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Thursday, November 26, 2015


(Bongani Tembe, Commissioner-General of the SA-UK Seasons)

The SA Season in the UK, part of the SA-UK Season 2014 & 2015, the cultural exchange partnership by South Africa’s Department of Arts and Culture and the United Kingdom’s British Council, has announced that the final round-up of the SA Season in the UK has again been a phenomenal success.

South Africa’s Minister of Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, said, “The Department of Arts and Culture is delighted at the success of the SA-UK Seasons 2014 & 2015. The SA-UK Seasons has opened up opportunities for meaningful cultural exchange that will create networks to encourage job creation and economic self-reliance among artists. This is a continuation of a collaborative relationship that will ultimately put artists in the leading role of creating a more humane society and better world. Above all, this marks the deepening of bonds that tie together the people of our two countries and, hopefully, will result in a better appreciation of our mutual history and heritage. Our artists are custodians of the soul of this country and help to forge stronger relations and create platforms to foster mutual understanding through the arts”.

A commitment to strengthen cultural ties between South Africa and the UK, the SA-UK Seasons commenced in January 2014 and will conclude in December 2015. The SA Season in the UK kicked off in 2014 with a bang at The Edinburgh International Festival with three major local works on its programme: Inala, a dance piece which incorporated South Africa’s internationally acclaimed Ladysmith Black Mambazo; Ubu and the Truth Commission, a critically applauded theatrical multimedia production by Handspring Puppet Company directed by William Kenbridge which highlighted the atrocities of apartheid; and Exhibit B by Brett Bailey of Third World Bunfight, the second instalment of the Exhibit series.

The projects were successful with audiences and critics alike. While Ubu and Truth Commission contributed significantly to the festival talks and discussions, Exhibit B sparked discussion on the role of art in examining challenging aspects of relationships between different races, while Inala sold out performances.

South Africa at 20: The Freedom Tour at the Edinburgh International Film Festival exposed the UK audience to SA cinema, with 25 films in 47 venues focused within the context of South Africa’s 20th Anniversary of Democracy. Hear Me Move and Four Corners were both selected by UK film distributors for release in 2015. This success prompted a mini-Season back in SA in April 2015, with some of the titles being screened at The Bioscope in Johannesburg and The Labia in Cape Town.

“Connecting new generations of creative professionals and audiences in SA and the UK while fostering skills transfer and development, sharing expertise and innovation in developing the creative careers of young people, the SA-UK Season partnership not only strengthens cross-cultural initiatives in South Africa and the UK, but showcases the younger generation’s talent and provides them a platform to shine.” says Commissioner-General of the SA-UK Seasons, Mr Bongani Tembe.

AFROVIBES 2014, in its third edition, featured 44 South African artists’ work over a four-week period across 17 venues throughout the UK. From October 13 to November 8, 2014, these artists connected with their UK counterparts. The works they created were displayed throughout the UK giving local audiences a chance to engage with the South African culture and the wider political issues through debate, workshops and master classes.

The 2015 Season started the year with some of South Africa’s emerging fashion designers exhibiting alongside those of 30 other countries at the International Fashion Showcase in London. The talented designers achieved second place for Best Exhibition, while Laduma went on to receive a Best Designer special mention at the London Fashion Week.

Seven home-brewed musicians – Jeremy Loops, Al Bairre, Okmalumkoolkat, Yorke, The Accidentals, Thor Rixon, and P.H Fat – represented SA’s local music flavour alongside 400 other international live acts at The Great Escape Festival, a music extravaganza that showcases emerging artists from all over the world in Brighton, at the Spiegeltent and Prince Albert.

As the Seasons draw to a close, some notable acts have graced the United Kingdom with their remarkable performances. David “Qadasi” Jenkins performing in full Zulu traditional regalia, ably captured a 20,000-strong audience with his mesmerizing and highly energetic traditional Zulu Maskandi music performance at The Bear Grylls Festival in Trent Park, London. South African theatre made inroads with the quirky, but inherently tragic love story, The Dirt Road receiving a standing ovation from audiences at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden. After a successful stint in Edinburgh; Ubu and Truth Commission once again lived up to all performance expectations.

An array of South African jazz takes over the EFG London Jazz Festival this November.  London jazz fanatics can look forward to On Mass - a jazz project with Roundhouse and Jamie Cullum involving hundreds of young musicians from different corners of the world. The production will include leading South African’s, Little Giants made up of trombonist Miles Stewart and trumpetors Muneeb Hermans and Siraaj Allen straight from the Cape Flats township. South African Award-winning acapella group, The Soil, will also took the EFG London Jazz stage with a stellar performance of their chart topping hits. The trio opened Melody Gardot’s performance on November 17. South Africa’s distinguished ladies of song Sibongile Khumalo, Gloria Bosman and Thandiswa Mazwai presented a highly anticipated show at the EFG Jazz. Building on 2014’s hugely successful strand of South African work at the festival, Cadogan Hall hosted the three accomplished artists in a memorable evening filled with musical heritage and cultural attitude on November 21.

A series of educational events, live performances and jam sessions celebrating the vibrant legacy of South African jazz were led by harmonica player Adam Glasser in various locations in London. Adam collaborated with British flautist and arranger Gareth Lockrane and feature jazz pianist Bokani Dyer in all series.

The Plastics, an Indie Rock band from Cape Town also enthralled audiences thoughout London this November in four performances. Esther Mahlangu, one of South Africa’s greatest living artist turned 80 this month. SA-UK Seasons celebrated her exceptional Ndebele art-inspired work with a solo exhibition and an accompanying exhibition catalogue at the UCT Irma Stern Museum. She will also travel with her work to the United Kingdom as part of the Season in 2016.

Rounding off the Seasons will be the Durban Music School at the Dundee Jazz Festival in Scotland at the end of November 2015. In the spirit of spreading the unique qualities of South African music, The Brother Moves On band will take Itai Hakim a young Venda/Tshonga folk singer on their European tour as part of the SA-UK Seasons. A partnership between Kunjanimation Animation Festival (Cape Town) and the London International Animation Festival to create special initiatives highlighting SA and UK animation industries will focus on both the business and creative side of animation. Various screenings, workshops and talks will be held with studio visits and business-to-business opportunities with visiting delegations from each country.

“We are grateful to the South African culture that God has endowed our people with and that as a nation we can be proud of the art and talent already showcased in the UK. Like the rainbow nation that we are known to be, our 2014 & 2015 projects have thus far truly displayed our diversity,” concludes the Chair of the SA-UK Seasons, Ambassador Samuel Kotane.

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