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Wednesday, December 23, 2020


Artists from South Africa, the African continent, and beyond are lined up for the world-first ‘arts festival on your phone, My Body My Space: Public Arts Festival 2021.

The My Body My Space: Public Arts festival (MBMS) will kick off the South African arts calendar in January 2021 with a menu of cutting-edge work presented by South African and international artists delivered straight to your phone. The festival, which makes world history as the first arts festival to take place on a dedicated WhatsApp line, will feature over 70 works by established and emerging artists from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Tanzania, Madagascar, the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain and the United States of America.

This unique ‘festival on your phone’, funded by the National Department of Sports, Arts and Culture and the National Arts Council of South Africa, is inspiring artists to find creative ways of presenting their work in an accessible format that takes art to where people are.

Kamogelo Molobye, a South African artist, performer, writer and lecturer presents an experimental documentary entitled The State of the Nation that follows the lives of a family living through the dehumanising and violent effects of load-shedding within the confinement of a COVID-19 lockdown. Molobye says that what excites him about creating a short-format work for the MBMS festival is “the challenge of rethinking about relatable performance modes for inclusive digital access and engagement”.

Leilah Kirsten, who presents Inwards, an exploration into the contrast of isolation and the possibilities that exist within the human experience is equally excited “to be part of an arts festival that is essentially taking place in the homes and spaces of the audience”. She wants to share her creative offering with others who might not normally have access to them, “and hopefully to inspire hearts and minds along the way”.

Fiso Shezi states that MBMS has always “prioritised local communities, by taking art to where people are”. For him, MBMS 2021 means that he will get to share his short-format artistic work with a mass audience right in the comfort of their homes, offices, workplaces and taxis.

Emakhazeni-based visual artist, Stanford Lubisi, adds that “the most exciting part is that the world is developing and changing, so as it evolves, we also evolve. Everything is becoming digital, and the greatest part about it is that we get published.”

2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a big move onto the digital space. MBMS 2021 features a number of international collaborations that have been enabled through this global shift and normalization of working in the online space.

Bonwabise Mbontsi, based in Pietermaritzburg, KZN, collaborates with artists Nadja Bartel (Germany), Teianna Chenkovich (USA) and Eugenia Tovar (Spain) in their work, Homo Terra, which asks the question of what it means to be human in the 21st Century in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Another international collaboration featured for MBMS 2021 includes MBMS regular contributor, Erica Lüttich, who will be working with South African artist Adrian Smurf Tony and UK-based artists Katharine Low and Alexandra Netea as part of a Royal Central School of Speech and Drama driven project. The work asks if the future holds a connectivity that embraces multiplicity, it does so through a range of young female voices, from the UK, Romania and in the Hex River Valley, South Africa.

MBMS is proud to once again feature a large number of artists from the African continent. These include: Samwel Japhet Silas from Tanzania; Tinashe Jeri from Zimbabwe; Mozambican choreographer and performer Janeth Mulapha; and Malagasy artists Judith Olivia Manantenasoa and Bary Andriamialison. Both Malagasy artists are supported through MBMS’s longstanding partnership with the French Institute of South Africa.

A new partnership between the festival and Assitej South Africa is bringing 12 solo dance pieces to the MBMS 21 menu. The artists are part of Assitej’s ‘In the Works’ choreographers’ platform, supported by The Royal Netherlands Embassy in SA. These 12 surprising and engaging solo works by South African artists from across the country are mentored by Jack Timmerman of de Stilte Dance Company in The Netherlands and are aimed at young audiences.

The MBMS festival has designed an exciting mentorship programme for young and emerging South African artists who will be featured on the festival platform alongside established national and international artists. These 29 artists are currently being mentored in a digital dance production process by Lo-Def Film factory and Phoenix and Owl Productions. The training hopes to assist these artists in creating impactful short-format works. Phoenix and Owl’s Jessica Denyschen says that as the performing arts in SA moves more towards digital interventions, she “hope(s) the participants will have a good foundation and the confidence to explore the technical resources they have readily available. I hope they walk away with a variety of techniques and skills that will allow them to produce quality digital content.”

Lo-Def Film Factory’s Amy Wilson and Francois Knoetze added, “We're hoping the artists will develop skills around creating digital works that they can take forward in their practice, and find ways to marry what already exists in their work with new techniques and vision.”

The access details for the MBMS WhatsApp line will be released on January 8, 2021, and on the January 29, 2021, the festival will be live on the WhatsApp line.

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