-round.
The expansion Kobi and I discussed in 2012 is so complete that virtually all of artsINSIDEOUT’s classes are taught “zonke-bonke.” Both are Zulu words; zonke (pronounced zonky) means “ all of it” and bonke (pronounced bonky) means “all of them.” Practically speaking, it means using English, using Zulu, using all cultural references available, none with more weight than the other, none understood by everybody which makes all of it understood by all.
Another thing that floors me is how the kids remember songs and exercises we taught them in 2011, and touched on since. Some of the veteran ASTEP volunteers are dumbfounded when they start teaching a fairly complex game with words and movement. They get three words of instruction out, and the kids are off and running. In some cases, these are children who are too young to have been part of artsINSIDEOUT in those early years, so they’ve learned the games from the older residents here—and learned them perfectly. The history of artsINSIDEOUT is now part of their history. Indeed, for the kids under 13, they can’t remember a time when artsINSIDEOUT didn’t show up every June for a few weeks of intense arts training that culminated in a show.
They are thrilled that, once again, this year’s show will be off-campus at the Lab at the Market Theatre—the Market Theatre being where Athol Fugard developed many of his groundbreaking, Apartheid-shattering plays. We’re expanding our time off-campus, too, this year: we’ve rented several nearby studios so we’ll hold classes off campus for the entire second week, and we’ll be able to more effectively integrate the younger kids into the production, and the moms as well.
Speaking about the moms, the second most significant change in artsINSIDEOUT is the inclusion of the moms. It started as one-off workshops the held by the teachers, and the response from the moms was so overwhelming, in 2014 we added two moms teachers to focus on the mothers. So much of the moms’ energy and focus is on the children, and for them to be the center of attention for a change brings out the most unexpected, moving and fun colors imaginable. Working with the moms is truly zonke-bonke because, in general, the moms are not as fluent in English. Working with them is also what’s made artsINSIDEOUT part of the entire community here. They’ve made us part of the Nkosi’s family.
All 53 of us.