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Children’s Book Network and the Rock Gong project:

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What is a rock gong?
Sometimes called Ringing Rocks, these are features of the landscape in the Karoo and many other places worldwide. Put simply, they are rocks that ring when struck with another rock. There is evidence, in peck marks on the sides of some rocks, that some of them have been struck many, many times, possibly by people living in the area hundred of years ago. The marked gongs are often associated with rock art, particularly paintings and engravings linked to rain making.

CBN is working with musicians and archaeologists to introduce rock gongs, and the sounds they make, to children as part of a project that will include art and cultural history from the Cederberg region where we hold many of our workshops.

It is fascinating to children to hear sounds that come from the landscape, sounds that could have been heard by the earliest people – from rocks that resonate with history. We are going to incorporate these ideas into our winter holiday workshops during the first three weeks of July, and to build up to that by preparation in smaller workshops .

We can do this in three sizes – small, medium or enormous. Personally, we’d prefer to go for enormous, but we can see how things develop. What will be very exciting will be to involve children in performance that includes the sound of rock gongs. The associated reading activities can only be enhanced by the scope of this project and we want to involve children in both the Cederberg and Cape Town.

We have a vibrant tradition of children’s choirs in the Cape Peninsula, many of them in schools otherwise disadvantaged. We have beautiful sounds. Would it not be possible to include, through the choir competitions, the sound of many children – a real South African musical statement?

Sindiwe Magona, one of the founders of CBN has pointed out that South African children share very little cultural history. 'They have no music that all of them could sing together.' Let’s make some.

Lesley Beake

Picture: Anele Mhlahlo, CBN's workshop manager, sitting on a pile of dolorite rocks (including some rock gongs) in the Karoo - taking photographs with one of the iPads on loan from Digicape as part of our iPad Project.