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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

NEW DIRECTOR FOR NAF (article first published : 2008-04-24)

The National Arts Festival Grahamstown has named Ismail Mahomed to replace current Festival Director Lynette Marais, who retires in December after two decades at the artistic helm of the country’s oldest arts festival. Mahomed will join the Grahamstown-based team on May 1 2008.

“We are delighted to be able to appoint someone of Ismail’s calibre,” said Festival CEO Tony Lankester. “It was never going to be easy to find someone to fill Lynette’s shoes and to drive us forward. We are fortunate that, in Ismail, we have the right combination of experience, expertise and passion to fill the role.”

Ismail Mahomed will work alongside Lynette Marais until the end of the year, ensuring a smooth transition and transfer of expertise. He will then continue to be the Festival’s main representative on the Festival Committee, working closely with them to define the long-term artistic vision for the Festival, and then to begin implementing it.

“Ismail is a solid arts administrator and we’re confident that he will quickly pick up some of the nuances and challenges facing the Festival while working with Lynette,” adds Tony Lankester. “The Festival has developed an international reputation for excellence, and a local reputation for presenting bold, innovative and thought-provoking work. Apart from the artistic agenda, he will be faced with a multitude of operational and logistical challenges in his role. The best way for him to get to grips with those will be to work alongside someone for whom dealing with those challenges has become second nature.”

Festival Committee chairperson, Sibongile Khumalo, said that she was looking forward to working with the new director: “Ismail is not afraid to challenge convention and will add a great dynamic to the work of the Committee. We’re looking forward to engaging with him and taking the artistic side of the Festival into a dynamic future.”

Ismail Mahomed has worked in the arts industry for most of his professional life, most recently as a Senior Cultural Specialist for the US Consulate. He has also worked as the Director of the Witbank Civic Theatre and the Creative Arts Workshop. As a practitioner he is an award-winning arts administrator, having won the Arts & Culture Trust Award for Arts Administrator of the Year, the Mpumalanga Premier's Award, the Witbank Mayor's award, and the U.S. State Dept Africa Bureau Award. He is also a prolific writer, critic and commentator on the arts and a playwright.

“Working for the National Arts Festival has got to be one of the dream jobs for anyone in the arts industry,” Ismail Mahomed said. “It’s an event which takes the pulse of the state of the country’s arts every year and plays an important role in pushing boundaries and giving our artists a great platform on which to express themselves.”

Lynette Marais’ expertise won’t be lost to the Festival with the new appointment, however. She has agreed to make herself available to work on specific projects next year and, as Tony Lankester says, will continue to be an important part of the Festival family.




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