Monday, June 23, 2008

17 Grebel students in Durban, South AfricaSeventeen Conrad Grebel University College students traveled to Durban, South Africa on a 19-day music culture trip in May 2008. They attended concerts, visited AIDS clinics, met anti-apartheid and refugee workers, visited local markets, beaches and slums. They also unexpectedly found themselves in the midst of the violence that plagued South Africa in May.

The trip was led by Grebel Music professor Carol Ann Weaver and singer Rebecca Campbell. Students were able to receive either Music or Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) credit.

A highlight was the all-night Isicathamiya Male Choral Music Competition where groups of men danced and sang traditional, unaccompanied Zulu choral music.The group also attended a four-hour church service in KwaMashu Township where they were given songbooks so they could sing along phonetically. At the end of the service, their van was blocked by a locked car, so eight men lifted the car out of the way. In the same township, the group visited a secondary school where they were greeted by several hundred young Zulu voices. Weaver and Campbell also performed at this school.  

Students described the experience as life-changing. While students were sobered by the harsh realities of apartheid, AIDS, poverty and violence, they also saw signs of hope.

Michelle Van Rassel, a first-year Music student, said:

South Africa is evidence of a miracle. A culture of hatred has been overpowered by truth, grace and humility. Although the corruption, anger and violence left over from apartheid aren’t completely snuffed out, these things are not supported by society, which is hopeful. My hope is not for the success of one life but for the peacefulness of the entire planet.

A number of students are considering returning to South Africa to teach, study or work in the community, while others are integrating the experience into their life in Canada.

What I bring back with me is a broader understanding of the world, so that I can apply new convictions gained from South Africa to my local community,

said Music and Environmental Studies graduate Hingman Leung.

Weaver said:

The impact of this trip has been huge, profound, and invaluable for us, with exciting dialogues beginning and continuing with South Africans who so eagerly allowed us to learn from their lives and culture. This trip allowed us to begin to understand, and hopefully communicate to our own communities something of the mystery, beauty, complications, pains, frustrations and sheer joy of these cross-cultural experiences. Our world is a small place, but sometimes we need to go outside our comfort zone to understand how much we don’t know, and how much we would like to learn about other people, their realities and their expressions.

Weaver will offer a new Music/PACS course, “African Music and Peace,” in winter of 2009, to further explore some of the experiences of this South African travel course.

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