40, 30, 20 ... festival time!

2014-04-03 17:14

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“Two of our performers will be performing with fire – this despite us not having a fire pool,” jokes Ismail Mahomed, the artistic director of the National Arts Festival, during his opening gambit at the announcement of this year’s programme.

There will also apparently be live chickens (despite the lack of a chicken coop) and a guy in a cow suit (but no culvert to keep him in).

More complex than a public protector’s report, putting together the programme is no mean feat, and Mahomed’s team spent a year doing it.

It’s also an extra big year in Grahamstown this time around – from July 3 to 13 – because it has been 40 years since the first festival took place, back in the bad old 1970s.

It has also been 30 years since the Standard Bank Young Artists Awards began and our big milestone of 20 years of democracy ill be in full swing by July.

With half the festival’s history located in pre-democratic South Africa and the second half in freedom, this will be a big theme on the festival line-up.

The artists and curators are exploring our past, our present and our future – this will be threaded through the Think! Fest and the second annual City Press-hosted post-production discussions.

As always the Standard Bank Young Artist winners are the big headliners – with a twist – winners from every other year of the 30 will also be on the festival in various collaborations and juxtapositions.

Among them William Kentridge, Brett Murray and Sylvaine Strike, who is also the featured artist at this year’s festival. One of her pieces will be a collaboration with Andrew Buckland, another winner, called On the Harmful Effects of Tobacco.

2014’s Theatre winner Greg Homann has remixed Sophocles’ and presents Oedipus@Koo-Nu!; performance art winner Donna Kukama will be setting up The Museum of Non-Permanence all around Grahamstown (and then taking it to other towns and cities); and music winner Njabulo Madlala will be putting a twist on the likes of Rodgers and Hammerstein, Schubert and Strauss.

Aubrey Sekhabi’s Marikana – The Musical is sure to create controversy at this year’s festival

One of the weirder items on this year’s programme is Aubrey Sekhabi’s Marikana – The Musical. Pulling off such tragic subject matter while the investigation into the events is still ongoing is going to make for a controversial piece.

Princess Zinzi Mhlongo will also be adding an interesting touch to the theatre programme with Cooking With Elisa, a collaboration with Argentinian artists. There’s also a large contingent of work coming from other parts of Africa including Algeria, Benin, Mozambique, Angola, Uganda and Congo.

Young artist winner for film in 2014 is Jahmil XT Qubeka who will be screening Of Good Report, which caused all the stir at the Durban Film Festival last year.

Other more internationally flavoured stuff includes performance poet Lemm Sissay, who will share the stage with our own famous wordsmiths Lebo Mashile and Phillippa Yaa de Villiers; also the Swiss return with some great dance – Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) – and the music festival boasts Hugh Masekela, Lira and Jimmy Dludlu, who are all international hits.

This year the festival will be doing its own ticketing and will also be offering festies, an app that works out your schedule for you – very exciting for those who like to do a show every two hours from after breakfast until before bed.

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