May 05, 2009

a vignette..Delft Baha'i School ~ 2nd year

i will try to describe a picture of a typical Saturday morning in Delft, the township in Cape Town of Xhosa and colored populations where we hold Baha'i children's classes, Devotions and now 2 study circles on a weekly basis...
one of the classes praying to begin class
celebrating a Baha'i holy day in a vacant lot
we come off the highway and enter the main road which is always full of people walking, riding bicycles, standing and waiting for 'taxis' (vans that smoosh people in tightly), playing and pushing homemade go-carts, and carrying groceries. on every corner a little vegetable stand has bags of oranges, potatoes and onions while selling a variety of other produce. barber shops, car washes and cell phone shops are abundant as well. we drive about 2 miles until we turn into the neighborhood area of south Delft, passing one large shopping and market area of vendors selling products for the home and hygiene. we wind around until coming close to the area where we know most of the people now, and the children, jr. youth and adults wave, give us thumbs up, and sometimes run after the car until we park. it's always a joyful welcome and the heart leaps with love amongst all of us. we open up the hatch and the children are eager to assist us, taking the drums, bags and crate full of learning materials. if we arrive early enough, we'll give them the soccer and football as well before classes begin.

writing notes in booklets about virtues
joyful after Devotions in the evening time
the narrow roads are always obstructed by people walking slowly, dogs barking loudly, cement pieces sitting just enough in the way that you must turn your wheel to avoid them (sometimes they are used as goals for soccer), and lots of sand piled thickly in some areas where the wind has blown it. we park on a sandy lot next to a container that is full of gardening supplies for the proposed community garden that i can't wait to be involved with. we meet in the home of Siboleke and Noxolo Ngqathane who have graciously allowed the Baha'is to use their space for children's classes each Saturday morning. their home is spacious compared to many. white laminated cabinets are situated in such a way as to create a little kitchen area with hot plates, a sink and refrigerator. before we had clip boards to press on, children would use the kitchen area counter space to write and draw, standing up to do their work. one futon style couch lines the cement block walls, covered with a sheet that is tucked around to cover the old mattress. an old crate serves as a seat against the back of one of the kitchen cabinets. wood planks and wires adorn the ceiling with a bare lightbulb that is used only when necessary to bring light into the home, as well as a chain of paper people holding hands, one of the art projects done recently. two desks, an office chair and a bookshelf are lined up in the opposite corner of the couch to hold all of Siboleke's business materials and supplies [he is the community leader who serves voluntarily in many capacities, including on the Board of Directors for the local primary school; he is also a local pastor]. the last piece of furniture is a stereo unit where the dvd player, speaker and television are arranged. on that shelf is a photo of their son, Mphatiswa, from Bahá'í School classes last year.

special class teaching martial arts
American football: Dashiel taught them how to play & created tournaments
the room quickly fills up with children and jr. youth (the latter being often late to arrive) for group prayers, singing and announcements before classes begin. the children begin singing the Bahá'í prayers and songs on their own and always enjoy learning a new song. we have been able to share with them a handful of Baha'i songs in the Xhosa language, but we don't yet know any songs in the Afrikaans language which is spoken by the colored population. we now have 4 separate classes for 4 age groups: 3-5, 6-8, 9-10, and 11-14. we meet in 4 different homes, all of which have children in the classes. the spaces are small and inadequate by U.S. standards of comfort but no one cares or comments. it's just reality and it doesn't matter or hinder the experience. the jr. youth use an empty cement block garage which encourages groups sitting in a big oval on the ground and then provides ample space to practice dance workshop moves. what i always experience is this innermost sense of bliss when seeing the children's radiant faces and enthusiasm about these classes. we face so many obstacles, not just physical limitations but also cultural ones like mistrust and tension between the two populations, but there is a momentum of unity growing there, a release of spirit because of the Creative Word, and it is truly taking root in the hearts of that neighborhood.
Xhosa dancing during Baha'i celebration

Karin Abedian, artist, offering a special class to teach art


  1. Beautiful and clear description, taken my mind right to the area visualizing all too clearly every cement piece lying around, the people and shops by the road, the environment itself. But much much more, delighting my soul in the trans-formative process described, the brilliance of these of those pure mirrors reflecting the love of the Blessed Beauty in this (and every) land.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your reflection on the post!