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Tuesday, July 18, 2017


(A scene from Umsindo Theatre Projects’ “Daffi Falls”)

The support of Arts and Living Cultures, eThekwini Municipality enabled 12 Durban theatre groups to attend and perform at this year’s National Arts Festival in Grahamstown..

The National Arts Festival (NAF) is widely considered to be the premier national arts festival in South Africa boasting a strong, eclectic and varied programme of the best of performing and visual arts across all genres.

“We are always delighted in being able to help facilitate taking productions to the National Arts Festival. It is important for the city to have a presence at one of the country’s foremost arts festivals and to allow our theatre makers to experience a national platform – especially emerging theatre voices to be able to add their story to the national dialogue,” said Themba Mchunu: Manager – Arts and Living Cultures, eThekwini Municipality.

“My experience was pleasurable and a learning curve of sorts since it was my first time staging a production at NAF. I can now say that I have familiarised myself with the do’s and don’ts, so if it so happens that I am afforded the opportunity again of staging a production in Grahamstown in future years, I will be well prepared and know the lie of the land,” says Aphiwe Namba: author / director of Us Against Them - one of the productions which the city supported.

Playwright and theatre-maker Jerry Pooe concurs: “We had a good festival, in fact we even had a full house for one of the performances of our show, Refugees. It was so affirming to see so many KZN groups there. We felt like we are a team which felt beautiful! We are hugely grateful for the support of Arts and Living Cultures, and also bodies like the Playhouse, who fulfill such an important role in facilitating groups to go to the festival. There were some challenges at the festival however: we missed the daily paper Cue which is such an important tool for all of us, and we didn’t have one review which was sad, we missed the usual festival vibe, and we missed communal meeting places to engage with fellow artists and audiences, but hopefully the festival organisers will pick-up on these challenges and improve them for next year,” he concluded.

Fellow producer Nkosingiphile Dlamini added: “Our group had a good experience! The festival was okay and our show, The Chameleon, went well but I would say that audiences were a challenge. However, it was a good experience and I hope next year will be even better!”

Siso Gogo from Daffi Falls commented: “It has always been a privilege for us to present our work at the National Arts Festival, we have been going to Grahamstown for the past four years in a row, and every year has been an amazing experience. This year we took our new work which premièred there called Daffi Falls which unfolds the story of the late Libyan President Muammar Al Gadaffi. It did very well for its first run, the audiences responded very well, and it received a lot of positive feedback. We are so happy that lots of Durban groups also presented good work at the Festival. We want to thank all the people that made this happen for us: Ethekwini Municipality, The Playhouse Company, DAC and Wushwini Arts Centre.”

Nancy Strauss from Trulife: a non-profit, public benefit organisation that uses creative theatre pieces to educate young people about a range of important social and health issues, added her response: “While Trulife have been in action around KwaZulu-Natal since 2011, to date performing to over 75,000 young people, this was our first time performing at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival. We took our show Trafficked to the festival and were really excited about this adventure. Trafficked tells the story of a young South African girl who is tricked into a Human Trafficking syndicate. This production aims to raise awareness about the very real practice of modern day slavery which is rife in South Africa. Because of the work we do, festival for us was really not about making our performers famous, or making a nice profit from ticket sales, but about raising awareness, and bringing a different, more socially aware aspect to the NAF. We had many great conversations with audience members after our performances, particularly teachers and representatives of other non-profits. These new relationships help us increase the reach of our messages and the support in general from festival audiences as well as other performers was very encouraging,”

eThekwini Arts and Living Cultures’ support enabled 120 theatre makers from 12 different productions across various genres to have a presence on the Fringe of this year’s NAF. The productions which the city supported was: Trafficked (Trulife Productions) combining physical theatre, poetry and media projections to tell the story of a girl tricked into a human trafficking syndicate; Game Over (Umvini Performing Art Project) looking at love!; Us against Them (Aphiwe Namba) a politically driven protest piece; The Chameleon (Magenta Pro) which looks at the quest for peace; Phumlani Mtiti Trio (Eco-Art) a contemporary instrumental trio fusing indigenous, western classical and SA jazz cultures; Daffi Falls (Umsindo Theatre Projects) about the life and times of Muammar Al Gaddafi as told by a journalist obsessed; Refugees (Wushwini Arts and Heritage) about displaced people in a refugee camp; Kubili (Musa Hlatshwayo / Mhayise Productions) a double bill of dance; Ants Job (Dikianga Arts) looking at the dishonourable state of living for Somali women; Inyathuko (Mnqobi LM Arts Co) a complicated love story; Women in Tears (Edgy Drama Mix Productions) which reflects on the killing of mine workers by police inspired by the Marikana Massacre, and Nomalizo, The Brave (Madanisa Creative Productions) a love story written and directed by Bonginkosi Shangase.