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Saturday, June 21, 2014


(Blind Spot featuring Mohau Modisakeng. Pic Inzilo)

The 40th National Arts Festival will be held in Grahamstown from July 3 to 13, 2014, offering an awe-inspiring number of events across the arts. Herewith information on the Main Festival’s Performance Art programme:

(est. 2014) Grahamstown
2014 Standard Bank Young Artist for Performance Art, Donna Kukama, realised when she was about 12 that she might be an artist. She thought then that she wanted to be a painter, but her subsequent explorations have led her increasingly towards the production of art that is experience-based – both for herself and her audience – and often located in ‘unusual’ everyday contexts.
An integral member of the Centre for Historical Re-enactments, much of Kukama’s work explores contemporary understandings of history; always accompanied by a consideration of meaning and questions around value; and reflection on the personal, in the context of the political. Teaching in the School of Arts at the University of the Witwatersrand allows her the opportunity to ground her work – which is often fleeting and ephemeral – in academic practice.
At the National Arts Festival, Donna will launch The Museum of Non-Permanence, a series of events, encounters, interactions, and public announcements taking place over a set amount of time in various public sites. Donna’s Museum of Non-Permanence acknowledges history as a physical experience; one that is carried by “historical scars” which need not be exposed, yet require processes of careful dissection in order for imagined realities to exist beyond the historical. It takes the form of a journey that is not only an interruption, but needs to be interrupted in order to continue. 
Although The Museum of Non-Permanence will be inaugurated in Grahamstown, Donna intends that the Museum will continue to function as a mobile structure, morphing in various environments beyond the Festival. 

Blind Spot is a collaborative collection of four site-situational performance works curated by Ruth Simbao, which acknowledge what we don’t see and grapple with some of the things we think we see. Vision is not simply what we see, and seeing is far from inert. With every look we dissect, avoid, grab, twist, freeze, stab or possess. Invisibility tumbles into hyper-visibility. We obscure. We label. We fumble in the dark, as we think we know what we see:

Scotoma: Greek for darkness, this is an obscuration of the visual field. Termed a blind spot, it is an area with no photoreceptor cells, creating an absence of vision that can only be detected when one eye is closed. Metaphorically, it can be said that one has a blind spot when one is ignorant, prejudiced, biased or unappreciative of something or someone. Just as with scotoma, the brain makes up certain details that are not actually there, and cultural or cognitive biases rely on farcical information and skewed perspectives. Cognitive biases include stereotyping, irrational ideas based on essentialism, the ‘curse of knowledge’ when one becomes unable to consider supposedly less-informed perspectives, or a status quo bias, which is the difficultly in accepting change.

Barongwa: Produced as part of Blind Spot, Barongwa is created and performed by Mohau Modisakeng, with Sikhumbuzo Makandula. It features the procession of a silent marching band through the streets of Grahamstown, from the centre of town to the site of the old Egazini Memorial in Fingo Village. Imaginary sound reignites a sensitive history marked by deprivation, emphasising the fact that we can only see when we fully recognise our blindness.

Bismillah: Igshaan Adams is an installation, mixed-media and performance artist whose works speak to his experiences of racial, religious and sexual liminality in South Africa. Opening up anticipated ways of seeing and being seen, Adams draws from tensions and complexities within his own cultural background and iconographies of Islam. In the Blind Spot performance titled Bismillah, Adams performs with his father, Amien, who prepares his body for burial in the Islamic cleansing and wrapping ritual, as if he had died.

What Difference Does It Make Who Is Speaking?: Mbali Khoza engages with performance, video and installation in order to translate and express her understanding of language and literature as a mode of communication. The act of stitching is an important trope in her work, and is inspired by Zimbabwean writer Dambudzo Marechera who, in his novella House of Hunger, compares the act of writing to a violent stitching of a wound: “As I read it, every single word erased itself into my mind. Afterwards they came to take out the stitches from the wound of it .The stitches were published. The reviewers made obscene noises”.
Drawing from Foucault’s lecture “What is an Author?” Khosa’s Blind Spot performance What difference does it make who is speaking? questions authorship and the violent invisibility caused by translation, as language is altered and deleted.  Surrounded by the three-dimensional blocks of text at the Eastern Star Press Museum that in the past were meticulously arranged by hand, Khoza carefully performs a stitched transcription of a West African language using isiZulu phonetics as a guide.

Everse: Everse is an obsolete word meaning to subvert or overthrow. The live installation Everse is a site-situational, spatial walk-about at Victoria Primary School which engages with the blind spots of spaces of learning and the long-term repercussions these can have ideologically, socially, politically and philosophically. The audience is invited to engage with the collectively nostalgic yet subjective memories of schooling, and extrapolated elements and issues of the education system are highlighted, unhinged and subtly critiqued.
This live installation with Simone Heymans, Ivy Kulundu-Gotz, Joseph Coetzee and Chiro Nott is produced as part of Blind Spot - an extension of a series of public interventions installed for the duration of the Festival.

Bookings for the 2014 National Arts Festival can now be made online through the website – click on the banner advert above or go to Programmes are available on the website or free printed copies at Exclusive Books as Gateway and Westville.

The following Standard Bank branches also have copies: Amanzimtoti Galleria, Durban North, Empangeni, Gateway Agency, Hillcrest, Kingsmead Branch, Kloof, La Lucia, Margate, Musgrave Road, Newcastle, Port Shepstone Pavilion, Pietermaritzburg, Pinetown, Umhlanga, Westville.

The National Arts Festival is sponsored by Standard Bank, The National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, Eastern Cape Government, Department of Arts and Culture, City Press and M Net.