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

NAF, GRAHAMSTOWN, JULY 1 (article first published : 2008-07-3; last edited : [an error occurred while processing this directive])

I was happy to see that today’s Cue newspaper carried very favourable reviews on Bar Flies and I, Claudia.

I linked up with Sue Clarence to ask whether she’d chosen anything from the Festival for the Witness Hilton Arts Festival which takes place in a couple of months time but she is still working on the programme. However, she was able to confirm certain productions so far. These include Dream of the Dog, Yellow Man, Every Year Every Day I am Walking and Mark Banks. Following her successful appearance in Shirley Valentine, Lisa Bobbert will appear at Hilton in this production as well as in Brutal Tunes with Anthony Stonier and Andrew Warburton. Also on the cards are Oleanna with Janna Ramos Violante and Tim Wells as well as Cobus van Heerden’s Catch and Liam Magner’s Spun.

I spent the earlier part of the day at the Monument going round some of the exhibitions there. This year’s Standard Bank Young Artist Award Winner for visual art is photographer Nontsikelelo Veleko who has created an exhibition titled Wonderland as part of her award. The exhibition is curated by Storm Janse van Rensburg who is a former curator of the KZNSA Gallery in Durban. Nontiskelelo Veleko describes Wonderland as “a step further in investigating the social and emotional state of my surroundings – South Africa is my place of departure, by experience and location, but conceptually I am interested in the discovery of the world”. A simulated garden with a lawn surrounded by cheery sunflowers and featuring swings garlanded with leaves and flowers gives a surreal fairytale feeling that belies the comments in her photographs. These are of people from all walks of life, in different poses, diverse outfits and varying moods – what links them all is a similar proud and positive energy. The underlying message is: “Look at me. I am who I am. I count for something.”

Frozen in Time, an exhibition of photographs of dance in the Ntsikana Gallery, is presented courtesy of the Goethe-Institut Johannesburg. Nine photographers are involved in this fascinating collection of images many of which capture movement – exactly as the title suggests – frozen in time, the image that the human eye can’t hold during a performance but which it can enjoy so much at a leisurely pace in a photograph.

The Thomas Pringle Hall is filled with a veritable history of South African art in Sanlam’s Decade. It’s been more than a decade since the Sanlam Art collection presented an exhibition at the National Arts Festival. This year celebrates Sanlam’s 90th year of existence with a review of acquisitions made over the last ten years. These range from the turn of the 19th century works by Frans David Oerder, Cathcart Methven and Hugo Naudé to contemporary pieces by artists such as Gavin Younge, Jan van der Merwe, Tracy Rose, Adam Letch and Jacques Coetzer. It’s a fascinating exhibition and covers everything from oils and watercolour to sculptures and mixed media.

As most of the morning was spent going around the exhibitions, I only saw one production today. Abba’s music greets the audience as we enter the venue for Jus’ Pimpin’, a laid-back informal piece of nonsense from Dhaveshan Govender and Cliff Bryan. The poster in the fringe programme gives the warning that this is not a theatre show. They haven’t opened it to the media so they don’t invite or expect reviews. Which is why I won’t give them one.

Suffice it to say that the audience response has been strong enough to pay for the presentation of their other two productions on the festival – the “real” ones, as they describe them. These are King of Old Trafford featuring Dhaveshan in “one man’s tale of life, love and Manchester United”, and Jakes Revolution in which Cliff takes time away from the recording studio to perform his self-penned show that explores life as seen through the bleary eyes of a pub musician.

A short description of Jus’ Pimpin is that it’s about two friends who run a radio station from Dhaveshan’s granny’s garage and in order to keep it on the air, they have to have ad breaks. They’re dressed in the most outrageous outfits and while I did say I wouldn’t review it, the script (such as it is) is full of wacky lines. The two fishermen use mango pickle for bait (well, Dhaveshan is from Durban!) and an advert dealing with death advocates the purchase of clingwrap (to keep the freshness in). And of course, you did know that the Indians didn’t come to South Africa as indentured slaves. They came to “invent sugar” – and went on to “change South Africa one GTI at a time”!

Talking about envy, the media bags are the envy of festival-goers and many people have approached me asking where they can buy one. Sorry, not for sale, but contact the media office is my response. Sponsored by Safm, the festival’s media partner, the bags are presented to all members of the media covering the festival and contain the festival programme, a copy of the Rootz magazine and maps. The festival organisers are still using that infuriatingly frenetic pie-chart type map that is quite difficult to follow. The maps on the Arts Meander and the Dining Out in and Around Grahamstown maps are much more user-friendly, albeit covering a much smaller area. The Arts Meander map also gives you a sketch of the building in question, which means you can’t go wrong unless you’re completely dof.

It’s midway through the festival and print media journalists covering the event are frantically trying to reach deadlines. What a joy is to be my own deadline! I am the envy of many of them as I simply go online and transfer my stories – and they’re out there for the world to see. This diary takes about three minutes to load – although, I hasten to tell you that it takes a lot longer than that to write!

Also available to the media this year is a copy of the latest CLASSICfeel magazine, which – I am very proud to say – includes my first column for this publication. It deals with what’s happening in Durban and major events further afield in KZN. CLASSICfeel is extending its coverage to KZN – I couldn’t be happier!

Going back to the media bags, they are black cloth bags containing the Safm logo and each one is hand-embroidered which makes them an artwork in their own right. They are from Tunga in Hluhluwe in Zululand. “Tungu” is isiZulu for needlework and the Tunga Embroidery Studio is the hub for a group of inspired women embroiderers. Africa’s animals and coloured are their inspiration. - Caroline Smart




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