A vis­ual and mu­sic feast

Na­tional Arts Fes­ti­val un­der­lines its po­si­tion as one of the lead­ing events of its kind

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - NEWS - Masego Panyane

AF­TER 67 main pro­gramme pro­duc­tions, 283 fringe of­fer­ings, 23 films, 65 talks and work­shops and 47 jazz shows, the Na­tional Arts Fes­ti­val (NAF) is draw­ing to a close.

And af­ter 11 days of some of the finest arts cre­ations be­ing fea­tured on stages in the charm­ing town of Gra­ham­stown, the an­nual fes­ti­val has once again stamped its po­si­tion as one of the lead­ing arts gath­er­ings in the coun­try.

From the smooth sounds of the Blue Note Tribute Or­ches­tra, the magic of mu­si­cian Nduduzo Makhathini to the stage shows of Mamela Nyamza, the event pro­vided a ver­i­ta­ble vis­ual and mu­sic feast for all in at­ten­dance.

Watch­ing Phuma-Langa, a dance piece con­cep­tu­alised and chore­ographed by Nyamza that gives ex­pres­sion to is­sues of iden­tity and the cur­rent state of the coun­try, it felt as if the work ap­pealed to one’s con­science. Chore­og­ra­pher and dancer Nyamza – se­lected as the fea­tured artist of the fes­ti­val – aims to cre­ate con­ver­sa­tions about so­cial co­he­sion in a coun­try fraught with ten­sion and where peo­ple are un­able to com­mu­ni­cate frankly with one an­other.

De­lib­er­ate even in how it is named, Nyamza’s work en­ter­tained, in­formed and spoke truths many are too afraid to dis­cuss. An­other of her pro­duc­tions, Hatched, a piece she cre­ated some 10 years ago, was also staged.

This year’s fes­ti­val pro­gramme in­cluded talks, pho­to­graphic ex­hi­bi­tions, con­ver­sa­tions and work­shops on many sub­jects, in­clud­ing land re­form, a dis­cus­sion that fea­tured re­tired Judge Al­bie Sachs.

Some of the more pop­u­lar shows and per­form­ers this year in­cluded: Dog­house, The Bor­row Pit, Amanda Black, The Gala Con­cert, AGAIN!, Hatched, Alphonse, Feather on the Breath of God, Caliente, Stuart Lightbody, Vusi Mahlasela and Suzanne Vega.

Now in its 44th year, the fes­ti­val brings more than cul­tural value to the East­ern Cape; its fi­nan­cial im­pact is of great im­por­tance, too.

Ac­cord­ing to a 2016 study, it con­trib­uted R94.4 mil­lion to the Gra­ham­stown econ­omy and R377.15m to the econ­omy of the East­ern Cape that year, cre­at­ing 400 di­rect jobs. Many other jobs are cre­ated within the tourism and hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­tries. The study found vis­i­tors, on av­er­age, stayed in the town for six days dur­ing the event. It’s be­lieved that about R13m is dis­bursed to artists, per­form­ers, writers and chore­og­ra­phers each year to al­low them to par­tic­i­pate in the fes­ti­val. The event also has a rip­ple ef­fect in the arts, with shows mov­ing to other lo­cal, and in­ter­na­tional, fes­ti­vals.Ahead of the 2019 event, fes­ti­val or­gan­is­ers said they were look­ing to strengthen their two new ini­tia­tives: the mov­ing of the Vil­lage Green Mar­ket and the in­tro­duc­tion of the Creati­vate Dig­i­tal Arts Fes­ti­val.

Given the cur­rent eco­nomic cli­mate, the or­gan­is­ers are also try­ing to keep ticket prices as ac­ces­si­ble as pos­si­ble, and to at­tract many first-time vis­i­tors to the NAF. “We have a whole lot of… ideas and projects in the pipe­line that we look for­ward to talk­ing about when ready to do so. We have al­ready called for artis­tic pro­pos­als for 2019 and are look­ing for­ward to be­ing in­spired by the work and pro­pos­als from our artists once more,” said NAF chief ex­ec­u­tive Tony Lankester.

PIC­TURE: JAN POTGIETER

A scene from ‘Xhosa Chron­i­cles’, per­formed at the Na­tional Arts Fes­ti­val in Gra­ham­stown.

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