Healthcare and frontline workers have been honoured through a small and symbolic Tweede Nuwejaar performance in Cape Town. The annual Cape Minstrel Street parade was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But for a short while on Saturday, the distinct minstrel sounds of banjos and ghoema drums reverberated across the front courtyard of the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town.
The performances by the minstrels or Kaapse Klopse is an age old tradition of ringing in the New year in Cape Town. January 2 was the day on which enslaved people were given time off. In previous years, thousands of spectators would line the streets in anticipation of the troupes’ arrival. Some, even camping along the route for days to ensure a front-row seat. COVID-19, however, prompted the postponement of this year’s street parade.
“We should never ever think we can move this date to another date. Hence the reason we came and we thought we can do this in a smaller group with COVID regulations and we can also give back to all the frontline workers. This is the way of showing them to bring a smile to their face on the 2nd of New Year,” he says.
Heritage, Culture and Education Manager at the Castle of Good Hope, Sonwabile Maxebengula, says while the minstrel parade is usually a jovial event, it is also a reminder of the abhorrent practice of slavery and colonialism, and the importance of a common heritage.
“The balcony that they are performing next to is where all the important announcements were made such as the abolishment of slavery in 1834. So it’s important for us to give the message of hope and also freedom from oppression.”
One of the minstrels, Shadley Basardien, says it not only a part of their culture, but also a family tradition.
“Minstrels is very deeply entrenched into our coloured communities and so it actually started with one of my uncles who was one of the prominent Banjo players within the minstrel fratenity and I always wanted to be a part of it. I remember my first team – the young Woodstock Starlights back then from my Gympie Street in Woodstock and since then I have been with many other team and I finally ended up being in the group that travels internationally.”
The annual minstrel parade was provisionally postponed to June the 16th.