The arts community of Mzansi will converge on Makhanda this week for the annual National Arts Festival, and if the programme is anything to go by, it will be a hot experience… right in the middle of winter.
The annual gathering shines a spotlight on the finest works when it comes to theatre, art, music, dance, film and much-needed conversations around burning topics. It will take place in this small Eastern Cape own between June 27 and July 7.
This year’s Standard Bank Young Artist for Theatre, Amy Jephta, who has established herself as an award-winning playwright, said for her it was important to create an environment in the theatre space for women, by women, in order for them to thrive. This, she said, would create endless possibilities for women in theatre.
“Possibilities, more than anything. It’s an exciting time to be a woman writer on the continent. We are pushing for ourselves and carving out spaces where there were previously none.
“This includes in publishing, in film, in visual art and, yes, in theatre. While I acknowledge that there are always challenges – accessibility, gatekeeping, and so on – I am more enthused by the future than ever before,” Jephta said.
At this year’s festival she will present a production called All Who Pass, which deals with issues of eviction and restitution, She explained that even though she’d written the production in 2013, she felt this was the right time to stage the play.
“I’ve been waiting a long time to stage this work, and the festival is an ideal opportunity and platform for the play. I chose to set it in District Six as it is close to my family’s history, to my own history, and, of course, to my identity as a South African.
“It’s a painful wound and one that has festered year after year. The pace of restitution for families who were dispossessed of that land is still alarmingly slow.
I’m always afraid that the stories of those former residents will be forgotten, subsumed by the passing of time, by the news cycle, by the next political emergency. I wanted this play to be a reminder.
“The Land Areas Act didn’t just change single families, but affected generations afterwards. I think it’s important to keep remembering that. Land restitution in this country has a long way to go.
“I see it as part of my job to keep the human beings in that story, front, and centre,” she said.
This year major theatres have also selected works to be presented at the festival, with the State Theatre alone putting on five productions.
These are dance production Amawethu, exhibition Artdiction, performance art piece Xova, musical drama Qina and musical Angola: Camp 13. The theatre’s selection is characterised largely by productions featuring mostly young people across a variety of themes.
For example, Artdiction highlights the creations of smoke artist Anathi ‘Elpee’ Nkanyuza, a creator who made headlines for his ability to make use of art and fire in a series of stunning pieces of work.
Qina, helmed by young theatre-maker Given Chauke tells the tale of greed, lust and skewed power relations in intimate partner relationships, using unique and original musical compositions to relate this particular story.
The National Arts Festival takes place between June 27 and July 7 in Makhanda, Eastern Cape.
For more details on the festival’s programme, ticket prices and hospitality information, visit the theatre’s website at: www.nationalartsfestival.co.za.