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Thursday, June 2, 2011


This year’s National Arts Festival Main Public Art programme is developed with maximum public interaction in mind, again making art accessible at no cost to as many people as possible throughout the duration of the Festival, from 30 June to 10 July.

Tshini Kwedini! produced by OddBody Theatre is loosely adapted from the Antoine De Saint Exupéry’s The Little Prince. It takes the audience on a journey of a local herds boy who, tired of living in his tiny village and wanting to make a difference in the world, sets out on an adventure to far-away places in search of his destiny. With song, dance, clowning, music, stilts, juggling, acrobatics, and other circus tricks, this family event has something in it for everyone. The young boy’s whirlwind quest leads him through strange, exciting and mystical lands of giants, fire, rhythm, infestation and other oddities and curious folk that range from the sublime to the weird to the ridiculous before reaching his final destination and finding his true purpose.

It draws its performers from various Grahamstown (iRhini) drama, dance and cultural groups. Rather than competing for the stage, the Phezulu Project, Via Kasi, Sakhuluntu, Bionic Breakers and other local artists and groups team up in a uniquely Makana collaborative ensemble to entertain festinos and show off local talent in this tall tale of truth. Directed by Richard Antrobus, with assistance from Tristan Jacobs, Tshini Kwedini is supported by the National Arts Festival and the Rhodes University Drama Department.

The idyllic Makana Botanical Garden is the setting for A Fairies Tale, a story about Buglite, the only fairy left who hasn't become a character in a computer game. Appealing to the imaginations of both the young and old, the audience embarks on an adventure to find out if Ninja Big Boot will succeed in capturing Buglite. This promenade theatrical performance piece by Ireland’s Fidget Feet Aerial Dance takes the audience on a dancing, running and walking journey through the garden following the characters. Comfortable clothing and good walking shoes will add to so much more fun. A Fairies Tale is presented with support from Culture Ireland.

On the final two days of the Festival, Proyecto 34°S presents Machitún, an outdoor spectacle for the whole family, with flying bouncing acrobats, ethereal dance, dream-like live electronic music, the beat of many drums and the soaring harmonies of feminine voices set against a dramatic backdrop of shadow and light, rain and fire. Direction is by Argentine Javier Drucaroff, choreography and performance by Cirque du Soleil selected acrobat Pablo Descoubes, musical direction and score by the renowned contemporary progressive electronic composer and performer Ernesto Romeo, the production features a team of professional artists from Argentina and South Africa working with the Oddbody Theatre Collaborative, Sakhuluntu Cultural Group, Art Factory and the Makana Arts Festival Forum. The production is presented with support from the Argentine Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship and the Argentine Embassy in South Africa.

Move Your Mind is an open-themed end-of-Festival street parade where Festival visitors and the community-based artists of Grahamstown cavort as costumed revellers down the street to celebrate the powerful impetus that the National Arts Festival has on the development and growth of the city’s economy. Enjoy the spectacle of an enthusiastic family of giant puppets who grew out of a community development initiative and have now become household names at most South African arts events. Stand tall alongside the Phezulu Stilt walkers. Dance to the rhythm of the drumbeats of the Sakhaluntu dancers and drummers. March along with the flag waving Upstart Youth Club. Paint your face and merge in with the children from the Art Factory. Somersault or cartwheel down the streets with the physically trained and acrobatic artists from the Oddbody Collective. Sing along with the artists from the Remix Laboratory. Grahamstown artists received support for this year’s Festival from visiting artists from Argentina, the UK and the Makana Municipality.

Tomorrow’s Joy is a bottle top mosaic commissioned by the Johannesburg Arts Alive International Festival. This 7m x 14m public artwork was conceptualized by Hannelie Coetzee and Usha Seejarim of Such Initiative. This spectacular eco-conscious artwork is made up of over 90,000 discarded plastic bottle tops. The work took 10 weeks to produce. At its peak there were 8 community centres, 140 children, 30 disabled adults, 31 crafters and the Such Initiative management team actively cleaning and weaving the bottle tops into a cohesive artwork. The artwork depicts an image of children running in an open green space; representations of celebration, hope, simplicity and joy. Plastic bottle tops and few other plastic lids are woven together with fishing gut by following a colour by number embroidery pattern of 92,400 pixels. The collaboration is unique in the way that it amalgamates art, community and eco consciousness resulting in a memorable artwork, which the public can enjoy. This is a dynamic testimony to the success which participatory public art is able to achieve.

This year, in conjunction with PPC Cement, the Festival will endow a public artwork to the city of Grahamstown. A cement sculpture created by artist Zach Taljaardt will be created and be installed at the St Mary’s Centre in Grahamstown. The Centre caters for displaced and marginalised youth. Taljaardt’s sculpture will draw a connection between the physical world of a child and the child’s world of dreams.

Visual Art enthusiasts can also discover the Main Visual Art Exhibitions in the Interacting with Art walkabouts. Those looking for a more hands-on interactive experience can participate in a series of practical workshops facilitated by the artists participating in the CO/MIX Pavilion. CO/MIX 2011 is an innovative group exhibition featuring 26 South Africans and four international artists, each involved in some aspect of comic art and sculpture.

The duration of the walkabouts is 50 minutes. There will be walkabouts of Faena, with Nandipha Mntambo: 2011 Standard Bank Young Artist Award-winner, in the Monument Gallery. Alan Crump: A Fearless Vision is on at the Standard Bank Gallery, Albany History Museum. People, Prints & Processes: 25 years at Caversham is displayed at the Grahamstown Gallery, Albany History Museum. “… and walk in my shoes” is in the Gallery in the Round, Monument. For Future Generations is on at the Transition Gallery of the Albany History Museum and A Century of Fallen Eastern Cape Visual Artists is on display at the Albany History Museum Foyer and Military Gallery.

The Festival is partnering with Route 67, an Open Public Gallery situated in and around the Donkin Reserve in Port Elizabeth that showcases 67 Public Art Works. "67" works symbolise the 67 years of Nelson Mandela's dedication to the freedom of South Africa.

The free sundowner concerts will also again be happening in the Monument foyer daily at 17h00. There will also be two unique Sundowner Concerts to coincide with the launch of a special series of postage stamps by the South African Post Office to share South Africa’s rich indigenous culture and heritage.

The Festival will continue to demonstrate its commitment to providing access to the arts and artistic development to all communities in Grahamstown through the ARTReach Project, Arts Encounter Project, Art Factory and the Phezulu Project.

Bookings for this year’s “11 Days of Amaz!ng” are open and tickets are available through Computicket. Booking kits available from selected Standard Bank Branches, selected Exclusive Books and all Computickets. For more information on the programme, accommodation and travel options visit Also join the National Arts Festival group on Facebook for all the latest competitions and news, or follow us on Twitter.

The National Arts Festival is sponsored by Standard Bank, The Eastern Cape Government, The National Arts Council, The National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, The Sunday Independent and M Net.