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Breaking Walls 2016 “Inclusive City” Cape Town

During this turbulent time, a group of 20 teenage artists from Cape Town’s divergent communities  came together to promote peace and unity and start a dialogue: They created a one-of-a-kind theater piece that left a lasting impression on the community.

Breaking Walls, a U.S.-based not-for-profit initiative, empowers young people to discover their voices and offers them a platform from which to speak in their own words. From October 5-9, “BW” premiered its second annual creative writing, performance and peace-building project, with young artists from the Deutsche Internationale Schule Kapstadt, Hout Bay High School of Hangberg, and the Rainbow Dreams Trust in Khayelitsha and Phillippi Townships. These extraordinary artists joined together to express the strength and beauty of the human spirit, inviting the world to build on the platform they created with their voices, dreams, words and production skills.

During the five days of writing and connecting with new places, new faces and unfamiliar cultures, Breaking Walls artists, aged 13 – 15, explored areas deep within themselves, enabling them to “see” they are not alone in their hopes for the future, nor in their fears. Their mission was a timely call to action for Cape Town and the world.

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Founder Fran Tarr, who created Breaking Walls in 2011, had the privilege of leading the 2016 Cape Town initiative. She welcomes the opportunity to share the reflections and creative writing of three 2016 Cape Town artists with you here:

Jesse from Deutsche Internationale Schule Kapstadt:

“This year I was fortunate enough to be a 2016 Breaking Walls Cape Town artist. A friend of mine had taken part in Breaking Walls in 2015 and told me how much she enjoyed it, so I was willing to give it a try.

“All of the artists arrived at the camp on a cold Wednesday morning. We were then taken into the garden to play the first of many team-building games. This game helped us to get to know each others names by simply placing an adjective beginning with the same letter as our names in front of them—I became ‘Juicy Jesse’. After that, we were taken inside and introduced to the first of three writing tasks. We had to tell about our neighbourhoods using the 5 senses as well as ‘hope’ and ‘fear’. This was my favourite writing task of the camp; this is what I wrote:

In my neighbourhood I see the familiar flashy houses and perfect neat lawns.                                 The housekeepers cleaning smiling their greeting.                                                                               Behind the tall walls I rarely capture a glimpse of the people inside.                                                      I see my house, messy, run down and out of place.                                                                                   In my neighbourhood I hear the neighbours six yappy dogs. I hear my dogs barking back in response.                                                                                                                                                           In my neighbourhood I smell the salty sea air, I taste the many braais made next to the pool in summer.                                                                                                                                                           I touch the walls of expensive houses with my dirty fingers. It makes me feel as if I might have messed their perfect lives.                                                                                                                          In my neighbourhood I feel at home but out of place at the same time. In my neighbourhood I hope the few run down houses stay that way.

“We all shared our writing with each other, and it felt as if we got an insight into the other artists’ lives. The second writing task, later that day, was entitled ‘A day without hate…’ and here we had to write about what we envision a day without hate to be like. Many artists mentioned unity, peace, love and respect. Suddenly all the other artists became true artists to me. Listening to them read their idea of a peaceful world was breathtaking. The next day we wrote our last writing piece, ‘I am… I am not…’ Again I was completely taken aback by the level of writing that was being produced. Artists were standing up and defining themselves using powerful statements such as ‘I am who I am and no one else can define me’. These writing pieces touched us.

“From our writing pieces a script was created. We were given lines to perform that we had written ourselves. The script was given to us on the third day of camp and the rehearsals began! We rehearsed most of Friday, starting in small groups and finally putting it all together on Friday afternoon. The rehearsals were long and difficult. After a full day of rehearsals we went ice-skating, which was (of course) tons of fun. Saturday morning we had two more run-throughs before we all got into the bus and headed to my school, Deutsche Internationale Schule Kapstadt (DSK). We had one more run-through before everyone started arriving. The show was truly so special; the script was so beautiful and personal, the whole audience held their breath, and it all came together so well.

“Leaving on Sunday morning didn’t hurt the most because we weren’t looking forward to going back to school; it hurt because I didn’t want to leave any of my new friends behind. We became non-other than a big family. We all came from such different backgrounds, which is something we found out when we heard each others’ writing but, in the end, we all broke down our personal walls and let each other into our hearts. That is the true meaning of Breaking Walls and it was honestly one of my favourite lifetime experiences.”

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Zaun-Paul from Hout Bay High School:

“Breaking Walls 2016 Cape Town was a very good place to make new friends, and meet new people. That first day I thought to myself, I’ll never make it without my own house. But that same day when I got there I felt at home. There were people from different communities, different schools and for me making friends with everyone of those people was challenging. And, it was great at the end of the day. All the writing work we had to do actually helped me to bond with new friends and international people helping us. I didn’t even know anyone from any other side of life or community, but for me these new people became like my own family.

I am not a bad person                                                                                                                                   Who will chase people away from my house Or call them names.                                                       Stuff like that                                                                                                                                             breaks people down                                                                                                                                       I just love everyone who enjoys my conversation                                                                               Because I care a lot about the future.                                                                                                          I am a kind person                                                                                                                                       With a good conversation for anybody.

“The challenges and ideas Breaking Walls showed me and taught me and helped me change my life. Going out with them and having fun was also a very nice experience. I started Breaking Walls nervously because at that moment I didn’t know how things could turn out, but now I know because I was there, having fun with random but wonderful people and for that I feel great. Thank you Breaking Walls for a great experience.”

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Zennie Tiso from The Rainbow Dreams Trust:

“As a beautiful young lady being raised by a single mother, in the challenges I face – I never give up. When I was told that I was chosen to be a part of Breaking Walls 2016 and that I would be meeting new people from different cultures I started wondering, how will these people treat me? Because we come from different backgrounds, how will they welcome me? Will they like the way I am because I come from the poor of the poorest communities? I found that we are all the same and that we are all unique and it depends on how individuals interact with each other that brings connections and builds friendships.

 The challenges that I faced yesterday have paved the way for today. They have made me be strong, powerful and helped me achieve more.                                                                                        It’s like I am bullet proof, nothing to lose, when I fight for myself                                                     Because in every can’t there’s a can and You win or lose by the way you choose,                             The challenges that I faced yesterday have paved the way for today They have made me be strong, powerful and help me achieve more.                                                                                       

“Through sharing my thoughts on paper I learnt to forgive and forget individuals and situations. You must always focus on the future and forget about the past, and secondly, in our life there is always disappointment and in life you need to expect good things and bad things, too. Thank you Rainbow Dreams Trust for choosing me for Breaking Walls 2016 Cape Town.”

Breaking Walls is pleased to announce that Deutsche Internationale Schule Kapstadt, Hout Bay High School and Rainbow Dreams Trust have all signed on for Breaking Walls 2017 Cape Town! Our goal now is to ensure that this community-based initiative will be recognized as a true illustration for Cape Town’s “Inclusive City” campaign.


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