national Arts Festival Banner

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


The Trigonometry of Festival programming: by Ismail Mahomed, National Arts Festival Director

I often get asked how a former math teacher programmes a festival. Are there any mathematical clues to the National Arts Festival programme? Without having to actively work on any kind of formula, I surprisingly discovered the following method to my madness.

Take the duration of the Festival, divide it into 3 blocks and you get: A Standard Bank Young Artist performer in each block; 3 war plays: Somewhere on the Border, Sadako, Iris Brunette, in each block. 3 plays set in a school: Shakespeare's R &J, Death of a Colonialist, The History Boys; 3 productions that feature differently-abled artists: Lovaffair, Isingqala and Amafongkong, Benchmarks, and 3 productions that deal with displaced relationships: Night, Mother, Abnormal Load and The Table.

DOES THAT FORMULA WORK IN DANCE? 3 dance productions that deal with land and people: Batsumi, Rajasthani dance and Desert Crossings; 3 productions that make use of aerial work: Fura, Madam Silk and Lovaffair; 3 styles of dance: Ballet (Swan Lake), contemporary modern (Rajastani Dance) and indigenous dance (East Cape Showcase).

CAN THE PUBLIC ART FIT INTO A TRIANGLE? 3 parts to the Public art programme: Street Theatre, Art Installation & Public interactive programmes; 3 street theatre events: A Fairies Tale, Tshini Kwedini and Machitun.

3 ART INSTALLATIONS: Bottle Top Mosaic, PPC Young Sculpture programme, Co/Mix graffiti wall.

DOES THE NUMBER 3 FIGURE IN THE HANDS ON! MASKS OFF! PROGRAMME? This year the Hands On! Masks Off! programme has two new babies making it a family of 3: Workshops at Eden Grove, Art Lounge in Somerset Street and Sustainability Hub at Rhodes University.

WHAT ABOUT LEGACY PROJECTS? Also 3: South African Post Office producing an official postage stamp to celebrate African musical instruments. A project with PPC to install a permanent public art work in Grahamstown. A partnership with the Cultural Help Desk to kickstart a business project for one young arts entrepreneur.

And then of course the programme structure is divided into 3: Yes, the Main, Arena and Fringe.

Does the figure 3 feature in the number of years of serving as Festival Director? I took over from Lynette Marais in January 2009 so this is my third year as Festival Director.

Why the number 3? Because ART is a 3 lettered word.

So if this year's programme is based on trigonometry, what was last year's programme based on? Geometry! Because it was the World Cup, we kicked the arts ball around from one corner to next. So what's in store for next year? Algebra ... that means we will be adding on, multiplying and growing to the power of x. All that added together equals more AMAZ!NG!

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 or click on the banner advert above. Also join the NAF on Facebook for all the latest competitions and news, or follow the festival 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.