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GRAHAMSTOWN EXHIBITIONS (article first published : 2002-06-15)

Familiar everyday objects like cartoons, clothing and family snaps feature in the work of leading artists at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown taking place from June 28 to July 6.

The main programme shows spotlight key directions, often echoing with profound questions, denying comfortable ideas and challenging the imagination. This year's exhibitions are accessible because they use a friendly language of media and metaphors openly inviting public participation in the issues they raise.

Standard Bank Young Artist Award-winner Brett Murray loves pop culture - ads, comics, soapies. And he uses them in his work to make serious fun of many of society's sacred cows. He has created a completely new exhibition for the Festival.

Old family snaps are familiar household clutter, but also the fading traces of memories and dreams. For her installation, Lost and Found, Terry Kurgan has enlarged private shots onto large drifts of organza.

The coat is a basic garment but for textile artist Fiona Kirkwood it's also a symbol for the human form and a metaphor for the protection of people, culture and history. In her exhibition Coats and Coverings she combines fine art and weaving to create arresting multi-media works.

More conventional weaving stars as a fine art medium in an exhibition of mohair tapestries curated by Marguerite Stephens. Included are works originated (though not woven) by the likes of William Kentridge, Judith Mason, Tito Zungu and Karel Nel.

The art of Africa has always had a strong craft dimension and a direct use-value - awesomely illustrated by an exhibition of treasures from the Standard Bank Galleries Collection. The show takes viewers back to the source of our formidably inclusive aesthetic tradition.

Are we Africans all artists who can help repair the torn web of history? The community-based Egazini Outreach Project that presents its third show this year moots this question. Rebellion and Uproar deals with stories about Xhosa warrior Makana's escape from prison. The show opens at the Festival before moving onto Robben Island.

And perhaps everyone in Makana's home province is indeed an artist: witness the abundance of talent behind a show titled East Cape Art Stokvel. The bring-and-share benefits of stokvel culture parallels the spirit of the Festival as a whole.

Another eclectic exhibition asks how artists have contributed to that hot issue: gender politics. Curator Carol Brown draws on the Durban Art Gallery collection to create Male identity post-apartheid - a diversity of work ranging over time, race and style boundaries to question orthodoxies about identity and marginalisation.

The Eastern Cape Government, National Arts Council and Standard Bank sponsor the National Arts Festival with support from Shamwari Game Reserve.




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