by Fiona Ingram, a  South African writer who loves books, travel, animals, antiques, and adventures of all kinds! Read Fiona’s author site and find out about her recently published children’s adventure novel

The National Children’s Theatre has produced yet another gem of entertainment for children under the expert guidance of director Joyce Levinsohn. Embracing the vast expanse of Africa’s diverse culture and precious heritage, African Tapestry weaves a wondrous tale of life in this continent. But this production not only celebrates life in Africa; it also highlights the frailty of our unique ecosystem and the precious heritage that is fast disappearing unless we, the caretakers of our environment, do something about it and teach our children to follow suit.

These timeless and topical tales of Africa are told via a talented and energetic cast who engage beautifully with their young spellbound audiences. The actors don the simplest of animal costumes because it is their cleverly executed movements and sounds, as well as enchanting characterisation that bring the regal lion, the greedy elephant, the forgetful kudu, the (really Cape flats) Cape vulture, the silly young pelican, the slow old tortoise and others to life. The tradition of oral storytelling with vibrant songs and dances spreads a message of Africa. Through these animal tales, the young audiences appreciate each animal’s role in our lives, as well as learning life’s lessons.

So often, difficult or contentious issues can be explained to a younger audience via the medium of theatre. Education teamed with entertainment has a great influence. Teaching environmental awareness in a fun way to kids is edutainment that makes a lasting impact. Issues such as poaching, conservation of the environment and animals’ lives, planet pollution, recycling, and some basic lessons such as listening to one’s mom all come into play in this magical production. There is great audience participation here as the animals teach the kids how one can protect animals from poachers; how to recycle and clean up the environment; and how man and animals can live in harmony if everyone just tries hard enough.

This enchanting show captivates audiences with songs of Africa, from old favourites (Pata Pata) to new favourites (The Waka Waka song), and the infectious rhythms played on authentic hand-made instruments soon had those little feet dancing about. The proof of a good children’s production is in how it keeps kids interested. On the day I saw the show, the audience simply loved African Tapestry! They all wanted to help the actors and be part of the show. Children remember what they enjoy and this show had all their attention from start to finish with many eager young participants getting a chance to lend a hand in making the magic happen.

Don’t let your kids miss out on this marvellous piece of authentic theatre—African storytelling at its best.

Suitable for children from four upwards

Click here to find details about African Tapestry, on at the National Children’s Theatre in Parktown until Oct 9, 2010

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