Grahamstown Art Festival

Art brings people together. If there is one thing that I learnt on the trip to the Grahamstown Children’s Art Festival, that’s it. If I could reverse time to when I first stepped into our sunlit dorm at St Andrew’s I would. Since I can’t do that physically I might as well take you – the reader – on a journey.

At exactly 03h15, my alarm went off. I slapped on my red school tracksuit and threw myself into the car as we sped off to the airport. It was still very dark outside but seeing all my friends chatting excitedly at the check-in made it a lot less scary. After all, we were leaving the comforts of home to venture forth, without our parents, to a whole other province!

Soon enough, we were high in the sky watching the sunrise as we flew over towns, fields and then, Port Elizabeth. After landing, we collected our bags, and sat down on the bus, but the travelling wasn’t over! We drove up the coast to stop at SANCCOB, a penguin rehabilitation centre. We met Philippa, a teacher at the centre, who told us all about the penguin residents, educated us about the dangers of plastic to their species and showed us pictures of the surrounding islands with their mass penguin populations.

We made a pit stop at Pick n Pay and then made our way to the beach. The beach was coated in golden sand and even though the weather was nippy, we took off our socks and shoes and ran across the dunes with the white lighthouse watching over us, happy not to be constricted in an air-tight metal machine in the sky. As evening approached, we arrived at St Andrew’s, a boarding school that would be our home and festival host for the next few days. Once we had settled into our dorms, we ran outside to play soccer and converse with the other visiting schools – Clarendon and Selborne. We then
met our counsellors – Aviwe and Naz – who would look after us during the festival.

The next few days were filled with nothing but pure fun. Every day was on a time-strict schedule that allowed us to experience every aspect of the festival right there! We made countless crafts: tie-dye shirts, picture frames, key holders, pencil cases.

We also attended many workshops, all taught by different people. We did physical theatre, acting classes, and all of the schools even got to bust out moves with two performers who starred in some of the biggest shows of the year! And of course, there were the shows. The St Mary’s girls were separated into two groups and we all did different activities during the day, but when we all sat down in the theatre – no matter what show it was, how big the venue or what the genre – we were all connected.

We saw 10 shows and every single time we laughed, we cried and we experienced. We are not all friends – I definitely didn’t speak to everyone on that trip but … that didn’t matter. I found myself in a room with people from all walks of life enjoying something so powerful yet so simple. It brought us together. Whether we were watching comedy, clowning, drama or dance, we all were together. Even if we didn’t say a word, Grahamstown drew us into one big spider web of a trip that we will continue to tell our family and friends about for years to come. Art truly does bring people together.

Tessa Dagut
Grade 7