How The Art of Performance is Changing Kids' Lives in South Africa

When you grow up with less, it’s not easy to see your own potential.

Many kids from disadvantaged backgrounds in South Africa believe that their future is tied to their past, and there is nothing more for them beyond their small community.

But there is one organisation, based in Hout Bay, that is using the magical power of performing arts to help the kids in their community to flourish. Tintswalo Atlantic is currently supporting the Amoyo Performing Arts Foundation, an NPO that helps to teach and mentor children from underprivileged communities around Hout Bay; giving them the skills and confidence to create more from life than what was handed to them. We are currently providing much needed support to the organisation, helping with transport, food and general logistical assistance while the lodge is being rebuilt.

To get a better understanding on the organisation, we were invited to attend their term-end live show at a school in Hout Bay, and it was truly something magical.

The show

We were seated inside a school hall in Hout Bay, about to watch the performance, and there was an excited buzz in the audience. These children had been practicing for months for the show, and everyone was keen to see how they would proform. How good can a school show really be?

And then it all began.

The kids—ranging in age from prep-school to high school—stormed on stage and began a remarkable rhythmic composition that involved mesmerising dance, drums, batons and gumboots. The older kids, dressed in blue overalls, rocked an amazing gumboot dance number, and the young class then came on and electrified the audience with a dance song using coke cans for percussion instruments..

The opening number ended in rapturous applause, the majority of us not expecting such a high level of professionalism. The energy in the audience continued to grow as the kids came back on in full piece leotards for the next song; a much slower, elegant dance that was also delivered with ease and confidence. It was clear that this was more than just an amateur school performance.

A Remarkable Story

And it’s true: these kids really are special. They are the latest group of performers to emerge from the Amoyo Performing Arts Foundation in Hout Bay. Amoyo is an NPO that helps to teach and mentor children from underprivileged communities around Hout Bay by introducing them to the unique power of performing arts.

Kim Worrall is one of the founders and is the force behind Amoyo, and she has a passion for children that knows no bounds. As part of the show, Kim came on stage to explain Amoyo’s philosophy: to use the performing arts as a way to unlock children's’ potential; To open their minds to the world beyond their parent’s homes, and to strive towards greatness: university training, overseas jobs and experiences, and ultimately the realisation of their unique talents.

None of these things comes easily. It takes hard work to improve your life and grow as a person. And this is why the performing arts is an important tool in this process. The arts provide structure, discipline and training, helping the children to gain confidence, and ultimately perform wonderful pieces on stage. This artistic process, Kim says, gives the children essential experience for the wider world.

If their performance is any measure, it’s clear that Amoyo is having great results. As the performance went on the talent and hard work came through in each dance, song and play. Another wonderful song had a senior student perform “Tomorrow” with some of the younger kids on the djembe drums, which had the audience still with delight and wonder.

Not all the Amoyo kids will continue into a career in the arts. Rather than push the kids into a specific field, Kim uses the arts as a tool to explore what they really want to do.

Mid-way through the show, Kim introduced seven final year graduates; and each announced their plans once they leave school. They were applying for nursing, air hostessing, biomedical science, nutrition and food technology, professional performing arts, the AFDA film academy and a year au-pairing overseas. Their ambitions seemed as limited as their imaginations.

One of the members of the audience was Delia Sainsbury from the acclaimed Waterfront Theatre College in Cape Town. Kim later introduced one of the Amoyo students, Bulelani Bomeni, who had recently auditioned at the college for their scholarship program. His audition performance was so moving, Kim said, that the judges were moved to tears, and he was given a scholarship on the spot.

At the end of the show, all the kids lined up on stage for a final emotional rendition of “there will be miracles, when you believe.” After which, all the grades came on stage for their final bow. From the early grades, right through to the seniors, we could sense the delight on their faces at the reception of the audience.

Amoyo’s motto is “One child at a time” and the skill showed in the performances was a testament to the organisation’s commitment to helping these children grow do better. But there is a sad reality for Amoyo.

A Sustainable Future

Kim and her team are struggling to continue their program. As passionate as the Amoyo team is, they need ongoing resources to continue to help children on a sustainable basis. With performance space at a minimum in Hout Bay, the number of kids in the program mounting, and the incredible need for guidance and help, Kim is searching for partners to come on board and make the organisation fly as high as the aspirations of the children involved.

Tintswalo Atlantic has been one of the first companies to help, providing transport to kids getting to and from their home to practice. Tintswalo will also be commissioning Amoyo to perform for guests at the lodge; opening up exposure to the many guests who pass through the lodge every year. Every guest will also receive a leaflet showing the wonderful work that Amoyo is doing. With all the ongoing support from Tintswalo, we hope this will lead to more interest in Amoyo, and ultimately a sustainable future for the organisation.

We all left the school hall on a high; a true reflection of great art. We were amazed that underprivileged school kids could perform at such a high level of professionalism. We hope Amoyo continues onward into the future, inspiring many more children; as they find their way to new stages, to new jobs overseas, to universities, and ultimately, adding to the rich fabric of humanity.

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