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German youth enjoy Jozi hospitality
12 March 2009

German students got a lesson in African rhythm and dance at the Bag Factory

People in Joburg are friendly and open minded, says a group of German student councillors who are in the city on a cultural exchange programme.

The visitors put on their dancing shoes in a day filled with fun
The visitors put on their dancing shoes in a day filled with fun

WITH singing, dancing and the sound of traditional African drums, a group of student councillors from Hamburg, in Germany got a taste of life in Johannesburg.

The young councillors arrived in Joburg on 6 March, and four days later visited the Johannesburg Art Gallery, the Bag Factory and the Victory Theatre.

To kick start the day, they breakfasted at Lebo’s Backpackers in Soweto, before heading off to the council offices in Braamfontein to pick up two Joburg student councillors.

The group then went to the Johannesburg Art Gallery, where Nomava Makalima, a tour guide at the gallery was waiting for them. They visited the Thami Mnyele and Medu Art Ensemble Retrospective, which honours the memory of the late Thami Mnyele, a South African resistance artist who died at the hands of apartheid security forces in the 1980s.

Mnyele, an artist from Alexandra, was committed to bringing about social change in the country through art. From the gallery it was across town to the Bag Factory in Fordsburg, in the west. Here the learners had fun with games that taught them to make their own musical sounds.

Commenting on their experiences in Joburg, the chairman of the Hamburg student council, Frederic Rupprecht, said, “The people and the way of thinking here in South Africa are open minded, unlike in Germany.

“A practical example is that, on our first day when we arrived here, people were very friendly. Now, if you came to Germany and you were a stranger, people would not even bother making time to say hi.”

Rupprecht was also impressed by the history of the country. “The history of South Africa is not something that you can learn and understand from just reading books; you have to come here and feel it.”

The day ended at the Victory Theatre in Newtown, where they watched Umoja – the spirit of togetherness for two hours packed with song and dance. The production celebrates African culture as it progresses from traditional to modern, from the earliest rhythms to kwaito.

Throughout their day, the group was accompanied by members of the Democracy Begins in Conversation project (DBIC). The project began three years ago as a partnership between the Living Together Institute and Constitution Hill.

“Democracy Begins in Conversation is a Saturday school at Constitution Hill that brings together youth from townships and the inner city to learn about democracy and how to apply it,” said Betsi Pendry, the project manager.

The Germans will be in Joburg until 17 March. Their visit is the first part of a two-way exchange programme, with members of the Joburg Student Council visiting the European country later in the year.

According to a press release, the aim of the cultural exchange programme is to provide students, who have displayed leadership ability, with an opportunity to prepare them as leaders on an international level.

“The exposure and understanding of the culture, customs and habits of people from other countries will position the youth to think globally, provide ethical leadership, embrace diversity and creatively provide services to their communities.”

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Last Updated on 10 January 2013