Fest’s theme of ‘dis­rup­tion’

In­the

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

THE 43rd edi­tion of the Na­tional Arts Fes­ti­val (NAF) will be on in Gra­ham­stown from June 29 to July 9 – an 11-day cel­e­bra­tion of lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional arts, cul­ture and cre­ativ­ity.

For the first time, the NAF called for pro­pos­als on the theme of “dis­rup­tion” and much of the work on the main and arena pro­gram­mers is struc­tured around this po­tent theme which re­flects the dis­so­nance around us – at home and abroad.

This year, arts dy­namo Ashraf Jo­haar­dien was brought on as ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer, work­ing col­lab­o­ra­tively with a NAF 21-per­son artis­tic com­mit­tee to cre­ate a cut­ting-edge pro­gramme across drama, per­for­mance, dance and other gen­res.

Jo­haar­dien is a multi-award win­ning play­wright, dra­maturge, ac­tor, and arts man­ager. When asked to re­flect on some of the works which have em­braced the theme of dis­rup­tion, he said: ”Mandla Mbothwe’s Saba­manye Nomendi (mul­ti­me­dia in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the sink­ing of the SS Mendi in 1917) chal­lenges con­ven­tional no­tions of the­atre and per­for­mance. This se­ries of bold and provoca­tive live in­stal­la­tions is Mbothwe at his best and also per­fectly ar­tic­u­lates the re­la­tion­ship be­tween art and dis­rup­tion.

“Ditto. for our genre-bust­ing Di­neo Bopabe who hap­pens to be this year’s re­cip­i­ent for per­for­mance art – but who is more gen­er­ally recog­nised as a vis­ual artist. Her piece for NAF17, Sa Koša Ke Le­role is a trav­el­ling mu­seum that cel­e­brates the con­tri­bu­tion of cho­rale mu­sic to the rich cul­tural his­tory of South Africa.

“The work con­sists of a se­ries of mem­o­ra­bilia, re­flec­tions, mu­sic videos and col­lages which will be in­stalled in one of my favourite fes­ti­val spa­ces: the Gallery in the Round un­der the Guy But­ler The­atre.

“The work will be open through­out the fes­ti­val. Theatre­rocket’s Die Reuk van Ap­pels com­pletely dis­rupts the per­cep­tion that this is an English fes­ti­val or in­deed a fes­ti­val of English work – but that’s not why I pro­grammed it. Ir­re­spec­tive of po­lit­i­cal ide­ol­ogy, cul­tural point of view or is­sues of trans­for­ma­tion or ac­cess or rep­re­sen­ta­tion, ar­tis­ti­cally this is just a bril­liant piece of the­atre which de­serves a spot on the main pro­gramme.

“Louise Reay’s It’s Only Birds is en­tirely in Man­darin – and that’s part of what makes this such a mind-blow­ing piece of stand-up per­for­mance work.The theme of dis­rup­tion was in­tended as a prompt for artists and the artis­tic com­mit­tee to of­fer au­di­ences a point of fo­cus in the pro­gramme rather than to pre­scribe any­one’s ex­pe­ri­ence of any of the mul­ti­tude of works on of­fer”.

In terms of in­ter­na­tional of­fer­ings, the NAF pro­gramme in­cludes two works from the Brighton Fringe: Po­lice Cops and It’s Only Birds. Ma­cho Ma­cho is from the Am­s­ter­dam Fringe.

This per­for­mance art of­fer­ing in­cludes a dou­ble-bill of ex­tra­or­di­nary con­tem­po­rary Swiss dance works: Neons and Vac­uum. Dervish Pro­duc­tions – an in­de­pen­dent com­pany from the UK is on the main with The Crows Plucked Your Sinews.

The French again have sev­eral works on sev­eral plat­forms: Tartuffe, Alchemy of Words, Septem­ber Jive.

The Amer­i­cans are spon­sor­ing a se­ries of read­ing of Amer­i­can plays and both jazz and film pro­grammes also fea­ture a ro­bust range of in­ter­na­tional guests and con­tent from all cor­ners of the globe.

Does the theme of dis­rup­tion also ap­ply to the fringe – a plat­form where tra­di­tion­ally any­thing goes?

“The NAF has al­ways had a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing the place to go if you want to know where the coun­try is at and what artists are think­ing and grappling with.

“The theme of dis­rup­tion which binds a core of works on the main has served as a prompt to en­cour­age artists to un­pack and ex­plore some of what’s been go­ing in the na­tional con­ver­sa­tion.

“By leav­ing the Fringe open, we’re say­ing: let’s see what artists want to wres­tle in artis­tic terms and which con­cerns emerge from that ap­proach.”

To book shows at the NAF, see www. na­tion­alarts­fes­ti­val.co.za.

Ne­olek­tra, PIC­TURE: KAY WAHLIG

di­rected by Naomi Tagg, will be per­formed at the Na­tional Arts Fes­ti­val 2017.

Ex­cerpts from the Past, PIC­TURE: LER­ATO MADUNA

Nol­wazi-Sethem­bile Msezane in Fes­ti­val 2017. also head­ing for the Na­tional Arts

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