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VISUAL ART 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.

A major event in the world of visual art, Festival 2007 sees the unveiling of a new magnum opus from the Keiskamma Art Project embroiderers – this time in collaboration with the Nieu Bethesda Art Project. Their awe-inspiring Creation Altarpiece is a thanksgiving for the beauty of the Hamburg environment and its people.

Three important exhibitions of photography all engage in a critical exploration of society.

Standard Bank Young Artist Award Winner for Visual Art, Pieter Hugo is concerned with the peripheral in society so it is apt that he chose life in the border town of Messina/Musina as the subject for his exhibition. More than 30 years after the publication of his controversial book, the grand master of photography, David Goldblatt, retraces his visual footsteps. The resulting exhibition, Some Afrikaners Revisited, confirms photography as an artist’s medium.

The Caring Namibian Man is a documentary collection of images taken by young men all over Namibia. Each was provided with a disposable camera and challenged to take photographs of male role models.

Two other exhibitions are also preoccupied with gender. In Mother/Land Christine Dixie explores the representation of maternity using historical cartography as a metaphor for the terra incognita of the fertile female body. A collaboration with the design team Strangelove, Leora Farber’s performance/installation Dis-Location/Re-Location suggests ways of thinking about women in the context of migration and a polyglot diaspora.

James Webb’s experimental installation, Beau Diable, places the viewer in the eye of a virtual storm where sound light and architectural space suggest supernatural forces.

Curator Carol Brown juxtaposes work by different artmakers in a variety of media that engage with the multi-layered meanings of Positive 2007 and argue that a new understanding of the HIV/Aids epidemic is discernible now.

Imbumba – A Collaboration maps the route on an ongoing journey of artistic discovery that sees new and established Eastern Cape artists share their visions. Artefacts from master craftspeople in the province’s seven districts will be displayed for sale in a dedicated venue at the Village Green.

A favourite feature of the Festival, the “Green”, along with other craft precincts, offers visitors the chance to browse through scores of stalls laden with tempting collectables from many parts of Africa.

As the countdown to the festival begins, keep a watchful eye on this space or www.nafest.co.za (See other disciplines for festival programme news)




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