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By Aurelia Mouton

Vensters has been the highlight of Welcoming Week at Stellenbosch University (SU) for many years and Vensters 2021 promised to be no different. This year’s theme, “The Masks We Wear”, hit close to home as we remain in the midst of a global pandemic, enjoying Vensters virtually for the very first time ever. 

Boasting stunning videography, a thought-provoking script and lively dances, HelderMetaDia, a partnership between Helderberg, Lydia and Metanoia residences, reigned victorious this year.             

“It has been super stressful being the first [HK group] to have to execute an online Vensters, but the stress and anxiety paid off and we are proud of the work we created. I genuinely hope every partnership can look back and acknowledge their accomplishments given the unprecedented circumstances”, said Mokgadifela Masipa, Metanoia HK. 

This annual fundraiser, known for its colourful performances by SU residences and private student organisations (PSO), sees first years engaging with social issues impacting the larger community through song and dance. The proceeds from this event go towards the funding of social impact projects held throughout the year by each residence and PSO. 

Hosted by the Connect Committee, the 14 teams had been hard at work practising and recording their shows throughout the welcoming program, hoping to win the favour of the six judges and Maties alike. This year marks the first time a public vote forms part of each team’s score. 

“It’s very different to anything that’s been done before, but because there’s been these unforeseen challenges in these unprecedented times, we were even more excited. People are obviously going to compare it to an in-person Vensters, but we’ve enjoyed the challenge of creating something completely different,” said Alten du Plessis, chairperson of Connect. 

“Having it [virtually] creates more opportunity for people to showcase their talents. Where in the past it was only people who [could] dance and act, now if someone is a really good photographer, they can showcase that talent. If they are good at editing, they could showcase that too,” Du Plessis said.

“The acting was so much fun and getting to spend time with people from Lydia and Helderberg was a highlight… in the end I couldn’t have asked for a better time with better people’, said Metanoia first year, Saneshan Reddy. 

The virtual performance premiered at 09:00 on Saturday, 20 March and boasted over 1800 views before ending at 09:00 on Sunday, 21 March. According to Du Plessis, the number of views exceeded the expectations of the Connect Committee. 

Marciel Hopkins, one of the Vensters judges, said,”I enjoyed the creativity and innovation used by all students to put their Vensters videos together this year. Metanoia, Helderberg and Lydia’s video was exceptionally colourful, gripping and entertaining to watch, yet so relevant to the time we are living in.”

Divan du Toit, Aurora PSO’s Vensters HK, explained that there was a lot more freedom with camera angles and choreography, creating a fun atmosphere for both the HK and first years. 

“The residences we collaborated with, Majuba and Nerina, were really thoughtful of the fact that we are a PSO and made sure we were finished filming in time for our students to get home,” Du Toit said.

David Derman, HK of Eendrag, says their focus for Vensters 2021 was rather the social impact aspect of Connect. In their collaboration with Equité they built bookshelves and collected children’s books for local school, Rietenbosch Primary. Hosting a fun run, they also collected tinned food and raised  R 3200 for Feeding In Action, a non-profit organization that provides meals and food supplies to almost 5000 people in the Stellenbosch community. 

“We don’t need a big production to wow the masses for the Connect project, we are satisfied with what we have achieved”, Derman said. 

While HelderMetaDia, took the highly sought after first place, second place was awarded to Helsonisa (Helshoogte, Sonop and Isa) with Ariba (Aurora, Majuba and Nerina) coming in third place.Other awards were  presented to Sirene Marais (Silene, Irene and Huis Marais) for best script, whilst PiekEricStede (Erica, Heemstede and Pieke) won the award for best videography. Helsonisa and PiekEricStede shared the award for best choreography. 

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