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NAF EXHIBITIONS (article first published : 2008-06-21)

The countdown has begun for the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown (June 26 to July 5). Artists and curators are hard at work this week, mounting a variety of exhibitions which will provide festinos plenty of soul food as well as issues to chew over and discuss.

Once again, the exhibitions on the Main Festival programme will be reinforced by a series of walkabouts during which visitors can discuss the work with each other and an arts expert.

Wonderland, a dazzling, high-energy collection of photographs by Nontsikelelo (‘Lolo’) Veleko, captures the essence of Jozi street style. This Standard Bank Young Artist Award Winner (2008) uses her camera like a novelist uses words to lure us into a “through-the-looking-glass” world where young urbanites use fashion savvy to create fictions of their own identity.

Obie Oberholzer’s photographic exhibition The Hotazel Years takes viewers beyond the mainstream into the quirky backwoods of South Africa which, over the years, his unique vision has taught us to know and to love. Contemporary dance is the focus of a large faculty of photographers working in Germany. A selection of their work makes an awesome exhibition titled Frozen in Time, presented courtesy of the Goethe Institute. Family snapshots and old letters were the starting point for Maureen de Jager, whose exhibition In Sepia uses images and texts engraved in rusting steel to reflect on the mutability of memory. There are also white sculptures, gradually stained by rust growing on the steel embedded in them.

Texts merged with visual messages are the unifying discourse for Lefoko, Igama, Dibu, Word – a collection of work by four artists practising in Botswana. Each has drawn from her or his own linguistic memory bank – Setswana, Xhosa and North American poetry are among the words that are entwined in the work.

Time is the starting point for curators of two other exhibitions on the programme: Decade and Andrew Verster Past/Present. Decade features highlights of ten years of acquisitions for the Sanlam Art Collection – since 1997 some 544 works have been added to this representative archive of South African Art. To mark Sanlam’s 90th anniversary, 83 works ranging in time from 1896 have been selected for the Festival show. The Andrew Verster exhibition (curated by Carol Brown and the artist) charts the creativity and playfulness of a master. Works include paintings, drawings, costumes and his latest wax works on tissue.

Curation plays a key role in Art from the Ground Up, a body of work by Eastern Cape Artists, originally selected for an invitational show in Saxony (Germany). The contrasts in response to the geographic, spiritual, philosophical and social dimensions of the Eastern Cape are fascinating. Art craft by other Eastern Cape talents are on display (and for sale) in a special marquee at the Village Green, and this year there are a number of demonstrations as well.

Another chance to track process is presented by Production Marks, curated by Brenton Maart. Celebrating line drawing as a starting point for most design, the exhibition considers tools and the marks they make – from the humble pencil to the high-end computer. Sketches and plans are exhibited with models and photographs of final products – sculpture, furniture and other functional artefacts.

In addition to the main programme exhibitions, there is a plethora of visual art shows on the Fringe ensuring that the National Arts Festival is a feast for the eye.

Don’t miss the exhibitions on the 2008 Festival programme – pick up a booking kit from Computicket or selected Standard Bank branches and come on down to Grahamstown for a fun-filled Festival experience. Visit www.nationalartsfestival.co.za or call 046 603 1103 for more info.

The National Arts Festival is proudly supported by The Eastern Cape Government, Standard Bank, The National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, SABC and The National Arts Council.




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