CLIMB­ING TO THE TOP OF THE NA­TIONAL ARTS FES­TI­VAL

... AND WHY IT SHOULD STILL BE ON YOUR BUCKET LIST

CityPress - - Front Page - PHUMLANI S LANGA phumlani.sithebe@city­press.co.za

Gra­ham­stown has once again opened its doors and hearts to the out­side world with the an­nual arts fes­ti­val which, for those who have not been there, is a bucket-list ex­pe­ri­ence.

It lasts for just over a week and com­prises noth­ing but art and pure cre­ativ­ity, with al­most ev­ery av­enue of art well rep­re­sented.

Why then did it feel a lit­tle low key this year?

The hype around the fes­ti­val prior to the start was al­most nonex­is­tent but this hasn’t stopped a few no­table pro­duc­tions com­ing to town to pro­vide some en­ter­tain­ment.

Although it is all sys­tems go, the sleepy town is not as full as you might ex­pect.

You would imag­ine there would be too many peo­ple but, on the whole, things aren’t manic. But those who are here ap­pear to be hun­gry to take in as much art as they can.

The man at the helm Tony Lankester is con­fi­dent the fes­ti­val will be a success.

The CEO also ad­dressed ru­mours that the fes­ti­val might mi­grate in years to come. He re­as­sured arts lovers that Gra­ham­stown was the home and birth place of this na­tional trea­sure and it would take quite a lot for it to be up­rooted. A name change for the town is al­ready on the cards. The new name is Makhanda, in hon­our of the leg­endary Makhanda kaNx­ele‚ a war­rior who fought against the Bri­tish when they ar­rived in this re­gion.

Lankester also let slip what some of the hottest tick­ets in town are.

“The work of our Stan­dard Bank young artists is al­ways pop­u­lar and this year is no dif­fer­ent – Jemma Kahn’s The Bor­row Pit is a big hit, as is Thandi Ntuli’s first show as the young artist for jazz. Com­ing up we’ve got Amanda Black, Vusi Mahlasela, an amazing evening of new mu­si­cal tal­ent by Afropo­ets Bongeziwe Mabandla and The Brother Moves On, and Grammy win­ner Suzanne Vega, plus our flag­ship Very Big Com­edy Show, loads of theatre and dance,” said Lankester.

He said it would be best to pre­pare for a full lineup in the week ahead – and per­haps for the cold. Sur­prises are around ev­ery cor­ner with some amazing buskers pro­vid­ing free en­ter­tain­ment.

The vil­lage green and mar­ket space will boast acro­bats, ma­gi­cians and some in­ge­nious fash­ion de­signs. Night time will be party time. Hav­ing two cen­tral streets, High Street and Main Street, makes it quite easy to find the party in this quiet town.

The shows are, of course, the main at­trac­tion. “We’re very pleased with the re­sponse to our pro­gramme – we’ve seen a healthy num­ber of sold-out per­for­mances, have to add some ad­di­tional per­for­mances in re­sponse to de­mand, and the crit­i­cal re­sponse to many of our premieres has been great,” said Lankester.

The com­edy fra­ter­nity al­ways seems to send a strong con­tin­gent and this year is no dif­fer­ent with Khany­isa Bunu, Robby Collins and the Gola broth­ers all spot­ted around town.

City Press bumped into the di­rec­tor of South Africa’s first western movie, also show­ing at the fes­ti­val. Sean Drum­mond was seen cruis­ing around with one of the principals of this film, War­ren Masemola. Drum­mond briefly men­tioned that he was sad­dened by the fact that his film was on cir­cuit for nine weeks while the lat­est Tyler Perry sen­sa­tion, which opened in the same week, is still show­ing. But he seemed happy to be around nev­er­the­less.

Lankester of­fered a lit­tle ad­vice on how to ap­proach the fes­ti­val.

“Big­gest tip is keep an open mind and eaves­drop on ev­ery­one’s con­ver­sa­tions, be­cause that’s how you’ll dis­cover the hid­den gems and the pro­duc­tions fly­ing be­neath the radar that will amaze and in­spire you.

“Those fes­ti­val dis­cov­er­ies are what make this event so spe­cial. Stay warm, bring a friend, but also don’t be afraid to go solo and ex­plore alone.”

Per­haps it would help if the fes­ti­val could at­tract some of the big­ger names in lo­cal art.

MOVE­MENT MAV­ER­ICK Mamela Nyamza is the fea­tured artist at this year’s fes­ti­val

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