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

DAY ONE (article first published : 2006-07-1)

The festival started yesterday but I only arrived last night. It was a long but hassle free drive from Margate where I had stayed overnight. Encouraging to see much development through the Transkei and the quality of the roads are fine. You still need to watch out for the animals, though, any inherited knowledge from their elders still hasn’t penetrated that the tarred strip that’s full of zooming objects means death to them. And it’s not the group of goats that is crossing the road that’s the problem. It’s the one that gets left behind that decides to cross once the others have got to the other side!

It was a lovely clear and balmy evening – let’s hope it continues.

Cue newspaper in full force with added assistance from BASA which offers a major boost to fringe artists through coverage. All fringe advertising in the main programme have been sponsored by BASA.

In defining Sizwe Banzi is Dead presented by the Baxter Theatre Company as a defining work in South African theatre industry: Cue contributing editor Brent Meersman writes: “Sexagenarians John Kani and Winston Ntshona acquitted themselves brilliantly.” Bemoaning the fact that there have been very few local professional productions in nearly 30 years, Brent Meersman urged the younger generation to see it as up until now, they’ve only known the work in text form (published with the erroneous spelling “Bansi”).

The Long Table, a popular eatery, celebrates 14 years of festival years providing good quality and easily accessible meals for festinos. At one time, the only food on offer for festival goers was via way of a few established restaurants which were always full and the prices too expensive to frequent on a regular basis. Apart from offering a welcome opportunity to sit down, The Long Table provides a small but well-chosen selection of food served buffet style so there’s no waiting in a vibey informal atmosphere.

Always respected for his clear-thinking and sensible approach to the arts in all their disciplines, acclaimed Durban artist Andrew Verster has been the organiser of the visual art exhibitions at the National Arts Festivals for the past eight years. In an article in Cue he urges artists to trust their instincts. “There’s no limit to what you can do with art. It’s all about ideas.”

And that just about sums up the Festival philosophy. So, forward we go into the 2006 National Arts Festival.

Keep an eye open on these pages as I try to write something every day – if the energy level prevails! – Caroline Smart




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