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Thursday, March 19, 2009


Durban’s BAT Centre to benefit from new international partnership for National Arts Festival.

The National Arts Festival Fringe will receive an enormous boost this year with the newly formed partnership signed between the Representation of Flanders in the Belgian Embassy and the Festival.

The National Arts Festival / Representation of Flanders partnership resulted from a visit by Festival Director Ismail Mahomed to Belgium last year, and constitutes about R1 million which is spread over the projects listed below and the prizes for the competition, Writing Beyond the Fringe.

The first of these programmes is the Remix Laboratory, an exciting skills-development initiative launching at the Festival this year. Five theatre groups, selected from five different provinces, will be fully funded to present their work at this year’s Festival. They will also receive mentoring through a structured programme aimed at giving their productions a life beyond the Festival. According to Mahomed, this aids the Festival in developing the capacity of artists more equitably across the country.

The groups chosen to participate are Durban’s Bat Centre, the North West province’s Mbabane Cultural Centre, Cape Town’s Nyanga Development Theatre and the Ipelegeng Centre from Soweto. A group from the Eastern Cape is still to be confirmed. In addition to performing at the Festival, the group of 65 artists from The Remix Laboratory will get an opportunity to see 15 productions and interact with the writers, directors and cast of these productions in post-performance discussions. Some of the directors of the various productions will also be selected to facilitate workshops with participants in The Remix Laboratory.

“We will carefully select a range of productions for The Remix Laboratory participants to attend so that they leave the Festival with a fuller appreciation for the craft of theatre making and which we hope will inspire and influence the way in which they create their own work,” said Mahomed.

The Cine-mazing Project is another Flemish-funded initiative focusing on films that are screened at the National Arts Festival’s fringe film programme. A Belgian film curator will conduct a series of structured workshops with new and emerging film producers to guide them towards how they can enter the European Student Film market.

In another initiative, the Kamishibai Project, graphic artists and storytellers will collaborate to give new life to an age old method of recording oral traditions.

The Performance & Digitalization workshop will allow more experienced artists to dabble in a new craze that combines the two different media. For both the Kamishibai Project and the Digitalization & Performance workshops, experts will be brought from Belgium to share their skills.

Fringe artists will also be able to pitch their productions to five Belgian festival producers who will present workshops about Belgian festivals. These directors will also be available to engage with artists who may be interested in taking their work to Belgium.

Part of this Belgian sponsorship has been put towards the South African writer development programme, Writing beyond the Fringe, in which four South African writers have received a substantial grant from the DeBuren digital authors Radioboeken programme. In addition the winner, Philippa Yaa de Villiers, has also been funded to attend the Possa Porta writers residency in Belgium.

“These new initiatives assist emerging artists to stay in tune with international trends in the arts, and to form the networks that will allow them to break into global markets”, said Mahomed. “The support of the Representation of Flanders gives real value to cultural exchange, because it allows artists from both countries to be central to initiating, developing and carrying further the relationships which they have established.”

The National Arts Festival runs from July 2 to 11. Further information at or telephone 046 603 1103.