Brookings, SD, Welcomes South Africa

By Lindajoy Fenley

Brookings was ready for the South African edition of Arts Midwest World Fest when Lorraine and her ensemble pulled in for the second week of their five-week tour.

On Monday, 3M—a committed supporter of the program since 2003—set up a stage in its large lunchroom, and as many as 80 workers enjoyed South Africa’s Township music during their break. The Brookings facility welcomed previous Arts Midwest World Fest ensembles the same way.

Lorraine and Mongezi catch their breath before the 3M presentation.

The audience during a workshop at a 3M facility in Brookings, SD.

Gloria Wongondombi, one of the crowd’s most attentive listeners, accepted an invitation to join Lorraine on stage. Later, the young woman from the Congo told the ensemble that she is excited to bring her whole family to the Friday concert. She also got a chance to chat with Lorraine’s percussionist, Noel Mpiaza, who is also from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Noel and Gloria chat following 3M performance.

Monday evening, members of the Brookings Arts Council board of directors and other members of the community officially welcomed the ensemble during a reception at the Old Market Eatery.

Children and their parents listen attentively at the reception.

The audience, who heard the ensemble perform several songs, included an Afrikaner woman and her daughter who live in Brookings as well as several South Dakotans who shared their memories of tours of Zimbabwe and South Africa.

An audience member tells Lorraine about his trip to Africa.

Key board members continued to follow the group all week, cheerfully helping to load equipment into and out of various school venues.

Karen and Keith Kinder help unload the tour van.

Keith Kinder picks up the last piece of equipment. He and his wife Karen helped carry drums, microphones, and other equipment all week long in Brookings, SD.

Brookings Arts Council Executive Director Heather Kuhlman and board members Laura Hummel, Linday Purrington, Linda Hoffelt, Jean Jostad, and Melanie Krogman meet with Lorraine Klaasen just before a school presentation.

Brookings children were just as impressed as their elders. From second grade right through high school, the students were well-informed, well-prepared, and eager to sing, dance, and ask questions. Throughout the week, however, there was some indication that supportive parents and teachers may be the reason the students made such good audiences.

Camelot Intermediate School’s music teacher Melissa Sagmoe, who had traveled to South African townships several years ago, prepared her students by telling them about her trip and playing videos of Lorraine performing prior to the school event.

Melissa Sagmoe meets Lorraine while Kathy Miller, a retired Camelot school guidance counselor and wife of Brookings Arts Council Board Member John Miller, looks on.

Ava, a fourth grader, said her favorite part of the workshop was the song “Pata Pata” because, as she said, “we knew it.” Logan, another fourth grader, said his favorite was the last song, a lively song from the apartheid era called “Khawuleza,” a word that Lorraine explains means, “Hurry up and run, get out of the way, because the police are coming.” Logan said he didn’t know why he liked it so much. “It just got my attention the most,” he said.

Brookings Middle School rushed down the bleachers to dance.

Some girls couldn’t stay in their seats during the workshop.

While elementary and middle school students all rushed to dance when Lorraine invited them, only a handful of high schoolers got out of their seats during their workshop. That’s not unusual for that age group. However, Brookings teenagers were more willing to ask questions than many other people their age.

Brookings students sing along with Lorraine during a workshop.

Younger students never seem to have problems coming up with questions. During school workshops, the ensemble is asked when they got together as a band, when they started playing music, what do they eat, and what sports do they like to play. Occasionally, a youngster will ask, “How old are you?”

On Wednesday, Lorraine corrected the question. “Don’t ask a woman how old she is,” she said. “Ask how young she is.” Then, Lorraine rounded her age up a year and answered.

The children gasped and told her she looked much younger.

Lorraine Klaasen and her ensemble take a bow.

After the ensemble members’ final bow, a girl approached Lorraine quietly. “My mom is 45, and she’s much older than you,” she stated.

“Have her listen to more African music, and she’ll stay young,” Lorraine replied.


In addition to stalwarts Karen and Keith Kinder, Board Members John and Kathy Miller and Chuck Bennis also pitched it for load-ins at a couple of venues. Others made us a home-cooked meal – something much appreciated when one is away from home for a long time – for the pre-concert dinner. A big thanks to all the board members who made our stay enjoyable and to BAC Executive Director Heather Kuhlman who accompanied the ensemble every day.

My husband Ron and I so enjoyed the concert last night! It brought back so many memories of when we lived in Botswana, Africa in the 80’s. SDSU was part of an AID program to build and staff a new Agricultural College. The local teachers came to Brookings to earn their Masters degrees while SDSU teachers went to Botswana to teach. We loved the African people, their music,and their simple way of life. We loved the way Lorraine brought the generations together with music and stories. The children (and some adults) were happily dancing while the rest of us were singing along. We wish the best to Lorraine and her musicians and thank you Arts Council for bringing her to Brookings.

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