Taking theatre to the people

2019-03-06 06:01
Contemporary dancer and arts activist Tegan Peacock.Below: The Rerouting Arts Festivalruns from March 11 to 17 in and around Pietermaritzburg.PHOTO: Ian Carbutt

Contemporary dancer and arts activist Tegan Peacock.Below: The Rerouting Arts Festivalruns from March 11 to 17 in and around Pietermaritzburg.PHOTO: Ian Carbutt

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MARITZBURG’S first-ever ReRouting Arts Festival, which will run from March 11 to 17, aims to wake up the city using a series of pop-up theatre and art events that will “disrupt the monotony of day-to-day life”.

The event, which also promises to “build bridges” and create a dialogue between the different communities in the city, emerged from a series of conversations between contemporary dancer Tegan Peacock and several local artists, including Jono Hornby and Wayne Reddiar.

Speaking to The Witness, Peacock said that one of the key elements of the ReRouting Arts Festival is to take visual and performance art out of its usual spaces — for example, galleries, theatres and concert halls — and use public areas in and around Pietermaritzburg instead.

“Theatres are still a very Westernised space, which excludes the vast majority of the South African population because of accessibility and perception,” Peacock explained, “so we want to take theatre performances out of the theatre and put them in everyday spaces around the city.

“In this way we hope to make the arts accessible to the ordinary person by bringing the performances to them and using spaces ranging from pavements to coffee shops and car parks.”

The idea has been used successfully in both South Africa and abroad, and Peacock hopes that through the festival they can “close the gap” between artists and audiences, as well as the gulf that exists between people from different cultures and areas.

“We want to put them in a space where they can share an experience that will be unique to the people that attend it,” she added.

“The festival will have no set premises. The goal is, instead, to find new and interesting spaces where artists from all disciplines — including music, dance, theatre and visual art — can find inspiration and create.

“We hope to grow audiences, and to push theatre, the arts and artists to think and approach ideas from a new angle, while allowing public access to theatre, performance and art works that would previously have been unavailable.”

Those interested in visual arts will be able to take a tour of the city and its surrounds by visiting various coffee shops.

Brent Dodd, Muzi Ndlela, Stella Pretorius, Anda Dodo, Noxolo Ngidi, Rory Klopper and Moray Comrie will be showing their work at Essence Cafe, Rosehurst, Cafe Tatham and Tea on 23, all in Pietermaritzburg, and Hilton’s The Upper Millstone.

“Each artist has been paired with a coffee shop,” said Peacock.

“They have created various exhibitions and events that will allow the public to engage with them, their art and their creative process.”

The festival also strives to beautify the city and leave a lasting effect.

Street artist Hornby will be creating murals throughout Maritzburg, with the public invited to watch him in action.

He will also be running a workshop with pupils at Sukuma Comprehensive High School and will work with them to create a unique art mural for their school.

“We hope that through these different exhibitions and events that we can expose people to the visual arts in an everyday setting and create a talking point around art,” Peacock said.

The ReRouting Arts Festival will also feature a number of drama, dance and music productions.

“These will all be site-specific performances which we hope will allow local audiences to view their city in a different light,” said Peacock, “while, at the same time bringing theatre to ordinary people.”

She added that it would also encourage artists to think outside the box and expose people to different types of theatre.

“We will have a visiting Malagasy dancer and choreographer, Julie Iarisoa, taking part in the festival,” she said.

“Julie will be giving workshops at local schools and collaborating with KwaZulu-Natal artists for two performances, including the opening event at Worq [170 Victoria Road, Pietermaritzburg] at 6.30 pm on Thursday, March 14 and during the Saturday, March 16 live performances in the city centre from 10 am.”

Other highlights will include:

• A flashmob in Church Street, choreographed by Sifiso Magesh Ngcobo and involving pupils from Russell High School, St Nicholas and Epworth;

• Dance performances by Durban’s acclaimed Flatfoot Dance Company and contemporary dancers Lorin Sookool and Sifiso Khumalo.

• A performance of The Thing About Wolves, by William le Cordeur’s Mahle­kahlathini Theatre Company;

• Reddiar and Francis Mennigke delivering an exciting electro-acoustic sound performance at the Tatham; and

• Musician Seb Goldswain playing in Parklane Centre’s undercover parking area.

None of the festival’s events would have been possible, however, without the support and enthusiasm of local artists and businesses, said Peacock.

ReRouting Arts Festival has also been supported with an ANT Mobility Grant from Pro Helvetia Johannesburg, financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Co-operation (SDC), The Floating Outfit Project in association with the National Arts Council, The Witness and the Tatham Art Gallery.

“I would like to urge the Pietermaritzburg public to not be afraid of trying new things, whether it is a new venue, a new style of performance or a new up-and-coming artist,” Peacock said.

“Come and explore the events and opportunities we have put together while also supporting local arts. Come and create new unique experiences and help us grow the arts in our city.”

WHO IS TEGAN PEACOCK?

DANCE fans will have seen Tegan Peacock’s performances with fellow contemporary dancer Bonwa Mbontsi at the Tatham Art Gallery and the Hilton Arts Festival; and her performances with the ReRouted Dance Company at the JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience in Durban and at venues in the KZN Midlands.

Peacock has also presented dance workshops in communities around the province and has worked with several schools in the city.

HAVING worked in the arts world as a dancer and choreographer for the past five years, Tegan Peacock has taken part in a variety of creative festivals both locally and internationally.

“In 2017 I was lucky enough to be included in a Watch and Talk residency at the Belluard Festival in Fribourg, Switzerland.

“This festival had an interesting year as they chose to use the entire town for the festival performances.

The scale of performances was something that gave me pause to think about how we approach theatre in South Africa,” said Peacock.

“Locally we have a number of festivals that are already pushing perceptions and the way we approach theatre and performance, including My Body, My Space in Mpumalanga and Infecting the City in Cape Town.

“Coming from Pietermaritzburg, I believe that we have a unique space to create an arts festival that will truly engage the city and its inhabitants.

“We want to create spaces within the city where people from all walks of life are able to engage with art, performances and each other, thereby creating unique theatrical experiences.

“We need to look at theatre in a new light and from a different perspec- tive. We are not Europe and as such we need to be exploring and finding our own ways to grow the arts and make them relevant and accessible for local audiences,” she concluded.

“Theatres are still a very Westernised space, which excludes the vast majority of the South African population because of accessibility and perception,”

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