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NAF WINTER SCHOOL (article first published : 2007-06-17)

Food, décor and gardening are among the facets of lifestyle that come under the spotlight during the Winter School lecture series at the National Arts Festival to be held in Grahamstown from June 28 to July 7.

Media personality and bon vivant Braam Kruger (aka Kitchenboy) shares his three great passions: art, food and writing. Design guru Gary Searle (managing director of St Leger and Viney) identifies décor trends as they emerge in London and New York. Peter-James Smith, the itinerant gourmet of SAfm’s Food and Booze programme argues that our foodies aren’t fully exploiting the culinary potential here. Gwen Fagan, a Queen Bee of the garden hierarchy, will talk about landscape design and the use of heritage roses.

Healthy soil is essential to healthy plants and, in another section of the Winter School programme, Manie van Emmenes shares his commitment to the restoration of soil, plant and animal health through the recycling of organic material.

Spirituality offers key contemporary coping strategies and during Winter School half a dozen cognoscenti introduce widely disparate perspectives. An initiated diviner herself, Rhodes Anthropology lecturer Penny Bernard tells of the water divinities revered by several southern African indigenous groups. Hayes Lewis (a Zuni) and Beverly Morris (of Alaska’s Aleut-Qaqalangin tribe) talk about Native American traditions and the role filmmaking can play in indigenous knowledge. Head of Religious Broadcasting for SAfm, Peter-James Smith places the figure of the Virgin Mary in the context of ancient Western European traditions which idealise the feminine. Jewish Spiritual Leader, Azila Reisenberger is back again this year with two sparkling presentations on the Bible as literature: The Wit of Biblical Poetry and The Cunning Power of Biblical Prose. Clinical psychologist Elmari Claasens points the way to a creative life in harmony with self and others.

“To reach this blissful state, we need the arts”: this contention is powerfully argued by Dr John Edward Hasse of the USA’s Smithsonian Institution. Another visiting academic, Dr Andy Hamilton from Durham (UK), asks why Western ‘high culture’ lacks broad appeal. Expect the unexpected from this freethinking jazz pianist/philosopher.

A professor of English from Ohio (USA), Dr Jeanne Colleran looks at the way artists present alternate viewpoints of the horrors we witness on daily newscasts. Drama lecturer at York University, Toronto, Dr Marcia Blumberg uses Lara Foot Newton’s play Tshepang as an example of theatre that refuses vengeance and promotes healing.

A hero of South Africa’s healing processes, Advocate George Bizos reflects on some highlights and defining moments from his recently published biography Odyssey to Freedom. Steve Biko, a hero tragically lost before the time of healing, is honoured in a talk by Professor Barney Pityana. British director Jane Collins talks about the background to her production The Story of the African Choir which is on the main Festival programme this year.

Nigeria’s leading theatrical writer, Femi Osofisan explains Politics and the Stage in West African Nollywood. Freelance international curator Dr Carol Brown presents a slide lecture on the contemporary African art shown at the 2006 Dakar Biennale. Helping audiences to get to grips with the arts, charismatic musician and teacher Rick van Heerden offers a beginner’s guide to arts appreciation. Festinos can put his advice to the test during the Winter School Walkabout series which see audiences visiting six main exhibitions in the company of different arts experts. Lively debate is unavoidable. Veteran cultural reporter William Pretorius looks at the work and lives of Laurel and Hardy, arguing that their satirical complexity has been underestimated.

Under the heading National Challenges, a series of lectures deals with pressing topics that concern the arts community as much as the general public. In Africa, 3,000 children die every day of malaria. Project Co-ordinator for the South African Malaria Initiative, Zoleka Ngcete presents an update on the war against this mosquito-borne killer. Aids risk consultant Nathea Nicolay looks at the impact of HIV and Aids on business.

Independent political and trends analyst JP Landman grabs crime by the forelock, arguing that we have to understand the epidemic before we can cope with it. The Reverend Nicholas Mkaronda zooms in on the special problems confronting Zimbabwean asylum-seekers in South Africa, exacerbated by official denial that there is a humanitarian crisis over the border. Children, another category of people under threat, are Dr Ann Skelton’s special concern – she is a key figure in the reform of child law in South Africa. Her talk is titled ‘Fear for Children or Fear of Children?’

The judiciary comes up for scrutiny by a specialist panel headed by Judge Dennis Davis. Convened by the Legal Resources Centre, legal eagles Adila Hassim, Nomboniso Gasa and Gcina Malindi will debate issues surrounding transformation.

The proud sponsors of this incredible line-up are the Eastern Cape Government, Standard Bank, The National Lotteries Distribution Trust Fund, SABC and The National Arts Council.

For further information visit www.nafest.co.za or phone 046 603 1103. Booking Kits can be obtained free at Computicket outlets and selected Standard Bank branches.




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