Fest’s theme of ‘disruption’
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.
directed by Naomi Tagg, will be performed at the National Arts Festival 2017.
Nolwazi-Sethembile Msezane in Festival 2017. also heading for the National Arts