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Thursday, June 6, 2013


(Mpume Mthombeni and Clinton Marius, with some of the puppets from Marius’s delightful “The Calf with No Name” which explains the importance of Nguni cattle in the context of isiZulu culture. Pic by Val Adamson)

This year’s not-to-be-missed festival in the KZN Midlands runs between September 12 and 15.

The annual Witness Hilton Arts Festival comes of age. KZN’s foremost and respected arts festivals turns 21 this year and is offering a bumper Jongosi mini-schools festival embedded in the main arts festival, for high schools and primary schools to have a tailor-made package ahead of the main event.

It will take place on the beautiful grounds of the Hilton College from September 13 to 15 2013, with Jongosi taking place over two days: September 12 for primary schools and September 13 for high schools.

This is the fourth year in which the Witness Hilton Arts Festival has hosted a special schools festival. This year’s festival starts with two full days’ programme of age-specific arts-events aimed at schools. Approximately 1,500 learners will experience the thrill of the performing arts daily over the two day programme. It is a celebration of all that is young, new and vibrant and has been dubbed “Jongosi” – Johnny Clegg’s word from the Afrikaans meaning “jong os” which has become absorbed into isiZulu parlance. Jongosi is designed to educate, entertain and allow learners to expand their world-view. Now in its fourth year, Jongosi has been a phenomenal success so it is being further developed for this year.

“Children will be fully occupied in a day filled with performance, wonder and inspiration. They will have the opportunity to experience a festival atmosphere as well as watching several performances. Some refreshment outlets will be open. Alternatively, children may bring their own packed lunch,” explains festival director, Sue Clarence.

The primary school programme starts with a session with internationally-acclaimed story teller Gcina Mhlophe. Mid-morning sees a new interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet, The Nutcracker. The same team that presented The Snowman last year brings this story to life with puppets and sets by Creative Madness, manipulated by members of the Actors Unemployed Company. The award-winning actress, Clare Mortimer, once again delivers the narration. The timeless music under-score, featuring Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, has been recorded by the Pietermaritzburg City Orchestra, under the baton of David Plank.

Learners then have the option of seeing either Thulani and the Rabbit, a musical story told by Pedro the Music Man or Dr Pocket’s Ocean Commotion – a fabulous theatrical presentation by Jacobus van Heerden and Clinton Small – and lots of fantastical creatures. The final show of the day for the primary school group is Clinton Marius’s delightful The Calf with No Name which explains the importance of Nguni cattle in the context of isiZulu culture.

A similar format is offered for the high schools on Friday with various show packages to choose from, which teachers can select depending on the ages of the learners.

A real coup for the festival,, and more so for the Jongosi programme, is Solomon and Marion – Lara Foot’s award winning production starring Dame Janet Suzman and Khayalethu Anthony - the story of two injured souls searching for redemption in the fragile, post-apartheid South Africa

The line-up includes A Guide to the Theatre – a romp through the state of South African theatre including explaining the different genres and theatre etiquette, as portrayed by the Actors Unemployed Company.

Gcina Mhlophe will also be telling more stories, this time suitable for an older age group. Pedro the Music Man will offer a programme called One Person One Note – an interactive production with many instruments.

The fabulous Greig Coetzee has written an informative, funny poetry programme called Rhymes with Orange. Coetzee has taken some of the prescribed Matric and high school poems, mixed them in with some of his favourites, and thrown them into a fabulous teenage love story. Coetzee has directed The Rise of the Insanity League featuring heavyweight comedy actors, John van de Ruit, Ben Voss and Aaron McIlroy.

Also on the menu is Jacobus van Heerden’s Super Chop with a cast of unforgettable characters (all played by him!); and The Epicine Butcher and Other Stories for Consenting Adults – a delightful, sometimes naughty, award-wining production told using traditional Japanese story-boarding, Kambishibai, by Jemma Kahn.

The Line is the culmination of multi-award winning actor, director Gina Shmukler’s Masters Research on trauma and theatre-making which looks at what makes friends and neighbours become bitter enemies? What makes good people do bad things? How do people cross “the line” between good and bad? And why?

The final production in the high school programme is a bonsai version of the fun classical musical, The Priates of Penzance. With just five men, one pianist and a whole lot of dresses, eye patches and swashbuckling, director Greg Homann brings this witty theatrical masterpiece to life.

On both days, the art exhibitions will be up for the learners to explore, and there is a free presentation on stage lighting for those who want to learn more about the magic of theatre, entitled Without Light, Only Radio.

Detailed information can be found on or phone 033 383 0126 /7. Individuals or schools wishing to book or who require more information should contact Sheryl or Doreen on 033 383 0126/0127 or email For those schools unable to attend on Jongosi day, school packages will be available over the festival weekend. However, programming may not allow the package to be identical.

The festival would not be possible without: The Witness, KZN Dept of Arts & Culture, Grindrod Bank, SPAR, TOPS, Black Coffee, Budget, SAB and Star Hire.