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

WINTER SCHOOL ON 2007 NAF (article first published : 2007-03-27)

In a world grown increasingly angry and aggressive, individuals inevitably react by seeking meaning in the particular, the private and the personal. And the arts, harbingers of our inner lives, lead the way. The trend is clear in the Main Programme for the National Arts Festival which takes place in Grahamstown from June 28 to July 7.

Several important new theatre pieces focus closely on the tender moments when two souls find common ground. The music programme is infused with the overwhelming humanity of hundreds of voices singing in unison. A vast embroidered altarpiece celebrates the joy and the beauty of creation. This is pleasure with a deeply healing purpose. Art that helps to fill in what’s missing - helps to make sense of our existence.

Now in its 33rd year, the Festival began in 1974 and has grown to be one of the leading arts festivals in southern Africa. Its objectives are to deliver excellence; encourage innovation and development in the arts by providing a platform for both established and emerging South African artists; create opportunities for collaboration with international artists; and build new audiences.

“The programme offers a representative sample of current creative preoccupations,” said Lynette Marais, Festival Director. “Our artists have extra sensitive antennae which enable them to scout out the route ahead, anticipating the way people on the ground deal with the contexts they find themselves in.” Now, more than ever, audiences and artists are turning inward, reassessing value systems, questioning the accuracy of memory, overhauling the power balance in relationships, and trading-in yesterday’s hopes and dreams for new ones.

The popular programme of lectures, exhibition walkabouts, and tours, offers a change of pace for festinos and new perspectives on the way we live now.

An update on lifestyle trends is provided by Gary Searle (of the fabric house St Leger and Viney), artist/foodie Braam Kruger, Peter James-Smith (of SAfm’s Food and Booze programme), Elmarie Claassens (who tracks the route to happiness), and Gwen Fagan (the grande dame of heritage roses).

The speakers on spirituality include Rabbi Azila Reisenberger, SAfm’s Peter James-Smith (wearing his Faith to Faith hat) and Penny Bernard, a specialist on African indigenous spirituality.

Enriching our experience of theatre, two American academics – Marcia Blumberg and Jeanne Colleran – talk about restorative theatre and truth in theatre respectively. Jane Collins discusses her Main Festival production The Story of The African Choir and eminent Nigerian playwright Femi Osofisan focuses on his life and work.

Visual art curator Carol Brown speaks on the art of the African continent and UK philosopher/jazz musician Andy Hamilton argues with cultural elitism.

Tackling major national challenges, Ann Skelton provokes debate on juvenile justice, JP Landman, a consultant to the “wealth industry”, talks about the impact of crime, and Zoleka Ngceta reports on progress in the fight against malaria. Judge Dennis Davis chairs a panel, putting judges in the spotlight, and the great defender, George Bizos, shares anecdotes from his new autobiography.

(See other disciplines for festival programme news)

As the countdown to the festival begins, keep a watchful eye on this space or www.nafest.co.za




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