catching up

Dear all

I sit in a flat in Vigevano, near Milan, Italy. Joke just went out to catch a moment of writing while Mira is asleep. I do not have an extra adaptor for Italian plugs, so this laptop’s battery will switch off at some point but I MUST write this newsletter now. It is long overdue, or so I feel.

There is a new era coming up – still. I have been announcing it a couple of times, so by now you are not obliged to believe me anymore, but still. It is coming. It will be a shift of my online presence from social media to an online subscription service. But that’s not all. The newsletter will change and will become truly regular. our minds will flow on a regular basis – flow on what we experience in and think of this world we live in, we are travelling through..

My problem right now is that I have not been doing it – this flow – for so long that my mind is completely clogged. I don’t know where to begin and where to end. I have often seen movies that moved me strongly, triggering many thoughts and insights and feelings. I am reading news on a daily basis, trailing the story of the human family – this nervous and dysfunctional human family, all over the planet. I have seen new parts of it – especially Japan – that I wanted to share about. But all, in the meantime, is checked by the living presence of this baby Mira, this beautiful living thing, this demanding, entertaining, hyper-active and also, somehow, at the same time, very peaceful being. Being a parent, as I knew beforehand, will squeeze our experience and handling of time and space in subtle and sometimes uneasy ways.

And so I might end up just writing about all these things that I do not know how to write about right now.

It (our setup) will be simple: there will be performances (as always), there will be products (not only cd albums, but more, especially books and things you can hold in your hands, that will flow from our creative pools) and there will be this online subscription service, which will be la bit like Netflix, a bit like a newsstand, a bit like a library, and a bit like a gallery and a bit like experience the HA! stage energy on an ongoing basis. It will also, importantly, be another stream of contact, sharing and support that we intend to be of real value to all who subscribe – whether it is for only one month, or for years on end.

I just came from the primary school here in Vigevano – let me briefly tell you about this. A very supportive man, and friend here in this bustling Italian town, took it upon himself to try and secure us some performances and opportunities in Vigevano. He tried hard, but could not make any inroads in any of the local schools. And this is becoming more and more of a problem as finances for cultural activities in public schooling are shrinking and at the same time all sorts of bureaucracy seeps into the system, taking away more and more of the freedom of teachers to budget for extra curricular activities (not only in Italy, it’s happening everywhere – what is going on??). So I told our friend, look, just tell all the schools I will come and perform for free, so they can get a first hand taste and experience of the HA!Man’s way with children. Then they can decide whether to do it again, and budget for it. (Somewhere inside of me there lives a deep impatience with the phrase “there is no money.” Well, money or no money, the music we carry in us never dies. It needs expression. Let’s just do it and see what follows!).

So, the primary school, through the mediation of an older, retired, and wise teacher, allowed me to do a performance to a 100 kids, outdoors. Did I have fun? Of course, I knew I would have fun with Italian kids. It is just fund to hear them approach, to see them in front of me already. What a vibrant bunch they are, spewing out the musicality of the Italian language on a constant basis. So I did it. And they asked me all sorts of questions about black and white in South Africa, and how it is with schools back home. Keen on many minds here in Europe is always the question: do white and black get along in South Africa? So as if the fate of the world hangs on what the answer would be – like, if it can work there, it should work everywhere! I told them, no, not always. Even in schools where the youth are still open to connect and be shaped by one another, violence can break out between black and white. But, I said, the answer is also yes. On many levels, we actually do get along, in spite of the huge economic divide that is still largely defined by black vs. white. I said some people believe we cannot get along. And then I said, but many believe we can, myself included. Applause. (It is like, that is what we WANT to hear, that it IS possible). Long story short, big plans are now afoot for our next visit here. Apparently, in my interaction with the kids, I picked on quite a few immigrant children, who are having a hard time. Just to see smiles on their faces was enough to for the teachers to take my antics seriously. Take the plunge, see what follows..


It is almost the end of our three month Europe tour. I can feel how my energies are going down. I was not too excited to do this performance today. And yet, there I was with them, these 100 colourful, hopeful kids. And I feel energized for it. This is always a good test of having done something meaningful: that you spent a lot of energy, and yet feel recharged by it.

And what about Mira then. So much to say, but I save it for another newsletter we send to friends and family (if you would like to be included in this list, reply with FRIENDS PLEASE). In short, she is doing well. Pretty well. So far, on the road, we do not have more to complain about than parents having children in a settled home. She is very healthy and a joy to everyone we meet and stay with. Of course she can also be difficult at times and we better check on her feet staying flat on the ground with all the positive attention she is getting. But being a little family, despite all challenges, is magical. Many of you I am sure can attest to this. Just to note: many people would like me to admit that a child changes one’s life in a fundamental way. I cannot attest to that. Impacting, yes. But not changing in any mountain-moving way. She gets me as I am. And I give her what I have become over the many phases of my life. I cannot speak for Joke, but… there she cries. She just woke up. Impacting on my life? Yes.

So I leave you now. We’ll be back at our home nest during June, July and August, during which time the new era will come your way. We hope it will enrich all of our lives during these trying times on planet earth.

And not to forget, back home I will start working on appealing the USA visa ban. Our American friends will soon hear more about that.

All the best then and try to keep body and soul holding hands.

Francois (HA!Man)


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