Heritage is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as: (1) property that descends to an heir and this is also the first known use of the word, 13th century; (2) something transmitted by or acquired from a predecessor; (3) something possessed as a result of one’s natural situation or birth.
Here, in South Africa, it is the blend of our Rainbow Nation, of our diverse cultures, beliefs and traditions that we celebrate on the 24th of September, on Heritage Day.
Over 12 millions tourists visit Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris every year. It may seem like a vast number, but compare it to the billions who haven’t even heard of this breathtaking, this époustouflante church nestled on a tiny island in the City of Lights and you can consider yourself lucky to be one of those few millions. We were. We are, went through my mind as we dumbfounded witnessed her (for the French consider their monuments of art to be of feminine genre) burn on in the evening of Monday 15 April 2019 during a LIVE TV broadcast . We’ve visited the Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris in August 2018. I want to share with you a tiny fraction of the marvels we saw.
To visit “Our Lady of Paris” or The Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris on Ile de la Cité (one of the two Parisian islands on Seine) you can take the Line 4 metro (M4 purple) or use one of the five bridges that connect the island to the rest of Paris. Do use the metro (Métropolitain, Métro de Paris) when in Paris, it is super fast, reliable, easy to use and super fun.
The Ile de la Cité metro station (stop for the Notre Dame Cathedral) was opened on 10 December 1910 .
Here is the first sight of the Paris Notre Dame Cathedral, the precious 300 foot (91.44 meters) spire lost in the fire that engulfed most of this magnificent church in April 2019.
The Notre Dame’s spire was a key component of the Paris skyline and it one of the first things you see as you search for this medieval cathedral. Perhaps not many know that this spire, first erected in 13th century, was damaged before, at the end of 18th century and replaced in 19th century using a design by architect Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc.
From the metro station, as you hurried footsteps take you along Rue de Lutèce thenRue de la Cité and you round the corner towards left, you are suddenly rewarded, faced with a beautiful square bordered by shady trees and behind it, closer than it might appear and so modest in its centuries-old fame, awaits, always awaits, the Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris.
Icon, Gothic bride,
Graced with long lines, rose windows.
Awaits your prayers.
(Notre Dame of Paris, a haiku by Patricia Furstenberg)
The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is a place of worship before being a historical landmark.
Front facade (west facade):
As in any Christian church, the altar faces east, away from us. The main entrance will therefore be through west. As you stand in front of the cathedral, left hand side is north, right hand side is south.
Notice the two 69-meter (228-feet) tall towers and the spire (at the back) raising between them. The famous bell sounded by Victor Hugo’s Quasimodo is the North Tower (left side and slightly bigger). The South Tower (right) houses the cathedral’s famous and oldest bell, “Emmanuel” (recast in 1631). This bell was the only one that was not melted down to become a cannon during the French Revolution.
Also worth noticing are: the “Galerie des Chimères” or Grand Gallery – it connects the two towers. Here is where the cathedral’s legendary gargoyles (chimères) are found and the King’s Gallery (a line of 28 statues of Kings of Judah and Israel – placed right above the three arches or portals).
Right in the middle of the west facade is the beautiful West Rose Window dating from about 1220. It is 9.6meters in diameter and its glass was recreated in the 19th century.
A rose window is any circular widow, especially used in Gothic style constructions and depicting a detailed design like a multi-petaled rose. Why a rose? Perhaps because the rose flower is a symbol of balance, of hope and new beginnings.
All along the front of the west rose window is the balcony of the Virgin with the statue of the Virgin with Child guarded by two angels Do you notice how the rose window forms a halo behind the statues of Mary and those of the angels?
On the main, west facade of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris one cannot miss the three (west) portals (not identical), magnificent examples of early Gothic art. They were sculpted in the 13th century with the purpose of teaching bible lessons to the peasants that could not read, but came all the way to this church to pray to God.
This is the largest of the three portals. The space between two portals is called a buttresses. Each buttress has a niche that houses a statue.
The sculpture above depicts the Last Judgement. Above the sculpture thee are archivolts with lots pf saint sculptures.
The Right Portal – Portal of St. Anne (the Virgin Mary’s mother)
The Left Portal – Portal of the Virgin
Notice the three parts of the tympanum. On the top part there is a scene depicting the Coronation of the Virgin, with an angel crowning Mary.
Underneath, the top lintel depicts the Death of the Virgin – Mary lies on her death bed surrounded by Jesus and the 12 Apostles. Underneath is the bottom lintel with three Old Testament prophets (left) and three Old Testament kings (right) holding scrolls with Christ ‘s prophecies.
At the very left of Virgin Mary’s portal (the left portal) is the Statue of Saint Stephen.
Here is a view at the King’s Gallery (a line of 28 statues of Kings of Judah and Israel) – above the three west portals. The original statues were placed there in the 13th century. Sadly, during the French Revolution they were mistaken for kinds, pulled down and decapitated. New statues were later sculpted by Geoffroi-Dechaume. In 1977, 143 remains of the decapitated statues were discovered and can now be seen at the Middle-Ages Museum (Hôtel de Cluny).
Inside the Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris before the April 2019 fire
A view along the enormously tall and long nave (130 meters long, with double isles left and right), towards the altar, while standing in the (west) entrance. The nave can accommodate 6500 worshipers.
All the columns that support the vault are identical, although they reach different parts of the six part vault. Because of this our eye is led all the way to the altar.
Right above the altar rose the Cathedral’s flèche or spire that sadly collapsed in a mass of led and charred wood in the April 2019 fire.
Left and right of the high altar are the kneeling statues of Louis XIII and Louis XIV. At the back we have a glimpse of theouble ambulatory.
In front of the cross found on the altar is the Pietà statue by Nicolas Coustou. They both escaped unharmed from the April 2019 fire. How unbelievably amazing is that, considering that the spire that collapsed rose right above them? Did you know that pietà means “pity”, “compassion’? A pietà is Christian art sculpture depicting the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus.
The Rose Windows
The North rose window, 12,9 meters in diameter, has almost all the original stained glass dating back to the 13th century. Its central medallion is dedicated to Virgin Mary.
The South rose window, 12.9 m in diameter, 84 panes ( donated by King St. Louis and installed around 1260) was affected by the French Revolution and both World Wars. Its stained glass window dates from 1845. The south window is dedicated to Christ as south receives the most sunlight, more illumination (in the northers hemisphere) – associated with the coming again of Christ thus being the most alight between the two rose windows of the transept.
After multiple repairs throughout the centuries its panes are now out of order. The architect Viollet-le-Duc rotated the entire rose with 15° to create horizontal and vertical axes for stability in the masonry.
The Stained Glass Windows
Beautiful lighting through the stained windows. The lighting inside the Notre Dame Cathedral is never the same as the outside daylight plays different shades on its stained glass windows.
The elegant stained windows of Notre Dame Cathedral depict religious stories. Although some of them were destroyed during the World Wars, some are even originals from the Middle Ages.
Above the isle there is a (with windows as well) and above are the clerestory windows. Notice there is one arch on the bottom level, then three arches above, then the windows.
The original clerestory windows were just a rose window and up above was just wall. The cathedral was much darker. So below, the left bottom image shows an original clerestory window (except that above the round window it would have been wall).
Lighting with color through the stained glass windows of the Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris.
The clerestory windows are the little windows right at the top. They have no crosspiece dividing the light.
The light pouring through a stained glass window always differ – with your distance from the window, the angle you see the window at, the time of day or season. It is always a good idea to revisit a church, if time permits. It will be a whole new experience. Spiritually too.
Each stained glass window has a biblical story to tell.
Is this statue looking away from us or is he absorbed by something small, at his feet?
There are 27 chapels inside Notre Dame of Paris, their entrances marked by chandeliers. These chandeliers are a symbol of the light of God and were know as “Crowns of Light” during the Middle Ages.
Lighting up a candle is such a personal, spiritual experience.
The transept, perpendicular on the nave, forms the big body cross of a church. Notre Dame of Paris has a rather narrow transept as it has been built after its nave. At each end of the transept we find a big, rose window, the North and the South.
If memory serves me right, this medallion mural of Mary and Jesus surrounded by gold stars on blue sky was in the middle of transept, above the altar. The great spire would have rose above it.
The area where the choir members sit is located behind the transept and shielded by this Gothic wood screen.
Medieval wood sculpture on the chancel screen in Notre Dame de Paris depicting biblical scenes – below.
Great image standing in the ambulatory, looking up through one of the arches, looking up into the vault. Have you ever tried to steal an unconventional peek inside a cathedral or museum? See things from a different perspective, literally.
This would be a view from the North ambulatory. You can see the North Rose Window and the stained glass windows of the north aisle.
The Vaulted Ceiling
Notice the six part of the 12th century vault. The clerestory windows are 13th century.
One lesson I learned from our visit to France: always look up. The ceilings, the vaults are often overlooked and are simply magnificent. A work of art in their own right. Just think of all the forces that keep them together. Right above your head.
On each side of the vault notice the isle, above it the galley (with windows as well) and above the clerestory windows. What a beautiful elevation.
The Pipe Organ
I love the space above my head when I sit in a church.
Did you know that your entry in the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris, is blessed by this Angel placed atop the entry doors?
Bless those near by,
Hear their prayers, see their hearts.
Sings the Angel still.
(Notre DameAngel, a haiku by Patricia Furstenberg)
The Notre Dame Cathedral Great Organ was one of the world’s most famous musical instruments consisting of almost 8 000 pipes, playing five keyboards, parts of it dating back to medieval times. It has been often renovated over the years but it still contained pipes from the Middle Ages before the April 2019 fire.
Christ on cross-great bronze crucifix was a gift from Napoleon III. Napoleon III (Louis-Napoleon) married here Empress Eugénie de Montijo in 1853. He was 45 years old, she was 23 and would not succumb to his charms without a marriage. Later Napoleon III restored the flèche, or spire, of this Cathedral, a work carried by architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc.
It was Napoleon I, Napoleon Bonaparte, to be crowned King in Notre Dame Cathedral on 2 December 1804.
A painted wood sculpture in scenes from the life of Christ, the risen Christ appears to the holy women, Wood painted panel inside Notre Dame Cathedral
So much dedication and work goes in a sculpture. Dare I compare it to the work that it is poured inside a novel?
Cloister detail in Notre Dame Cathedral, interior -Statue and stained glass window
Hopeful stretching towards the sky.
A different view of the Notre Dame Cathedral: from atop the Eiffel Tower.
“But noble as it has remained while growing old, one cannot but regret, cannot but feel indignant at the innumerable degradations and mutilations inflicted on the venerable pile, both by the action of time and the hand of man, regardless alike of Charlemagne, who laid the first stone, and Philip Augustus, who laid the last. On the face of this ancient queen of our cathedrals, beside each wrinkle one invariably finds a scar. ‘Tempus edax, homo edacior,’ which I would be inclined to translate: ‘Time is blind, but man is senseless.’” (Victor Hugo – The Hunchback of Notre Dame)
Embedded in the stone and concrete outside the Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris is this geographic marker. It is used to measure all distances away from Paris. It is Paris Point Zero.
A useful detailed floor plan of Notre Dame Cathedral, source Wikipedia. When visiting a monument or a museum having a detailed floor plan is an excellent idea.
Weather it is Michael Ende’s “The Never Ending Story” (“Die Unendliche Geschichte”), Erich Kästner’s “Emil and the Detectives” (“Emil Und Die Detektive”) or Grimm’s “Hansel and Gretel”, German storytelling reveals a rich culture and a millennial tradition. But did you now that this country produces over 1200 different types of sausages? Surely the opulent German cuisine would have also infiltrated the expressive Teutonic language, as we can see from the following German idioms.
Kein Schwein war da
Translation: There weren’t any pigs there
Meaning: Not worth
going, a bad place to be (to understand this idiom you need to keep in mind the
German’s love for sausages.
Das ist mir Wurst
Translation: That’s sausage to me
Meaning: That doesn’t matter
Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei
Translation: Everything has an end. Only the sausage has two
Meaning: All good things must end (but said with a lot more feeling)
Sie spielt die beleidigte Leberwurst
Translation: She’s playing the insulted sausage
Meaning: She’s all
worked up (said with lots of gusto)
Eine Extrawurst haben
To get an extra sausage
Meaning: To ask for special treatment
Er muss zu allem
seinen Senf dazugeben
He has to add his mustard to everything
Meaning: Give his two cents
zusammen noch keine Schweine gehütet!
Translation: We haven’t
kept any pigs together
Meaning: We don’t know
each other all that well
Translation: To have a
Meaning: To be lucky.
Obviously to Germans having a pig means a lot more that having a cow means to
the English speaking world.
Mein Englisch ist unter aller Sau
Translation: My English is under all pig
Meaning: My English is
Wie die Kuh vorm neuen Tor dastehen
Translation: Like a
cow standing in front of a new door
much like someone faced with a new situation
Da liegt der
Hase im Pfeffer!
Translation: There’s a
rabbit in the pepper
Meaning: something that
is depressing, a catastrophe.
Da steppt der Bär
where the bear dances
Meaning: A great party
Jemandem einen Bären aufbinden
Translation: To tie a
bear to someone
Meaning: to deceive
someone into accepting something false
Meaning: An outrageous
behavior (Its origin lies back in the 19th century and the ambulant animal fun shows)
Sie hat ein Kater
Translation:She has a tomcat
Meaning: She’s got a
Das ist ein Katzensprung
Translation: That’s a cat jump
Meaning: Something is very close, a stone’s throw
Das Leben ist kein Ponyhof
Translation: Life is no pony farm
Meaning: Life is not
Vogel friss oder stirb
Bird eat or die
Pretty straight forward. It’s a do or die situation.
Der Fisch stinkt vom Kopf her
Translation: The fish starts stinking from the head
Meaning: Problems always start at the top (so very
true in politics)
Sie hat einen Vogel
Translation: She has a bird
Meaning: She is
Wo sich Fuchs und Hase gute Nacht sagen
Translation: Where fox and hare say goodnight to one another
Meaning: in the middle
of nowhere, in a remote location (and surely not in a story book)
Da liegt der Hund begraben
Translation: That’s where the dog’s buried
Meaning: That’s the heart of the matter – when you want to show that you know
what the situation is about
Katze in Sack kaufen
To buy a cat in a sack
To buy something without inspecting it first
Afrikaans, a language rich in idioms and emotions, is the world’s youngest national language and one of South Africa’s 11 official languages. Born about 350 years ago through a blend of Dutch, German and French spoken by settlers in what is now South Africa, Afrikaans is part of the West Germanic languages and is currently spoken by approximately 13 million people found mostly in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe.
reputable for having a meaning not deductible from that of the individual
words. Let’s see how some Afrikaans idioms translate into English.
1. Alle grappies op ‘n stokkie
jokes on a stick
a more serious note
2. As die hemel val is ons almal dood
heaven falls, we’re all dead
complain less; let’s not always think about what could go wrong
3. Die aap uit die mou laat
English: To let the
monkey out of the sleeve
release the cat out of the bag; to spill the beans
4. Die berge het ‘n muis gebaar
mountain gave birth to a mouse
When you put in a lot of effort into a project but have very little to show for
5. Die bobbejaan agter die bult gaan uithaal
fetch a baboon from behind the hill
Meaning: To think
or talk about problems that haven’t happened yet, thus possibly making them
6. Dis die klein jakkalsies wat die wingerde verniel
English: It is the small jackals that ruined the vineyard
Small mistakes can cause big troubles
7. Die doodskleed het geen sakke nie
English: A dead
man’s suit does not have pockets
When you die, your possessions mean nothing
8. Die geel baadjie aan hê
wear a yellow jacket
9. Die poppe gaan dans
English: The dolls will dance
There’s going to be trouble
10. Dis ‘n feit soos ‘n koei
It’s a fact like a cow
is a fact you can’t argue with
11. Dit weet die aap se stert
the monkey’s tail knows
Something everyone knows
12. Hang aan ‘n tak
English: Hanging onto a branch
on for a second
13. Hoe kaler die jakkals, hoe groter die stert
English: The more naked the jackal, the bigger its tail is
Those who have the least to show for themselves, brag the most
14. Hy het ‘n klap van die windmeul weg
He’s been hit by a windmill
not be sound of mind
15. Hy skil sy aartappels nie twee keer nie
don’t peel your potatoes twice
it right the first time.
16. Iemand heuning om die mond smeer
rub honey on someone’s mouth
Meaning: To butter
someone up with flattery
17. Iemand ‘n gat in die kop praat
talk a hole in someone’s head
Meaning: To find
a way to persuade someone (to do something bad)
18. Jakkals trou met wolf se vrou
English: The jackal
is marrying the wolf’s wife
Meaning: Used when the
weather is surprising: it rains on a sunny day
19. Jy krap met ‘n kort stokkie aan ‘n groot leeu se bal
scratch a big lion’s bollocks with a shot stick
be arrogant; to push one’s luck
20. Katjie van die baan
English: A kitten
from the track
to describe someone with social skills, with humor. It can also be used when
children stay up too late at night.
21. ‘n Aap in die mou hê
have a monkey up your sleeve
Meaning: To have
something up your sleeve; to hide a mischievous plan
22. ‘n Hond uit ‘n bos gesels
English: To talk
a dog out of a bush
have a great conversation or to describe someone very chatty
23. ‘n Gat in die dag slaap
sleep a hole in the day
sleep very late
24. ŉ Man van twaalf ambagte en dertien ongelukke
man of twelve trades and thirteen accidents
to describe a Jack of all trades, but a master of none
25. Moenie die hoender ruk nie
Don’t shake the chicken
26. Nes ‘n aap op ‘n stokkie
English: Like a monkey on a stick
Meaning: To look perplexed
27. Nou nou
Meaning: In a little while, in a bit
28. So ‘n bek moet jam kry
a mouth should get jam
when someone says something you agree with or when someone is witty and
deserves a praise.
29. So skaars soos ‘n tweedehandse doodskis
scarce as a second hand coffin
Something extremely rare
30. Sy kerk is uit
English: His church
Meaning:It’s all over for him; he doesn’t stand another chance.
31. Twee rye spore loop
English: To walk two lines of tracks
32. Wors in die hondehok soek
English: To search
for a sausage in a dog’s kennel
Meaning: To look for
the needle in the haystack, to look for something you cannot find
Did you know that the biggest South African communities outside of South Africa are found in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Israel, Chile, Portugal and Greece?
For many of us, myself included, learning German is like climbing the Himalayas Mountains. If the grammar or the articles don’t get to you, the compound words without exact translation into English will – because in some German compound words the stem words don’t keep their meaning. The beauty of it is that once you do learn their meaning you grasp their beauty.
Literally: Three + cheese + high
Meaning: the loving nickname you would give a small child who is only as
tall as three wheels of cheese stacked on top of each other.
Precious! Reminds me of Heidi!
Literally: donkey bridge
Meaning: a mnemonic device, a memory aide
Flak is an acronym for a pre – World War 2 anti-aircraft gun: Fliegerabwehrkanone
Fliegerabwehr means “defense against air attack” and Kanone means cannon.
Literally: Distance + pain
Meaning: It describes the feeling you get when you want to be somewhere else, a yearn for the freedom and adventure of travel. Similar to wanderlust (see below).
Literally: hand shoe
How very logical, right?
Literally: Glove + snowball + throwe
Meaning: a wimp.
If you ever tried to through more than one
snowball without your gloves on you
will not agree with this meaning. I second that.
Friedrich Froebel, a 19th Century German
educator, was one of the first to believe that children needed some formal
education, through play and exploration, before primary school.
Froebel opened his first kindergarten in 1837, and the curriculum included
playing with toys, playing games and singing songs. By the 1880s, kindergartens
opened in Austria, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands,
Hungary, Japan, Switzerland, and the United States.
The word itself came into English in 1852—the same year that Froebel died.
Literally: head cinema
Meaning: your vivid imagination
Literally: cool + cupboard
To the point!
Literally: Sea + little pig
Meaning: guinea pig
Literally: literally: naked snail
Literally: Ear + worm
Meaning: This describe that song stuck in your head, the one you are singing over and over again.
Not exactly a compound word, schwarmerei is derived from the German verb schwärmen, which means to swarm.
Schwarmerei refers to excessive and uninhibited enthusiasm and also puppy love.
Literally: Storm (tempest) + free
Meaning: When you have the house to yourself and everyone else is away
I wonder who they refer to as the
Literally: day + thief
Meaning: a dilly-dallier, a lay about, a loafer
Literally: Gate + shut + panic
Meaning: The fear we get, as we age, that time is running out and important opportunities are slipping us away.
Tick-tock, says your biological clock.
Literally: Stairs (staircase) + joke
Meaning: The joke you came up with but the moment to share
it has already passed.
Literally: Make something worse + to improve
Meaning: Making something worse by trying to improve it.
When learning a new language, some of the issues we encounter are translating those crafty closed compound words – combinations of two or more words that function as a single unit and mean something different than the individual words they are built with.A
Direct translation: bait bird
Actual meaning: vulture
Direct translation: Hunting lazy horse
Actual meaning: cheetah
Direct translation: full throat
Actual meaning: sick of it all
Direct translation: Growl nut
Actual meaning: starter motor
Direct translation: Little Flap cupboard
Actual meaning: cubby hole
Direct translation: Camel horse
Actual meaning: Giraffe
Direct translation: Cats mischief
Actual meaning: getting up to no good
Direct translation: teasing little man
Actual meaning: a male rock lizard
Direct translation: Lazy horse
Actual meaning: Leopard
Direct translation: late lamb
Actual meaning: a child born many years after its siblings
Direct translation: road food
Actual meaning: Southern African snacks and provisions for a journey
Drie populêre kinderboeke, nou beskibaar in Afrikaans. Helder en kleurvolle illustrasies en beminlike karakters wat opwindende avonture deel. Vir kinders en ouers om saam te geniet.
I am a big fan of Patricia and her style of writing. She certainly knows how to capture the imagination.
Mandie Griffiths, Book Reviewer
Die Leeu en die Hond
Hierdie gedig was geïnspereer deur die ware verhaal van Bonedigger, die gestremde leeu en Milo die vriendelike worshond wat bewys het dat vriendskap geen grense ken nie.
“Ek hou van die mooi boodskappe van vriendskap, geloof, optimisme, en vriendelikheid oorgedra deur middel van hierdie verhaal. Die illustrasies is wonderlik en hulle gee duidelikheid aan die konsep en die outeur se woorde. Wat ‘n pragtige storie vir ouers om voor te lees vir kinders en kinders te help om die ware betekenis van vriendskap te verstaan en hoe dit geen grense ken nie!”
Die Olifant en die Skaap
Hierdie gedig was geïnspereer deur die ware verhaal van Themba, ‘n ses- maande-ou weesolifant wat aangemeem is deur Albert die skaap. Die twee vriende woon in ‘n natuurreservaat in Suid Afrika.
“We both liked the illustrations. They are colorful and cute.I really liked the message that Furstenberg put into this story. It is one that children need to learn at an early age. I recommend this book for anyone with young children.” 5* Readers’ Favorite Review for the English Edition
Die Jagluiperd en die Hond
Hierdie gedig was geïnspereer deur die ware verhaal van Kasi, ‘n wees jagluiperd mannietjie, en Mtani, ‘n Labrador tefie, wat ‘n merkwaardige vriendskap gesmee het en lewenslank vriende gebly het…
“An important and beautiful story for little readers. A book parents should read to their children, not only because it’s pretty and cute, but to also encourage children to learn about the little things that matter from our four legged companions.” 5 Stars Review of the English Edition by Rebecca Evans, Reviewer
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There is something
magical about attending a theatre production. It is a thrilling experience
being immersed in a story evolving right before your very eyes, on the stage. Forget
special effects; welcome instead the sound of feet on a wooden board and the masterful
use of primary tools: voice, facial expressions, body language.
The actors on a stage
have large gestures and welcoming body motions. They reel you in, welcome you
into their stage life – their open life. Come, see, live – their hands say.
Tune in, listen closely – their voices whisper. Have you taken it all in? Are
you sure you caught each detail? Their eyes beckon us.
A theatre experience presents
us with raw life, but through a looking glass: every detail shows, every detail
counts. Theatre is life in its distilled form, pure and flavorful. Come with
us, share this experience we offer so willingly. Forget your troubled life;
maybe even find an answer you didn’t know you were looking for, on our stage.
The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie
is a chiseled locked-room mystery: a group of strangers gathered in a country house cut off by the snowstorm discover that one of them is a murderer.
Death IS present in
the play, coming from a desire for revenge, but not overpowering. The search
for justice, the desire to solve the murder is the force that moves the play
forward – even if the murderer proves to be sympathetic through life circumstances
and mitigating reasons.
What is real and what is not? Find out by
yourself, it is theatre and the work of Agatha Christie, after all.
A word of advice: patrons attending the St Martin’s production are asked to tip their cab driver on arrival – a bad tip usually means that the cabby will shout the murderer’s name and speed off.
In theatre there are
no second chances, second takes or cuts – and for this I truly admire its
In the South African Pieter Toerien Productions of The Mousetrap:
I loved the passionate interpretation of Melissa Haiden as Mollie Ralston, the frank way in which Mark Sykes performed the role of Giles Ralston, the epic rendition of Matthew Lotter as Christopher Wren, the stellar appearance of Michele Maxwell in Mrs. Boyle, the virtuoso performance of Malcolm Terrey as Major Metcalf, the mature interpretation of Shannyn Fourie in Miss Casewell, the colorful performance of West End Star Mark Wynter as Mr Paravicini as well as the meticulous character Aiden Scott instilled in Detective Sergeant Trotter.
Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre 24 January – 3 March Performances: Wed – Fri at 20h00, Sat at 16h00 and 20h00, Sun at 15h00 Tickets: R100, R150, R200, R240 Computicket or Theatre Box Office 011 511 1818
Interesting facts about The Mousetrap:
The Mousetrap is the longest-running play in the history of London’s West End. In 2019 the production headed into its 68th year at the St. Martin’s Theatre. Since 6 October 1952 the play has reached well over 27,000 performances.
The Mousetrap was initially performed as a radio play in 1952 and was broadcast by the BBC with the title Three Blind Mice. The radio play had been commissioned in 1947 by Queen Mary, who was a Christie fan. There is no tape of that broadcast known to exist. The forty-five minute play was based on a short story on which Christie had been working. Due to the extremely warm welcome by the audience, Christie elaborated the script. Its first performance was on October 6, 1952, when The Mousetrap became a stage play.
There is still an original cast member in each production: recording of a radio broadcast the play opens with. The voice belongs to English actor Deryck Guyler who, thus, has ‘appeared’ in every UK showing of The Mousetrap to date…
Richard Attenborough and his wife Sheila
Sims starred in the original production.
Most of its sound cues – wind, bells, slamming doors – are created live backstage.
The Mousetrap has never been adapted in any other format.
Christie signed over the royalties from the play to her grandson, Mathew Prichard, at its opening in 1952.
Agatha Christie made her last public appearance at The Mousetrap in 1974, age 84.
Each performance ends with one actor from the company addressing the audience: “Now you have seen The Mousetrap you are our partners in crime, and we ask you to preserve the tradition by keeping the secret of whodunit locked in your heart“. Have you watched it? If so, we are “partners in crime”.
Throughout the centuries, great teachers have been guided by their intuition as to what method of teaching works best. Modern brain imaging techniques have brought into plain view why certain methods work as the workings of the brain has never been as thoroughly demonstrated. Today we have a clear understanding of which methods work. The latest research in the science of Mind, Brain and Education (MBE) are available to help 21st Century teachers and learners achieve success. MBE is a young science started at Harvard University 25 years ago by uniting the fields of neuroscience, psychology, and education.
Here are the 6 principles MBE is based on:
#1: Each brain is unique and uniquely organized.
Our brains are as unique as our faces or our fingerprints. Although the basic structure and patters of learning remain the same, each brain is unique.
Each human being has unique DNA. Our blueprint is further influenced and shaped by our lifetime experiences, as the age old nature versus nurture argument goes. Even if identical twins share very similar genes (each human being has 24 000), the latest genetic studies prove that their phenotype or physical manifestation will differ as a result of life experiences and epigenetic factors (the way in which environmental factors alter behaviour and development.
Humans share general physical and neurodevelopmental stages (yet not in the same way or at the same rate) that establish the parameters for learning. Since each brain is unique and develops in its own way, students will learn and develop at their own pace. This is why a “one size fits all” method of teaching is ineffective.
#2: All brains are not equal because context and ability influence learning
He has a gift for words, she has a mathematician’s brain, some of us resent change while others welcome it – why is it so? We know that the different stages of brain development impact our comprehension and the development of our skills by influencing our brain’s physiology. Not only are our brains different, but our genetic predisposition, our “abilities” differ. There is no predefined frame for success as a learner.
The human brain is wired for studying and experimenting and is constantly changing. With the right support, motivation and an appropriate learning environment, a modest background (genetic or not) can be maximized beyond expectation; while individuals born with great potential or under the right circumstances may not reach their potential if they do not live up to it.
An interesting example is that of dyslexia and astronomy. Research shows that dyslexia is the result of an atypical cortical organization. However, the dyslexic brain’s visual field is wired differently, allowing for a wider spatial attention. Because dyslexic students favor the peripheral visual field, with the necessary support and training, they’ll have a greater advantage as astronomers (Schneps, “Dyslexia and Astronomy”, 2007).
#3: The brain is changed by experience
Our genetic codes, the circumstances of our birth and our social experiences make us who we are, each with our own set of strengths and weaknesses.
Since learning is “the acquisition of knowledge or skills through study, experience, or being taught” (Oxford Dictionary), it is impossible for the brain not to learn and change through daily experiences. Previous positive experiences will empower learning, while negative ones will hinder the learning process.
The human brain is not detached from the body during the learning process so the stimuli affecting the human body (taste, smell, touch, sight) will impact upon the brain. A repetitive stimulus will, in time, create a permanent change; more stimuli exciting a wider area of the brain will, in time, strengthen that area. The reverse is also true; the lack of stimulation will, eventually, cause an area to atrophy – How the Brain Works. All these changes are unseen, but the effects thereof are clearly visible.
#4: The brain is highly plastic
Your brain will be different than it was before you read this article in response to your thoughts; your brain constantly prunes and strengthens its neural pathways. This is neuroplasticity, derived from neuron (a nerve cell) and plastic (mouldable). The human brain is most malleable at a young age, yet throughout our lives the brain is capable of neurogenesis (creation of new neurons), reorganizing old pathways and creating new neural connections that improve its capabilities. We can learn at any age, as our brain constantly rewires itself and changes its physical structure (functional plasticity) or recuperates a lost skill, if the usual route is damaged or blocked (structural plasticity).
Neuroplasticity goes beyond, confronting the belief that certain brain areas are responsible for a specific function. Antonio Battro, neuroscientist and educationalist, documents the extraordinary life of a child living with only half a brain in “Half a Brain is Enough: The Story of Nico”. The brain works as a system; when parts of brain are missing other parts take over and learn new functions.
The brain’s plasticity is also associated with the growth mind-set concept: by being told that intelligence is not fixed, but changeable; a group of schoolchildren were able to raise their IQ’s.
Neuroplasticity means that anybody can learn or develop a skill at any stage throughout their life, if context (support, environment, motivation, prior knowledge and enough practice) and ability are present.
#5: The brain connects new information to old
We all thrive to make sense of the world around us, no matter our age. Mouthing is part of normal infant development; teenagers need to belong to a group and as grown-ups confronted with a new situation we felt that the world made no sense – until we found a familiar pattern to relate to. This is part of foundational knowledge, using what we already know from different disciplines to make sense of something knew.
The human brain is designed to find and generate patterns.
Our mind learns and makes sense of experiences by finding old patterns to relate to before creating new ones. Patterns can be a thinking principle, a category, or diagrams. It is much like following directions to an unknown location by looking for familiar landmarks. At the same time, very much like connecting the dots to create an image, the human brain will use the understanding of small details to comprehend the big picture (such as a project, a meaningful story or a history lesson).
By connecting the new information with the old information; new neural connections will appear, that will anchor the new concepts to the already existing ones.
This is why teaching in a vacuum fails. Students need to connect new information to old information in order to understand it. And the new information that relies on old information can not be absorbed if the old information is missing, or not completely understood.
#6: Attention + Memory = Learning
Our brains are not made to download the information presented to them, but to first analyse it visually, auditory and tacitly.
Our experiences are first lived, then learned.
Attention is needed during the learning process; first to make sense of what is being taught and then to connect new ideas to the existing knowledge by noticing similarities between the two. Yet the information presented to us will compete with the overall stimuli our body is exposed to. At the same time; learning is influenced by our emotional state, as emotions convey meaningfulness to the subject at hand.
When a new concept is being taught; we first commit it to the working memory. After revision, it is stored in the long term memory. Overloading the working memory will reduce the amount of information we can move to long term memory. Practice and meaning are crucial to committing the information to long term memory. Therefore, the way information is presented needs to reduce the cognitive load and facilitate learning.
As our brains are unique; each student will better assimilate the information through a different channel. Using a variety of methods while teaching (reading, videos, debates, discussion, projects, slides, etc.) will benefit a larger number of students, as the input information enters through different neural pathways ensuring a greater possibility of maximizing student learning, often through the overlapping of information.
(Written by Patricia Furstenberg for ITSI_SA – April 2018)
How Mobile Libraries Can Boost Education In South Africa
Some of my most cherished memories involve books. Being read to, excited to hear my father mimicking different characters in the story; later on, thrilled to read on my own. Books, the touch and feel of them. Cradling the book you thoroughly enjoy and that sunken feeling when it’s over.
Most of this world’s amazing people were thirsty readers, drawing inspiration and strength from books. Oscar Wilde, Nelson Mandela, Agatha Christie. What would they have become if it wasn’t for the books they were fortunate to read? Where would you be now without the books that made you?
“Be a lifelong student, read as many books as possible.” Nelson Mandela
For us, books are within easy access; a library down the road or at school, online book retailers or the mall’s bookshop and second hand bookshops. We’re lucky, although we probably take it for granted, to have been brought up in a culture of reading. Because reading is linked to academic achievement, emotional intelligence and self-esteem.
South African learners still have limited access to libraries
And the two main reasons are: lack of infrastructure and the bad management of funds.
My previous article: “Does school attendance guarantee literacy?” concluded that access to reading material from an early age, together with school attendance and government funds for learners are key factors in attaining a high literacy level in a country.
There aren’t enough libraries
Learners in primary schools with a library fulfilling minimum standards (which can be as little as a box of books in one classroom, as decided by the South African Department of Basic Education):
Provinces ranked according to schools supplied with a library, with one being the highest extent and nine the lowest extent:
The 2009 UNICEF report stated that 53 percent of SA learners were in non-fee schools, completely dependent on funds from the government. The funds are allocated per learner, depending on the poverty of the area around the school and are amended annually.
Schools that have acquired the full set of funds, by province:
Where do we stand, worldwide? The World’s Most Literate Nations (WMLN) ranks countries on their populace’s literate behaviours and their supporting resources. They use five categories as indicators of the literate health of nations: libraries, newspapers, education inputs and outputs, computer availability. “This multidimensional approach to literacy speaks to the social, economic, and governmental powers of nations around the globe.” On Libraries ranking South Africa scored 51.5, with position one as best and 61 last.
To paraphrase Francis Bacon, if children can’t have access to books, then let the books come to the children.
1. Mobile libraries and librarians
This is exactly what SAPESI (South African Primary Education Support Initiative) does. With the support of the SAPESI Japan offices they source and export mobile libraries (MBs) to SA. These facilities are contained in medium-sized busses and will travel around provinces providing poor communities with free access to books and a librarian. Each bus carries 2,500 books in all 11 official languages, catering for children between the ages of six and 11.
Japan, a country with an area three times smaller than South Africa, has 530 MBs. In 2016 South Africa had approximately 50 MBs visiting 885 schools across the country. SAPESI aims to have 100 MBs that will serve 2,500 schools by 2025: at least one in operation in each of the 96 education districts across South Africa. SAPESI hopes that the learners’ families will be encouraged by these efforts and support the children’s reading efforts as “reading is the basis of all learning.”
Since 2008 SAPESI is also supported by Sony companies from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, United Kingdom and the United States. The total number of English children’s books donated so far is 170,000. Sony Corporation in Tokyo contributed funds to SAPESI in order to purchase a further 13,200 children’s books in languages indigenous to South Africa.
In addition to supplying books Sony also supports the “VAIO Bakkie”, an IT training project using Sony’s VAIO laptop computer, whereby pupils enjoy learning practical computer skills, even at schools without computer facilities.
2. Improvise and reuse refurbished containers
The South African Mobile Library Association (SAMLA) together with EDSA (Education for Democracy in South Africa) have joined forces to bring the knowledge and love of reading, story-telling and drama to townships and squatter camps of the Western Cape. A children’s library has been set up in three refurbished containers in a central location in Gugulethu Township.
3. Wooden mobile bookshelves
Mobile Library Solutions, “Masixhasane”, is another mobile library initiative doing their bit at eradicating illiteracy in SA schools. They build mobile libraries that fit through a door and are ready to use: wooden mobile bookshelves stocked up with books sponsored by worldwide organisations.
Percentage of learners with library access as presented in the 2014 report for basic education:
Mobile libraries, early results
In 2014 research done by the University of Free State on schools in the rural areas proved that primary children from schools serviced by mobile libraries showed a significant improvement in their English reading and speaking capabilities.
The children were able to converse comfortably with us in English and also read from their library books with ease and comprehension. By contrast, children from some schools that have not had access to the mobile libraries had very little understanding or use of English.” says Dr. Lynette Jacobs, Head of the School of Education Studies.
Sony Group employees send books to children in South Africa.
There are many other organisations supporting the mobile library initiative with the same vital purpose: to instil a love of reading thus improving literacy and overall academic performance of the children of South Africa.
Written for and published on Huffington Post SA on 4 May 2017
Left Or Right Brain? How Discovering Your Child’s Learning Style Can Help You Help Them
Your child is a left-brain; he’s got a logical mind, he understands numbers and sequence, that’s why he’s so good with mathematics and sciences. My daughter is no good at mathematics, but she’s a right-brain, she’s creative and imaginative.
Is it correct to label our children based on common beliefs? Left-brain and right-brain, there is so much more to it than aptitudes towards the science or the arts.
Karl Lashley was the first neuropsychologist to map the human brain, especially those areas of the brain responsible for specific functions and to research the way people study and learn new facts. Based on his initial findings, further studies have established that the left hemisphere is in charge of language (vocabulary), memorizing and recalling, following instructions. The right hemisphere is in charge with visualization, imagining, comparison, as well as comprehension and interpretation.
The right-side, left-side dominance becomes evident from an early age. The older we become, the more evident it is, except that grown-ups also learn to compensate and, if they are lucky, they will choose a career path that aligns with their dominant hemisphere.
On a school level, the situation is different. There is no choice, thinker or dreamer, they are all crammed in the same classroom, following the same curriculum. And the curriculum seems to favour the left-brain students.
Left-brain academic subjects focus on logical thinking, analysis, and accuracy.
Right-brained subjects focus on aesthetics, emotions, and creativity.
Until the day that the education department will embrace and support this natural, dual way of thinking it lies in our hands as parents to support our children.
Often right-brain students will appear as under-achievers as the educational curriculum might not be challenging enough for the way their brain is wired to think.
Mathematics and science require the learning and use of formulas, of a specific sequence of facts. Languages and Social Sciences require students to memorize vocabulary and grammar rules as well as lists of facts and numerous dates. Furthermore, mathematics or maths literacy are listed among the compulsory subjects required for all degrees offered by the Faculty of Law, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, Faculty of Humanities or Faculty of Theology.
Wonderful news for left-brain pupils, but what about the right-brain ones? The dreamers and the thinkers that see the big picture, yet tend to struggle remembering small details? The David Karp (founder of Tumbler), Evan Williams (Blogger creator and former Twitter CEO) or Simon Cowell (Britain’s Got Talent)?
These right-brain dominant students, although just as gifted and as clever as their left-brain fellows, are often seen as under-achievers because they struggle to remember a formula or a historical date. Few right-brain pupils might just be able to expand their natural brain functioning, thus over-compensating the restraints of their brain design — by applying themselves to the extreme.
It is important to understand that a pupil’s cerebral inclination will play a role not only in the type of information he or she is more likely to absorb but also in the way he or she will best absorb that information.
Although left-brain students can absorb the details and the numbers, they might struggle to step back and “get” the big picture. These students may need to know from the beginning what is the end goal, what is expected of them before the study process even begins.
Right-brain pupils benefit from the use of images and colours when studying. Using simple drawings when learning is highly beneficial as it involves their dominant right-brain, the creative hemisphere in the process, thus supporting their left-brain.
Until the day that the education department will embrace and support this natural, dual way of thinking it lies in our hands as parents to understand our children’s hemispheric dominance and distinctive brain wiring and to support them, as all children are gifted and unique, whole individuals.
A baby’s arrival is welcomed with excitement and apprehension. We prepare for it by buying tiny clothes, a mountain of nappies, furniture to fill an entire room and the boot of our cars — and this is just the beginning. Between antenatal classes and parenting books, no wonder there isn’t any time left for extra information.
Neuroscientists, with the aid of brain-imaging tools, can study the changes that take place in the human brain when we think, read or learn. Their findings shine a new light on how the human brain actually works and how parents can help enhance their children’s educational experiences and life achievements.
Baby Brain Fact #1: First Three Month Of Life Are Crucial For The Baby’s Brain
The brain of a newborn baby birthed at full term is only a quarter of the total size of an adult brain. Therefore specialists consider the first three months of life as the fourth trimester of pregnancy. It is during these first three months of the newborn’s life that his brain develops enough for the baby to become mature enough to adapt to his surroundings and to begin to socialise.
When infants are born before full term
Inductions were regarded as highly fashionable between the Eighties and until the end of the 20th century. As soon as a pregnancy reached its 37th week (with 40 weeks being full term), it was considered “close enough” and inductions and C-sections were being scheduled. It was the increased number of babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (ICU) that made obstetricians reconsider the meaning of “term pregnancy“.
Researchers noted that the brains of the infants born at 37 weeks were 5 percent smaller than the average. By the third months of life, the difference between the preterm babies and the full-term babies became smaller, but the preterm babies hadn’t fully caught up — their brain size remaining “2 percent smaller than the average” a neurology study showed.
Image above: The brain scan on the left is taken from a newborn, and the one on the right is taken 90 days later. Credit: Dominic Holland et al., University of California, San Diego School of Medicine
Baby Brain Fact #2: Talking To A Baby Stimulates Its Brain
Talking to babies and even reading to them helps boost their brain power, researchers say, and the differences begin to show as early as two years of age. Chatting with infants helps them pick up the rhythm and the rules of language, and repetition helps them learn vocabulary.
The same principles apply to using facial expressions to communicate with an infant, as this will help them decipher and understand human emotions. At such a young age the prefrontal cortex (implicated in behaviour and personality expression) is not fully developed, so the fear of “spoiling” an infant by giving them too much attention is unjustified.
Baby Brain Fact #3: The Brain Develops During Our Entire Life
Neuroscientists have discovered that the human brain continues to develop — forming new neural pathways and pruning old, weak ones throughout our lives. Also, due to the brain’s plasticity, if an area of the human brain is lost the remaining brain area will, in time, develop to compensate for the missing sector.
Our genetic package provides the basic blueprint for brain development, but the stimulation an infant and child experiences provide the foundation for future learning.
Baby Brain Fact #4: Lantern vs Flashlight Awareness
Although a baby’s brain has many more neural connections compared to the adult brain, to protect them in a harsh world their brain has less inhibitory neurotransmitters.
As a result, they perceive the main picture, but focus less on details, just like a lantern that illuminates the entire room in a diffuse way. By comparison, the adult brain will focus on details, very much like a flashlight that focuses its light on specific details.
Baby Brain Fact #5: DVDs Out, Experiences In
From birth, babies respond to some stimuli and ignore others. DVDs, flashcards — these leave baby unresponsive. What babies love is human interaction, and later on, first-hand experiences.
Keep in mind that babies get bored quickly, as they have a short attention span, so parents need to vary the games. Also, too much stimulation will soon tire the baby.
Interesting to notice is that babies don’t hear as well as we do, which explains why crying is not bothering them!
Also, babies can’t distinguish voices from background noise as well as adults do — so if you want your infant to pay attention to you, it is advised to switch off the TV.
And music? Yes, babies do love music, but this should be approached as an activity, limited by time and cued to baby’s attention span.
* The information in this article is NOT intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified healthcare professional and is not intended as medical advice.
This article was initially published on Huffington Post SA on 9 May 2018