On July 20, 2019, several Voices from the Heart members shared memories of the trip to South Africa in the summer of 2018 accompanied by a slideshow of pictures.
The Copper Military Statue Comes Alive
There are too many experiences to really select one that stands out. That said, the power of connecting with the people whether singing, dancing, or talking were the most moving and memorable. One experience in particular stands out when a group of about 12 of us walked to the Victoria & Alfred Water Front Park across from our hotel to eat dinner. As we walked through the main square, a marimba band played. The lead player was in fact the teacher from Music Works, the non-profit that received our primary donation. He immediately jumped off the stage, gave us all big hugs and then jumped back on stage to play a tune he knew we knew. We started to sing and dance and people shopping and ambling stopped to listen. Slightly off to one side of the stage was a man who was a “living statue” dressed in a copper military outfit…his skin was painted copper, everything was copper. He stood military straight, not moving until we began to sing and dance. I then saw him smile and sway and eventually come off his platform to watch us. We finished, went on our way, and after dinner we walked back through the main square. The living statue was still there. As we walked by, he began to sing the song we had sung earlier and we all stopped laughed and sang with him…he then started talking with us, asked us how we sang the words of the song so well and perfectly in his language. Where did we learn this? Of course our wonderful director taught it all to us. He went on to explain that he couldn’t help but come down from his platform to watch us .He was so moved that a group of white American people could sing his country’s song so well. It felt honoring of him, his people, and his culture. These connections made will always stay in my heart and will remain the highlight of this trip for me.
Written by: Cheryl Booth
When Voices from the Heart sisters travel we like to sing - at our concerts, in our busses, but also in shops, hotels, airplanes, parks, restaurants - really just about anywhere a few of us have gathered. We did this all over South Africa. We sang South African songs in South African languages and danced the native steps. On one occasion a few of us met at the “Watershed” in Cape Town. It’s a place for a collaborative of South African artists, many of them women, to sell their work - ceramics, textiles, jewelry, fashion, etc. We gathered in front of a favorite jeweler and began to sing and dance the South African song “Amavolovolo.” Within seconds local women from all over the warehouse ran up to join us. We made one big group and danced and sang in the native tongue. We joined together and my heart was lifted as I watched these women rejoice and sing and dance and smile and laugh with us - welcoming us to their beautiful land.
A taxi driver named Vanny drove 4 of us to hike Lion’s Head Mountain. When he heard our story he refused to take any money and insisted on waiting for us at the bottom of the mountain.Two hours later he was there waiting. In the taxi he asked us to sing a song. We gave it our all and sang the South African National Anthem. Vanny sang along - and his utter joy reinforced how meaningful and rewarding our trip really was.
Ten of us hiked up Table Mountain. Once at the top we could see all the beauty below - tall cliffs of grey and brown stone, the contour of False Bay, sage, lavender, and brown fynbos, and the Cape of Good Hope. On the descent, with a view of Cape Town and Robben Island - where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison - we stopped to sing “Thula Sizwe” in Xhosa, a native language of South Africa. Translated: “Hush nation, do not cry, our God will protect us. Freedom - We will get it.”
Written by: Ashley Lapp
On Tuesday, July 31st we boarded our buses, dressed in our now infamous black and purple regalia, and headed to the Amy Foundation not exactly sure what to expect. The Amy Foundation is named after an American student Amy Biehl whose life was tragically cut short during a political act of violence in 1993. Amy was committed to making a difference in South Africa and the foundations mission is “to weave a barrier against violence through a holistic approach to community development in disadvantaged communities in and around Cape Town.” To put it in perspective, only 43% of South African students who enter first grade graduate high school.
Upon arriving we were treated like royalty and learned all about their skills development programs that teach vocational skills and hands on experience in areas including beauty and wellness, craft and design as well as hospitality. The youth in the program that day had carefully crafted lists to acknowledge our groups various dietary restrictions, worked double time to finish handbags that members in our group wanted to purchase and offered massages that helped work out the knots we developed on the million hour flight to get there.
The real magic, however, began when the music started. From the emotional rendition of “Another Train” sung by our amazing Hallie Fuller to which several youth wanted to have sung on repeat - to shocking them with our South African repertoire and dance moves; music is what united us. We laughed, we danced, and sometimes we cried as we shared this special lifechanging day with them. The invisible wall that society continues to weave through our lives fell down that day at the Amy Foundation to allow us to become one collective community who share a love of music. The African philosophy, Ubuntu, comes to mind as I reflect on that experience – believe in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity.