New nar­ra­tive at arts fes­ti­val

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - ORIELLE BERRY

SOUTH Africa’s long-stand­ing the­atre tra­di­tion of cre­at­ing new work that dis­rupts, chal­lenges and ques­tions is alive and well. Over the cen­turies, decades and years, the­atre and other arts gen­res have been used over and over again, in a mul­ti­tude of ways, as a ve­hi­cle to chal­lenge and pro­voke.

Dis­rup­tion is also the core theme of this year’s Na­tional Arts Fes­ti­val, which be­gins to­day in Gra­ham­stown.

Ashraf Jo­haar­dien, vet­eran per­former and artist at the fes­ti­val since 1993, wears a dif­fer­ent hat this year as he takes up the po­si­tion of ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer. He says this is the first year that sees the fes­ti­val team call­ing a spe­cial theme, rather than a theme re­sult­ing from the cul­mi­na­tion of con­tent.

“Art and cre­ativ­ity can some­times be dis­rup­tive. Al­ready there are el­e­ments in so­ci­ety that can be con­sid­ered dis­rup­tive – such as Uber taxis, Airbnb, Ap­ple in me­dia – and now that has res­o­nance for us at the fes­ti­val.

“A num­ber of works se­lected for this year’s core pro­gramme refuse to sit qui­etly in any one pro­gramme – the first clue that some­thing is in flux.

“Multi-sen­sory im­mer­sive works that cut across the dis­ci­plines sig­nal a de­sire by the artists to en­gage au­di­ences in new and un­con­ven­tional ways,” he says.

Jo­haar­dien adds that in all the pro­grammes – from the­atre to mu­sic, to vis­ual art to dance – “the pro­gramme se­lec­tion demon­strates the de­sire to un­pack and show­case how artists are en­gag­ing and dis­rupt­ing pre­vail­ing colo­nial nar­ra­tives”.

Said Na­tional Arts Fes­ti­val chief ex­ec­u­tive Tony Lankester: “In times like these, the need to re­flect, re­vi­talise, en­gage and re-imag­ine is crit­i­cal.”

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