Hold­ing place, not tongues di­verse voices at the Fes­ti­val

Grocott's Mail - - Vnational Arts Festival -

Lan­guage and the spo­ken word have been at the heart of Na­tional Arts Fes­ti­val for decades. Start­ing with a cel­e­bra­tion of English, and Shake­speare in par­tic­u­lar, this has changed sub­stan­tially as new voices joined the Fes­ti­val, cre­at­ing a di­verse and mul­ti­lin­gual cel­e­bra­tion of the arts. The 2020 edi­tion con­tin­ues this jour­ney and brings a mul­ti­tude of languages to the pro­gramme. Shake­speare is still here, but in a slightly dif­fer­ent form to what was first staged in 1966.

Brett Bai­ley’s pro­duc­tion of Verdi’s Mac­beth, set in the Great Lakes re­gion of Cen­tral Africa, is Shake­speare on steroids. This pro­duc­tion toured glob­ally, and the filmed ver­sion of this work fea­tures the trans-balkan No Bor­ders Orches­tra and a South African cast.

Opera is a lan­guage of its own and there are few ex­am­ples as splen­did as this one, which Verdi him­self re­ferred to as ‘dearer to me than all my other operas.’

Closer to home than the Ital­ian of Verdi, is the isix­hosa of Ma­dosini La­tozi Mphaleni, known by her stage name Ma­dosini.

The fea­tured artist of the Fes­ti­val, born in Mqhekezwen­i in Um­tata the East­ern Cape, will be on the pro­gramme each day, al­low­ing au­di­ences a glimpse into her life and work. Tshep­ang Ramoba, of BLK JKS fame, ex­plores the Se­pedi lan­guage reimag­ing tra­di­tional African folk sto­ries in his love let­ter to his mother tongue, Mošate. More mu­sic from Bach and Beethoven to Genge­tone, Ghom, maskandi, umb­haqanga and ev­ery genre in be­tween brings a rich ex­plo­ration of the lan­guage of mu­sic, and mu­si­cal lan­guage to the pro­gramme.

Au­di­ences can also cre­ate a sound­track for their own lives; Sean Davenport will present two mod­u­lar syn­the­sis work­shops that in­tro­duce the ba­sics of mod­u­lar syn­the­sis us­ing Open Source soft­ware, Vir­tual CV Rack (VCV).

The dig­i­tal na­ture of the Fes­ti­val has opened the pos­si­bil­ity of cap­tioned per­for­mance and Louise Wester­hout presents Blood and Snow Man­i­festo with cap­tions, en­abling deaf au­di­ences to ex­pe­ri­ence her provoca­tive in­ves­ti­ga­tion of dis­abil­ity to the fullest. If it’s cy­borg you speak, the Afro-fu­tur­is­tic vir­tual re­al­ity, dance, sci-fi mu­si­cal from Botswana, The Cos­mic Egg, ex­plores the cos­mic sky through Tswana, San and con­tem­po­rary dance. You can travel even fur­ther through space in The Eye of Rre Mutwa, a homage to the late great Credo Mutwa with Al­bert Ibokwe Khoza and Pa­tri­cia Boyer.

Some may see this year’s dig­i­tal ver­sion as a place holder for the real live event which is ir­re­place­able but while a live Fes­ti­val may not re­turn next year, the mul­ti­lin­gual na­ture of the pro­gramme will con­tinue to thrive and show­case the di­ver­sity of South African cre­ativ­ity.

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