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The Season so far

Bongani Tembe, Commissioner-General for the SA Season in the UK, part of the SA-UK Season 2014 & 2015, a cultural exchange partnership by South Africa’s Department of Arts and Culture and the United Kingdom’s British Council, has announced that the second round of the SA Season in the UK has once again been a phenomenal success.
A commitment to strengthen cultural ties between South Africa and the UK, the SA-UK Seasons commenced in January 2014 and will conclude in December 2015. The SA Season in the UK kicked off in 2014 with a bang at The Edinburgh International Festival with three major local works on its programme: Inala, a dance piece which incorporated South Africa’s internationally acclaimed Ladysmith Black Mambazo; Ubu and the Truth Commission, a critically applauded theatrical multimedia production by Handspring Puppet Company and directed by William Kentridge; and Exhibit B by Brett Bailey of Third World Bunfight, the second instalment of the Exhibit series. The projects were successful with audiences and critics alike. While Ubu and the Truth Commission contributed significantly to the Festival talks and discussions, Exhibit B sparked discussion on the role of art in examining challenging aspects of relationships between different races, while Inala sold out performances.
Jazz pianist Bokani Dyer, legendary South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo, and jazz trumpeter Claude Deppa featured and showcased Mzansi’s diverse and rich musical content in sell-out shows at the EFG London Jazz Festival 2014. This year will see the great ladies of South African jazz, Sibongile Khumalo and Gloria Bosman bring the stage to life.
The 2015 Season started the year with some of South Africa’s emerging fashion designers exhibiting alongside those of 30 other countries at the International Fashion Showcase in London. The talented designers achieved second place for Best Exhibition, while Laduma went on to receive a Best Designer special mention at the London Fashion Week.
Award-winning South African a cappella group, The Soil, selected by the Royal Family, represented South Africa at the Commonwealth Day Celebration event in front of a 2 000-strong international audience. The band’s nostalgic performance has since resulted in a future collaboration with digital artist Nat Jones to develop the visual dimension of their performance. They are also in discussion with Serious, the major world music presenter, about international representation.
Seven home-brewed musicians – Jeremy Loops, Al Bairre, Okmalumkoolkat, Yorke, The Accidentals, Thor Rixon, and P.H Fat – represented SA’s local music flavour alongside 400 other international live acts at The Great Escape Festival, a music extravaganza that showcases emerging artists from all over the world in Brighton, at the Spiegeltent and Prince Albert. Jeremy Loops has since been extended the opportunity to perform at the Wilderness and Somersault Festivals in the UK.
After Freedom: New Rhythms of Soweto was scheduled to premier at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival during August. The musical, which is a continued collaborative effort between Simply Soweto Encha and Edinburgh just Festival, takes audiences through the ups and downs of youth life in South Africa. Simply Soweto Encha is a five piece a cappella group that sing gospel, soul, jazz, doo-wop, and R&B in African and popular styles.
Following on the successful hosting of South African authors at the 2014 Edinburgh International Book Festival, writer Margie Orford was scheduled to appear at the 2015 edition in conversation with Scottish author Ben McPherson.
Lost in the Dust is an exhibition celebrating a powerful series of narrative paintings of the Anglo-Boer War by John Meyer, South Africa’s leading contemporary realist artist. Set against the dramatic and hauntingly beautiful backdrop of the South African landscape, these 15 works by Meyer offer a personal and compelling look into how war affects individual relationships and captures the raw emotion of the people swept up in it. The paintings weave history, imagination and narrative into a multilayered realm that deals with the tragedy of war. The exhibition was hosted at Bonhams in London during the month of July and then at Tusk in Edinburgh in August.
The Dirt Road is a tragic love story that follows the relationship between a Xhosa man and an English speaking coloured women. The play had a successful debut in Paris, France and its first African Debut at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in 2014. It is scheduled for performance at Etcetera Theatre, Essex from 17 to 24 September 2015.
Arebyte Gallery (located in Hackney Wick, London) has invited emerging South African artist Nelmarie du Preez to form part of their series of gallery residencies and solo-shows where the gallery space is transformed into a ‘laboratory’ for Digital Times (IT: Immaterial Times) (exhibition 1 to 29 October 2015). For four to six weeks, du Preez will spend time using the gallery as both a studio and exhibition space, whilst giving the public an inner look at the process of creation while taking an active role in developing research and sharing knowledge/skills in terms of new technologies and labour politics.
A partnership between Kunjanimation Animation Festival (Cape Town) and the London International Animation Festival to create special initiatives highlighting SA and UK animation industries, fosters collaboration between the two countries and explores potential for cooperation. Projects focus on both the business and creative side of animation and consist of screenings, workshops and talks, studio visits and business-to-business opportunities with visiting delegations from each country.
The UK will once again be treated to the critically acclaimed production, Ubu and the Truth Commission from 15 October to 7 November 2015 at the Print Room, London.
Township Connections is a series of collaborative workshops that will share experiences, culture, artistic concepts, and explore urban life in the inner cities of UK and SA Townships, ending with a performance presented in London. The project will take place between 19 and 26 October 2015.
Border Crossings and the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra will be collaborating to develop a new opera around themes from recent South African history. Featuring iconic figures such as Nelson Mandela, Steve Biko and PW Botha, the opera will be composed by Eugene Skeef and has already been written by Border Crossings Artistic Director, Michael Walling. More details are still to be confirmed, with dates set for 10 to 14 November.
On 11 November 2015 one of South Africa’s greatest living artists, Esther Mahlangu, is turning 80. To celebrate this as well as her role in educating young people in the traditional art of the Ndebele, 34FineArt is arranging a solo exhibition with an accompanying exhibition catalogue opening 11 November 2015 in Cape Town, which will then travel to London.
On Mass is a multi-country collaboration of emerging, young musicians to develop a new work to be premiered in November as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival. The young musicians will collaborate with contemporary composers, David Coulter and Bonobo.
Sounds of Freedom is a dance performance that will showcase South African history from the 1960s to current day, displaying the differences and challenges that took place. The dance project sees a collaboration between iKapa Dance Theatre and African Opera Company with the hope of touring it internationally.
With only four months to go before the Season ends and these exciting projects still on the horizon, the SA Season in the UK is set for even further sensational success.

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