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SEASON SOUTH AFRICA (article first published : 2004-09-29)

Season South Africa, a pioneering celebration of the country’s contemporary visual and performing arts, is currently running in New York City until January 3, 2005. Launched in the year that South Africa is commemorating its first decade of democracy, Season South Africa is conceived to challenge the world’s perceptions of the South African – and African – arts.

Personal Affects: Power and Poetics in Contemporary South African Art features installed works by 17 eminent South African contemporary artists, who were commissioned to create site-specific art for Season South Africa. Works will be exhibited at the major venue for Season South Africa, The Cathedral of St John the Divine, until December 6, and at the Museum for African Art, the project’s partner institution, until January 3.

Cape based lyric theatre company Dimpho Di Kopane will stage four productions from October 25 to November 28 in the Synod Hall of The Cathedral of St John the Divine, including the world premieres of Ikumankanikazi ye Khephu, a South African rendition of the classic fairy tale The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen, and U-Carmen, a Xhosa version of Bizet’s opera.

“The developed world holds a view of the art and culture of African that is not accurate,” says Ralph Freese, Project Leader for Season South Africa. “We hope to help shift that mindset, demonstrating that developments in contemporary South African arts have catapulted us into a leading position globally. This has happened in parallel with improvements constitutionally, and in terms of corporate and social governance”.

Season South Africa is "in the spirit of a gift" says Freese. And that gift comes largely by way of Spier, an estate in the Cape wine lands which provides a space for the meeting of cultures, people and ideas. International Marketing Council, a South African agency established to promote the country’s brand value has provided a substantial backing and Nando’s, Hollard Insurance have contributed to the initiative.

The neo-Gothic Cathedral of St John the Divine has played an important role in the city’s history, and provided a challenging environment for the 17 commissioned South African artists. In February, the artists – including Durban’s Jay Pather with Jane Alexander, Steven Cohen, Churchill Madikida, Samson Mudzunga, Clive van den Berg and Sandile Zulu – travelled with the exhibition’s curators to New York to explore the vast cathedral space.

The exhibition will show artworks created out of the artists’ responses to their week-long stay in New York. Diverse media employed include drawing, sculpture, painting, photography, installation, video, performance and dance.

Also taking part in Season South Africa is Durban’s Thando Mama. Other artists are Wim Botha, Mustafa Maluka, Johannes Phakela, Robin Rhode, Claudette Schreuders, Berni Searle, Darren Southwood, Minette Vari and Diane Victor.




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