Sunday, March 6, 2011

UMthathi's "Masilimeni Day"

On Friday, 4 March Annie and I attended Umthathi’s Masilimeni Day, which was held at the NGO’s headquarters in Extension 7. This was an educational day, where the facilitators of Umthathi  conducted presentations at different ‘gardening stations’, on how to create a certain kind of garden, and how to plant in that particular garden. The presentations included talks such as how to build and plant in a ‘tower garden’, which is usually built in dry environments which have little fertile soil. Some of the most interesting presentations of the day included a talk on: how to plant organic vegetables properly; how to create one’s own solar cooker, and a talk on traditional plants.
Zolani Zondani, UMthathi Africulture nurseyman

 I had hoped to meet traditional healers whom I would possibly use for my documentary, as Zolani Zondani, the Africulture nurseryman at Umthathi had expected some to arrive at this event. Unfortunately, none of them pitched up. As a result, I only have one traditional healer as a possible source for my documentary so far − Ms Phyllis Nomsebenzi Mnyamana, who worked for over 20 years at Rhodes University, and is now part of the Board of Trustees at Umthathi. Despite this setback on my part, Masilimeni Day was a great success for Umthathi. There was a considerable turnout from the community, where in the first session of the event, there were approximately 10 onlookers in each of the six presentation stations.
Onlookers in the traditional/medicinal plant station

The facilitators gave very good addresses, involving the onlookers in their presentations in different ways. One of the facilitators, for example, encouraged fellow onlookers to answer questions which had been put to him by the group, regarding indigenous plants used for traditional healing. The onlookers were also encouraged to plant in the various presentation stations, where they got to grips with different gardening methods in a practical way. 

A tower garden in its infancy stage

It was a pleasant surprise for me to see how engaging the public was to the various presentation stations in the Masilimeni Day. They were were also willing to get their hands dirty, in experimenting all that they were told at these presentations. They also raised some key questions, from the perspective of the average citizen, which gave me insight on the kind of radio show Annie and I will produce. Questions related, for example, to how one should approach taking traditional medicine and going to the clinic, the dosage one takes of traditional medicine which they may grow for themselves.

The variety of issues showcased in the different presentation stations provided possible depth for the potential radio show. Given that the onlookers clearly also had insights to offer, as part of the discussions that I witnessed, my sense is that they also have a lot to contribute to this show. I also sense is that if we keep this in mind, the  radio show can  indeed be a useful avenue to spread awareness of healthy living, vegetable and medicinal planting and sustainable living. I also noticed that the facilitators, who in previous weeks have been quite distant, were more approachable, and displayed a kind of confidence towards Annie and I, which was had not been evident up to now. They also expressed interest in taking part in the radio show, talking about their respective gardening specialties.

The participatory project is finally gaining momentum. By my next post, Annie and I will have hopefully finalised a time and day of when the first radio show featuring the Umthathi Training Project facilitators will be broadcast on Radio Grahamstown. I will have also, hopefully, have conducted my initial interviews with the traditional healers I will be profiling in my documentary. I am amazed at the pace this project has gained in the past week!
Masilimeni Day participants getting their hands dirty

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