Female Artists are at Centre of National Arts Festival

Female artists are taking centre stage at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown this year

Featured Female Artists, Lara Foot and 2016’s Standard Bank Young Artist for Theatre, Jade Bowers lead the pack with their impeccable creations. Foot collaborates with a variety of artists such as Mncedisi Shabangu, Andrew Buckland and Jennifer Steyn, among others, to produce an impressive three productions, including The Inconvenience of WingsKaroo Moose, and the heart-breaking yet exquisitely crafted, Tshepang.

Bowers premiers Scorched, a play about who we are and where we come from, states Bowers. Oomasisulu, directed by Warona Seane and based on a biographical novel by Elinor Sisulu, commemorates the life of anti-apartheid movement veteran, Albertina Sisulu. Women rule the Solo Theatre Season with all eight shows performed by women. Ruth First: 117days, like Oomasisulu, is based on a novel and observes the life of another legendary South African woman and antiapartheid veteran, Ruth First.

Women at Centre of National Arts Festival
Mpilo Straw Nzimande in One-Man, One Light.

The creative team of Animal Farm, directed my Neil Coppen, is abundant with talented  women; this contemporary classic recently won two Naledi Awards and should not be missed. Unveiled, a one-woman show written by Rohina Malik, is a response to the anti-Muslim sentiment that infected the United States in the wake of September 11, 2001. The work premiered at Chicago’s 16th Street Theatre in 2009 and has since been performed across the U.S. Another international production not to be missed is Those You Pass on the Street, directed by Paula McFetridge, which makes its South African debut at this year’s National Arts Festival.

‘Key South African anniversaries have been the catalysts for devising this year’s phenomenal programme, which embraces critical reflection, celebrations, analysis and a re-imagination of our histories, our contemporary society and the kind of society that we wish to endow to future generation,’ says Festival Artistic Director, Ismail Mahomed. ‘As we celebrate the Market Theatre’s 40 years of storytelling, as well as the 100th anniversary of the University of Fort Hare, we honour one of its great alumni, Can Themba, with two productions based on him.’

Crepuscule, presented by the National Arts Festival, in association with the Market Theatre, written and directed by Khayehilihle Dom Gumede, is an adaptation of Can Themba’s short story of the same name. This piece provides insight into a previous relationship of his with a white woman during the 1950s. The second homage to Themba is the biographical play, The House of Truth, in which award-winning theatre, television and radio actor and producer, Sello Maake kaNcube performs under the direction of Vanessa Cooke.

Female Artists
Days Like These by Flatfoot Dance. Sifiso Khumalo, Sanele Maphumalo, Julia Wilson and Zinhle Nzama.

The Festival will also turn its gaze to another anniversary, says Mahomed. ‘Reflecting on the 200th anniversary of Shaka ascending the throne of the Zulu monarchy, ILembe will attempt to open a celebratory, reflective and critical conversation about King Shaka’s leadership.’ The 2016 Arena is supported by Business and Arts South Africa (BASA) and invites local and international award-winning companies to the Festival to showcase their work.

Works to expect by exceptional female artists include, As Ever, Bessie, presented by Denise Newman and Heart’s Hotel, directed by James Cunningham. This year’s spotlight shines on the Artscape Theatre Centre, which offers a delightful feast of theatre, including Oomasisilu; Warren Nebe directs Morwa the Rising Son while Sandra Temmingh directs Lee-Ann van Rooi in Henrietta With Love. Dance thrives this year with shows like Sold by 2016’s Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for Dance, Themba Mbuli and a double bill by the Cape Dance Company, directed by Jose Agudo and Christopher L. Huggins.

Standard Bank Young Artist for Music 2016, Avigail Bushakevitz performs in concert with her brother Ammiel Bushakevitz and again with the Eastern Cape Philharmonic Orchestra and the Odeion String Quartet. Virtuosic Guy Buttery also performs with the Odeion String Quartet; a sensational collaboration. Other contemporary artists featured this year include AKA, The Muffinz and Prime Circle.

Female Artists
Chuma Sopotela in Karoo Moose in association with the Baxter Theatre.

The Standard Bank Jazz Festival also offers an exciting lineup that is inclusive of incredible talent from female artists, with Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz Siya Makuzeni and world renowned Caiphus Semenya as two of the many performers. The Performance Art and Visual Art programmes look promising with performance art Pig Headed, by Gavin Krastin and LEFA LA NTATE, an exhibition by Standard Bank Young Artist for Visual Art, Mohau Modisakeng. Intriguing public art also features at this year’s Festival while the family fair poses some interesting options.

Don’t forget to explore Think! Fest, which has a daily schedule of fascinating lectures and discussions, as well as the Film Festival, which promises some great films. This year’s Main Programme overflows with breathtaking art and provides you with a selection that deserves an experience. The 2016 National Arts Festival is the anticipated art event of the year and artists are carefully preparing their exceptional gifts. Also have a look at the Fringe Festival Programme for some more delicious treats.

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