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VISUAL ART AT NAF (article first published : 2005-05-29)

Fire, mealiepap, electronic impulses, Nguni hides and audience participation are among the media favoured by an array of newsmaking visual artists whose work features on this year's National Arts Festival taking place in Grahamstown from June 30 to July 9.

The eyes of the art world will be on the show by Standard Bank Young Artist award-winner Wim Botha who has claimed public attention since his Christ-like figure carved out of hundreds of Bible pages went on show in 2001. His enigmatic Mealiepap pietÓ (a replica in maize meal of Michelangelo's marble) had New York agog when it was exhibited there last year. Similarly, his new work for the Festival is expected to defy simple interpretation.

Sensational in a different way, the Sounds Crazy exhibition involves seeing, touching, and hearing all at once as you move through the installation spaces or touch individual objects that respond by issuing sounds. These futuristic music-making machines are presented by Holland's Studio for Electro-Instrumental Music and Grahamstown's Studio for Interactive Sound.

When Brendhan Dickerson sets alight sequentially his tableau of Festival sculptures, a succession of other shapes and meanings will be revealed as fire consumes the work, to leave only a pile of ashes (July 8 at 18h00). Dickerson has been doing fire performance installations since his sojourn in Basel (Switzerland).

Tapping into the miracle of human endurance in the face of adversity, the Keiskamma Altarpiece is a monumental work created by 120 rural embroiderers using thread, beads, woods and nguni hide. It speaks of faith in the harsh context of their reality and equals the 135-metre long Xhosa history tapestry that was first shown at Festival 2004.

Another tribute to the radiance of the human spirit, Umcebo (the treasure) features jewel-bright banners made by learners from Durban's Ningizimu School for the Severely Mentally Handicapped. Their work has been shown in France and sold to local and foreign collectors.

Curator Carol Brown's role is seminal to Ties that Bind, a discursive exhibition in which a variety of works are juxtaposed so they speak to each other and the viewer about changing definitions of human relationships in a new South Africa. Photographs, paintings, sculpture, beadwork and video - many of the pieces are drawn from the permanent collection of the Durban Art Gallery Carol Brown is the director of the DAG. Artists featured include Clive Van den Berg, Roger Ballen, Zwelethu Mthethwa, Lobolile Ximba and Angela Buckland.

Two photographic exhibitions assert the value of the camera as an artist's tool. A Tribute to Andrew Meintjes honours a gifted photographer and a master printmaker - he was murdered by armed robbers last year. Gregor R÷rich's Project: Pictures for Life documents the community work of Grahamstown's Centre for Social Development.

Paperwork is a representative status report on art making in the Eastern Province - this year on paper. Galleries and training institutions the length and breadth of the province were invited to nominate artists for short-listing.

Once again visitors will be able to engage in discussion with art experts during a series of exhibition Walkabouts.

Free Booking Kits for the Festival are available at selected Standard Bank branches and Computicket outlets. Booking is at Computicket nationwide. Further information on 046 603 1103 or visit www.nafest.co.za

The Eastern Cape Government, Standard Bank, the SABC, the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund and the National Arts Council are the proud sponsors of the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown.




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