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NAF EXHIBITIONS (article first published : 2005-03-23)

New cross-genre fusions, new multi-media spectacles, new scripts and new culture-smart agendas stimulated by new audience appetites are the dominant flavours on the Main programme for the National Arts Festival taking place in Grahamstown from June 30 to July 9. "A new tribe of mature and professional South African artists with international experience are cooking up a storm in the Mzantsi arts kitchens. The ingredients for this festival were garnered from the four corners of our creative marketplace by people who know the shortest route to the heart of an audience," said Lynette Marais, Festival Director.

Standard Bank Young Artist Award Winner Wim Botha has carved out a personal niche on the international art scene and his special Festival exhibition is sure to challenge. Among his best-known works are a Crucifixion sculpted from thousands of compressed Bible pages and his version of Michelangelo's Pietà, made from humble materials like maize meal and exhibited to universal acclaim in the Cathedral of St John the Divine in New York.

Also drawing inspiration from the annals of art history, the Keiskamma Art Project (an Eastern Cape collective) is back this year with an embroidered altarpiece and two 15-metre panels worked in thread, beads, wood and Nguni hide. Their inspiration was Grünewald's Isenheim Altarpiece, a monumental fifteenth century masterwork.

Rooted unequivocally in the future, Sounds Crazy is a surreal installation which provokes gasps of wonder and shrieks of laughter. By moving past, touching, holding or wearing weird music machines the visitor activates noise. It combines the expertise and custom-made instruments from local inventors headed by Toni Olivier and the Netherlands-based STEIM (Studio for Electro-Instrumental Music).

Moshekwa Langa's Installation brought to the Festival by the Goodman Gallery, is unnamed because it is "an open-ended continuum" which challenges the viewer to name it and find personal meanings. Internationally renowned, Langa still uses throwaway materials like he did when his studio was a KwaNdebele backyard.

Relationships in post-apartheid South Africa are the complex topic of Ties that Bind. Curated by Carol Brown the exhibition is drawn from the Durban Art Gallery, and features work by artists Clive Van den Berg, Roger Ballen, Zwelethu Mthethwa, Lobolile Ximba and Angela Buckland.

Also focused on aspects of contemporary experience, Project: Pictures for Life is a documentary photographic essay by Gregor Röhrig. He salutes the work of Grahamstown's Centre for Social Development (CSD) by capturing key moments in the lives of community members.

The magic of art from the heart of the community shines out in Umcebo (Treasure) - a collection of jewel-bright banners, glittering with beads, sequins, mirrors, glass nuggets, wirework and found/waste objects, created by the learners at Durban's Ningizimu School for the Severely Mentally Handicapped under the guidance of Robin Opperman.

And once again, regional art scouts have selected a collection of the most accomplished and exciting art works from a prodigious creative community for an Eastern Cape Exhibition, Paperworks.

To enrich the wide variety of experiences offered by the Festival exhibitions, a series of walkabouts for all the exhibitions on the Main programme give festinos the opportunity to share and discuss their responses with arts experts.

This festival is presented by the Eastern Cape Government, Standard Bank, National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, SABC and the National Arts Council and booking kits will be available during mid April in time for the opening of the booking on May 9. The Fringe booking kit will be available from May in time for the opening on May 23. Further information on 046 603 1103/1164 or visit http://www.nafest.co.za




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