Travels of Delores Koan Get thee to mother of arts shows
It handcuffs us to our beds and couches, force feeding us fatty foods. It superglues our noggins to TV and cell screens.
The effect is far from edifying, I think as I look down upon poor Delores who peers up at me wondering when she is going to the hairdresser and nail bar for that exhaust and radiator treatment.
I find it extraordinary that two hours and 15 minutes away, in Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) in three weeks’ time, the arts world’s equivalent of the sardine run, the National Arts Festival, will arrive.
In this amazing baitball there will be 600 events, 2,000 performances and 200,000 dateballs, festinoes.
They too make their pilgrimage along the coast, from the hinterland, and across the oceans, to find and lose themselves in the Greatest Shoal on Earth.
I can say this without a shred of doubt. I have attended 27 of these mother of arts shows, 25 of them in a row.
I’d call that a lot of unbroken service, but truth be told, I have been broken over and over and again by the work, and left, with regular monotony, pretty much stone broke.
Egad, jinna, I have even lived next to the Village Green, my children have run wild through the tents, flowery dresses billowing, with rose-rows in their long hair, high on candy floss.
They too have unbroken service of 25 and 24 years to the festival, and now that they are university-trained performers and theatremakers, they are back with two shows. (No advert sorry, unethical, so long as you don’t miss Room with Three Windows, and
Winging It. . . hey). Anyhow, as I was just sayin’, I think when they see me coming, the festival bosses can’t believe that Aqualung has returned once more.
One day I will join a therapy group, or miss a fest and then see if the whole thing doesn’t fall.
Look, it’s not as bad as when, as a younger journalist, I followed Nelson Mandela from the podium on the stage at the Guy Butler Theatre down into the underworld of the Monument Building, until a festival official told me to back off, the guy was just going to have a pee.
I know spaces and secret stairs in that building, and how to get onto the roof, and how the media office hangs perilously over the edge at the top, and why Bowker’s bench is just that, and not the fantastic monument to the living arts that Guy Butler desired.
Hell, my dear friend, Thelma Neville, who in her late 90s rolled on the floor of her Constitution Street house and showed me her Canadian army exercises that kept her alive until 102, was Butler’s fundraiser and pulled in the R34m it took to construct.
I have seen shocking, brutal, searing, wrenching, hilarious, amazing stuff.
And some of those artists have come to our table in Hill Street, at the philosophers’ home, and sat around our table and drunk, smoked and talked, and screeched with hilarity. A lot.
We have dined, and jived, and skived. Don’t ask me about the shows I have seen, but rather about the moments, so fabulously described by Jo Bekker in a piece this week. Just moments where my face ached, my knees buckled, my heart pounded, but I never, ever snored like the oke who let out a ripper at the climactic moment of childbirth, as the audience gasped at the agony of childbirth.
I have had a child author with a crazy, hormone-amped goose attack me in my newsroom, over my brilliant journalist (the now-dead) Pete Dickson’s reported description of entering the urinal of the Village Green. There he and the angry bird confronted each other, “pecker to pecker”. That bird joined the rage-fest by dropping a giant green poep on my newsroom floor and waddled off sanctimoniously.
I have scribbled and dribbled, ranted, and raved, got some likes and penned some total duds.
Artists have stood on stage and yelled “F*** you, Fringe Voice!” (our little festival paper) into a R4m sound system before a packed Kaif venue, and some have been humbling in their gratitude that somebody cared to see their work, and to a critical look into their creative soul.
Steve Kretzmann, my long-suffering pard in all this madness, a true arts critic, and I have wept and wailed at some of the stuff, such as the little intern who we sent to a show and was the only member of the audience. The farce went on for only so long until the actors cracked and gave up, releasing our dying little scribe back into the light of day.
And though we leave after 12 days of living in the otherworld of SA, the one we dream off, where it all comes together and shatters into a trillion little pieces, I would never want to miss it, until the day I . . .
So, what I am saying? Why live trapped in a holographic monotone of TV or your fonebone, when there is this incredible, roiling, indefinable, living, intergalactical spacecraft that happens to land in our backyard, releasing scores of funny, amazing people?
And to warm up the brain cells, because this stuff makes you super intelligent and interesting (gosh, you made it this far in the column, it must work!), why not attend our own really divine Umtiza Arts Festival this week? I know some of them, it is a good offering that will get you out of that wintry rabbit hole you call home.
Just go to the Guild, keep it alive, give it a hug, feel the excitement and learn something you didn’t know while having a hooley.
See you at NAF.
(I am the one in the soup-stained festival coat stomping around in the woodchips bellowing.)