Scott Leff In South Africa

I was selected to go on the Global Ed trip to South Africa this year. The trip truly changed my life. South Africa is a country that comes from a rough and complicated history. When Vasco De Gamma rounded the cape of good hope, he stopped his ship off in what is now Cape Town. The members of the Cosa Tribe saw these white people and believed that they were their ancestors so they welcomed them with open arms, and so began a history of exploitation. Part of the Cosa coming of age rituals is that when a boy turns 14 or 15, but some do it as late as 21, they go into the bush and get circumcised. They cover themselves in white clay as to make themselves unrecognizable to their ancestors and bond with their fellow members in the bush. Cosa rituals really focus around ones relationship with the ancestors, so when the white people came the Cosa people thought that they were the ghosts of their dead relatives and welcomed them with feats and gifts.

Later when the Dutch East India company was founded, South Africa became the perfect refueling spot for ships to re stock on their way to India. Since the company needed to build in South Africa, and it is incredibly difficult to enslave indigenous people in their home land when there is only a small number of white people, the company began to import slaves from Malaysia to build trading centers. Later dutch people began to move into South Africa and so began the beginnings of the apartheid system. Apartheid is built on the backs of Nazi ideology. If we forcibly separate the race groups than oppression becomes significantly easier.

The wealth gap is incredibly visible in South Africa, even within the townships. When we were in Langa, a township between Cape Town and the air port, one side of the road had two story homes with luxury cars parked in the drive ways, while there were shacks made of corrugated zinc across on the other.

On the Monday after Easter, we paired up with a local Methodist church to assist their youth in their usual service activities. We split int groups and went into the homes of some of the elders in their community. They were homebound, so we brought them large amounts of food so the people living with them would have food to cook with, and then we conducted a church service inside of their home. This was incredibly powerful. The community recognized that aging is not an easy process after a certain bench mark, and went out of their way to ease the burden. The community went beyond helping the physical burden of the aged, but they made an effort to assist their spiritual needs by praying with them.

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Scott’s Reflection on DRA

This year’s dancers responding to aids concert was different than any other I have taken a part of. I really enjoyed the process that I went through to create work for this concert because it was so much more involved than I have ever been. Up until this year, I identified as a dancer, but after this concert I identify as a dancer-choreographer. The process of creating work was amazing and unique and allowed me to be creative in a way that i never have before. Dance is a medium in which you can make a statement without saying a word. There is no guarantee that your audience will understand your statement, but that does not stop dancers and choreographers from making their statements. We go out onto the stage to try and tell a story or talk about an idea because it propels us to move others.

Knowing that the proceeds of the event went to people living with aids, made the concert all the more meaningful. The aids epidemic ravaged this country in a way that very few other events have, and that loss was especially felt in the artistic communities. Being able to raise money for people living with this terrible disease, makes me feel as though I have given back to a community that has already given me so much. This year’s Dancers Responding To Aids concert was especially meaningful because of the people we were able to help, and the opportunity I was given to create.