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By Brynley Van Aardt

For the first time in Stellenbosch University (SU) history, popular newcomer event, Vensters, will be held virtually which allows the event to continue in a time where large social gatherings have had to take a back seat. 

Run by SU’s Connect Committee, Vensters is the final instalment of a ten-day welcoming programme conducted by the residences and Private Student Organisation’s (PSOs) of SU. For this event, the residences and PSOs are randomly paired up, and their newcomers are expected to produce a 15-minute show that includes a storyline with dances that follow an overarching theme which is presented by Connect. 

The theme for 2021 is “The masks we wear”. Vensters introduces another first by introducing a ‘Vensters anthem’ which is a song and dance that each partnership will have to include in their performance. The students voted for the song: Can’t hold us by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. 

The proceeds from these performances are then used to fund social impact projects that each residence and PSO run throughout the year. However, in order to keep this tradition going amidst a global pandemic, a few things have had to change.

“Obviously, Vensters (as everything else) will be significantly affected by the on-going pandemic. A few months ago, the Connect Committee made the decision to take Vensters completely online this year,” said Alten du Plessis, Chairperson of Connect. 

“It is important to us that Vensters is still an ‘awe moment’ for newcomers, while still keeping everyone safe and adhering to all the necessary protocols. Vensters is about moments of awe as well as a connection between newcomers and communities. In the age of disconnection and distancing, we are trying to encourage reconnection again, even if it is just in the form of collaborating on a project with no actual physical contact between newcomers,” he continued. 

The residence/PSO partnerships are still expected to put together a 15-minute video performance similar to that of the normal production, but now they have the ability to include new elements that were never available on the Vensters’ stage before.

“Initially, we wanted to broadcast the videos on YouTube, but due to licensing restrictions and fees that need to be paid to Southern African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO), we will be selling tickets and broadcasting the video on another platform,” said du Plessis. He added that although they have not yet announced the ticket prices, they are committed to keeping the “entrance fee” as low as possible to ensure that the event is accessible. 

However, in accordance with SAMRO’s licensing requirements, the Vensters’ videos may only be available for 48 hours, after which they must be removed. The videos will, therefore, be available for a maximum of two days over the weekend of 20 March. 

Usually, a panel of judges will be tasked with deciding which residence/PSO performance wins, but this year, with the productions being online, the public will be allowed to vote.

 “The idea is to have the public participate by voting for their favourite performance, which will make up a part of the ‘marks’ for the judges’ rubric,” said du Plessis.

More information regarding Vensters including, the judging panel and platform for Vensters, will be released shortly on Connect’s Instagram page, @maties_connect. 

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