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KZN’s ‘got talent’: Culture@ Kearsney

| November 16, 2015 | 0 Comments

By Sue Miles

Unlike professional companies, exhibition groups and orchestras, secondary education teachers of art, drama, dance and music generally work in isolation within their schools, with limited opportunity to share their vision, challenges and triumphs on a broader scale.

Culture@Kearsney was established by Kearsney College in 2013, to provide these teachers and their students from across KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) with a platform to display and share their creativity and talent. The programme aims to celebrate and promote the arts in all its forms – including one-act plays, slam poetry, dance and movement, fine art and photography, as well as a choral festival.

“By bringing together schools in the province, we hope to provide the opportunity for young people to be inspired by the arts and to inspire others to appreciate the talent found in all our schools,” says Kearsney College principal, Elwyn van den Aardweg.

Ain’t no stopping them

This year’s Culture@Kearsney saw exciting growth, with significant increases in the number of entrants, participating schools and the size of audiences. Diversely talented young performers showcased a proudly South African festival that cut across racial, social and economic divides.

In many schools, cultural pursuits are often curtailed by budgetary constraints. The Culture@Kearsney programme allows schools to realise their cultural dreams without unnecessary limitation, whilst also encouraging them to interact with likeminded creative individuals. We give them a stage on which to entertain, and the opportunity to benchmark themselves against others in a vibrant environment.

“Kearsney is providing the platform needed to showcase the talent that abounds in all of our schools. Without the enthusiasm and, more importantly, the involvement of the community, we cannot make a success of this initiative,” Van den Aardweg says. “We want our community to be enthralled by the talents of the youth and we want to draw other communities together through arts and culture.”

Independent and state schools from the greater Durban and Pietermaritzburg areas, the North and South Coasts, as well as Zululand, have participated in various Culture@Kearsney events.

Falling under the umbrella of Culture@Kearsney, the Dance@Kearsney, Art@Kearsney, Music@Kearsney, Drama@Kearsney and Words@Kearsney programmes are held at various times throughout the year in the college’s outstanding facilities on its Botha’s Hill campus.

A celebration of snapshots

The visual arts category incorporates two separate components: fine arts and photography, providing multiple opportunities for learners to express themselves and to develop aesthetic sensitivity. It allows the visual artists of tomorrow to learn from each other today.

The photographic component encourages anyone with a camera to express their creative flair. Influenced by the immediacy of digital devices, only photographs taken with a cellphone, tablet, GoPro or disposable plastic camera could be used this year; the use of conventional cameras was not permitted.

More than 300 entries were received this year –
vibrant and edgy, soulful and delightful – reflecting a
richness of artistic talent in this year’s competition,
themed ‘Documenting our lives’. Entries were submitted
in five categories: School Life (fun, sad, happy or odd everyday moments, at break-times or in the classroom,
on the sports field or in the boarding house); My
Favourite Place; My Awesome Pet; Journalistic Shot (something that is dramatic, newsworthy and interesting); and Best Selfie Shot.

An independent panel of professional judges was overwhelmed by the high standard submitted by young photographers from across the province.

If you can dream it, you can dance it

In the glorious Dance@Kearsney component, dancers from 10 schools pirouetted, ‘krumped’ (a street dance) and jived across the stage in the three-night celebration of dance and movement. For some performers, this was their first experience of dancing in public, away from their own school stage; for others, it was an opportunity to choreograph their first dance sequence; and for some other urban youth, it was yet another magical moment of creative expression.

The recent surge in interest in the world of contemporary dance ensured that schools celebrated movement and dance sequences with dynamic routines designed to ‘Tell a story’. Each school chose their own style of dancing, ensuring a programme that was as diverse as the schools the dancers represented.

Daring drama and magnificent music

One-act plays form an essential element in many schools’ cultural calendars. The glory for the winning play, however, is usually limited to a title and perhaps points for the house. These amateur works often unearth talents that exist outside the formal drama classroom, but sadly the experience is often not shared with other learners, in their own or other schools.

The Drama@Kearsney component provides dramatists the opportunity to showcase their talents to a much wider audience on a stage equipped with world-class sound and lighting facilities. Schools were invited to enter a one-act play – either an original script written by a pupil at the school, an extract adapted from a short story, or a full-length play. The emphasis was on the pupils producing, directing and performing in the plays without the input of adult professionals.

The Music@Kearsney choir festival is a harmonious get- together of choirs from across KZN in a friendly, non- competitive environment, where choristers and music colleagues can meet, socialise and learn from each other.

The choir festivals also aim to highlight choirs from disadvantaged communities, assisting in the building of bridges across cultural, racial and economic divides and promoting peace and tolerance through the power of music. This year, Kearsney’s own international award-winning choir added its signature style of vibrant, energetic music-making to the stage, to round off two evenings of inspiring song.

The healing power of the arts

A new aspect introduced to Culture@Kearsney this year was slam poetry, in which participants offered impromptu ‘slamming’, which was judged by audience members. Words@Kearsney also inspired learners to participate in an exciting manifestation of poetry and creative writing.

Van den Aardweg says Kearsney advocates healthy participation in festivals, as opposed to endless judging that produces winners and losers – for, in the words of author Ayn Rand: “A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.”


1. See, for example: aynrand141517.html.

Category: Summer 2015

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