Guest I.D.I Instructor Debbie Nicholls-Skerritt, was invited to tour with Inica Dance Industries for our 2015 journey to South Africa. One year later, read her personal thoughts about the experience, and "the power and significance of community, connecting to community through dance."
MY SOUTH AFRICAN EXPERIENCE
It has been no secret that I have always felt that my “Spirit was born in South Africa. So to finally go on a journey to this vibrant nation was nothing short of abundant blessings. For that I am truly grateful.
It was such an intimidating thought of traveling 22 hours of air time but the experience of being on Ethiopian Airlines was so wonderful. The moment we boarded the plane there was an immediate sense of comfort. Just the music that was played throughout the flight, and the interaction with the flight attendants, was such a wonderful introduction of the African hospitality that we would encounter for the rest of the trip.
I will never forget witnessing the sunrise from the aircraft about an hour or two prior to landing in Ethiopia- it was majestic! The introduction of striking colours that contrasted the jet black sky, gradually evolved into an emotional experience for me as the sun came up, as we were descending over the mountains of Ethiopia to land. It was such cultural experience alone just to observe the people in transit en route to other destinations from Addis Ababa Airport. Then, we were off to Johannesburg, South Africa.
WE FINALLY ARRIVED!...
One would think after 22 long hours of flying, and a couple hours waiting for our connecting flight, that we would be exhausted, but, the bursting excitement alone was reason enough to stay as “bright eyed and bushy tailed” as we were. We met our soon to be "best friend" Sam, who was the gentleman assigned from the church to pick us up. He quickly became like family to us, as he was such a source of information, laughter and adventure for us the entire time we were there.
One of the memorable moments of my time in South Africa, was meeting the members of the congregation that we were holding workshops for -especially the children. From the very moment that we walked into the dance space, my heart melted. As soon as we were introduced to our students, the loving embraces that welcomed us from these precious students set the tone for the type of relationship that we developed over the short time that we were working with them. Every single dance workshop that we presented, the girls were so engaged, so open and so committed to the process- always with a smile on their faces and a loving hug before and after each and every session. In the short space of time, we got a chance to connect with some of the girls about other interests with respect to future aspirations in life. From those precious moments being so genuine, I said to myself “These are our daughters!”
We were so blessed to have one of the fathers of our dance students take us out for a bit. What was supposed to be a drive to check out the Johannesburg Ballet, ended up being a day full of insight. This wonderful man also grew up in the height of the anti-apartheid revolt during the late 70’s, and into the early 80’s. This spontaneous and powerful day led us into Soweto. We went for a stroll down a lane to take a look at the gorgeous crafts made by local vendors.
Our washroom break happened to be at the Hector Pieterson Museum, where conversation of the political environment during the height of revolution took place. Hector Pieterson was a 13 year old boy whose iconic image was captured as he was dying in the arms of a friend, with his sister running beside them during the Soweto uprisings. The museum that was named after him is dedicated to the students that lost their lives fighting for freedom.
We were told about first hand experiences witnessing the intensity of such a pivotal time in South African history. We ended up being at the museum for over an hour talking and learning. It was so empowering to hear about the bravery of the youth of that generation.
We went back to look at some of the local vendor’s crafts. There was one particular vendor who I could not keep my eyes off of. She reminded me so much of my Grandmother who has transitioned. When I finally decided to go to her stall and look at her beautiful work she said to me, “Welcome home darling!” Without saying a word I walked towards her with tears in my eyes and embraced her. We spent quite some time enjoying,learning and purchasing jewelry from her Zulu culture.
We spent the remainder of the day in Soweto, to hear firsthand how fond South Africans are of Nelson Mandela, (who they affectionately call Madiba), and what he did for the people he loved. It was so great just to be there, just to feel the vibration of the people- it was such a good feeling.
After our workshops were finished, we felt so drawn to go back to the church to attend service with those who have shown so much love and hospitality. What a Sunday it was! Close to the end of service, we were called up on stage. We were honored for traveling all the way from North America, by being given traditional materials representative of various Southern African Tribes. Yet another emotional wave came upon me as the women adorned us with the materials, while they sang and danced around us in gratitude. I was overcome with tears by how beautiful the people of Tembisa were.
After the first church service, we were invited to the church service of an older church down in the heart of the Tembisa Township. Being in the heart of the Township solidified the reason why I long to go back to this great nation. The people, especially the children that we shared our gifts with, were constantly showing us how much they enjoyed their time with us. So many people that we just met, made us feel very much at home.
Our time in South Africa was one that confirmed the power and significance of community.
Connecting to community through dance (a universal language), has been such a powerful bridge for cultural exchange. I knew that we would make a connection, but I didn’t imagine how impactful our journey to South Africa would be.
As much as we went to share and teach, I received so much more from the amazing people that we encountered. I am humbled and blessed to have experienced this trip with Inica Dance Industries.