It may seem like a lifetime ago, but it’s only been a few short months since the announcement of South Africa’s national lockdown forced the arts to come to a grinding halt. Now, as arts practitioners are tentatively occupying our stages, theatres, and galleries again, it’s worth reflecting on those artists and organisations who, despite the challenging and uncertain months of lockdown, were able to pull off some extraordinary projects that kept South African creativity alive, and provided new ways of engaging with art and performance.
From festivals that discouraged audiences from physically attending, to whole films and symphony seasons taking place virtually, here are a few of our favourite lockdown projects from 2020.
Cabin Fever is an innovative film directed by Tim Greene and created in collaboration with South African actors living in different parts of the world in the midst of the pandemic. Watch our interview with Greene about his film and his life under lockdown, here.
UJ Arts & Culture
When it comes to making the most of a difficult situation, UJ Arts & Culture remain an example of an arts organisation that truly embraced technology, innovation, and collaboration to keep the arts alive. Their 2020 programme contains virtual gallery launches, interdisciplinary projects, and more. Read UJ Arts & Culture’s Pieter Jacobs and Lakin Morgan-Baatjies reflecting on the year and all of their 2020 projects here.
South African Jazz Stories
The South African Association for Jazz Education (SAJE) was meant to host the 15th iteration of its Jazz Conference in Pretoria this year. After the pandemic cancelled those plans, the SAJE decided to go online and continue their jazz education project in a different format: The ‘South African Jazz Stories’ online video project. There are 15 SAJE jazz stories in this current project, all of them diverse and with an interesting perspective on jazz and jazz education in South Africa. Check out the project here.
The Lockdown Collection
Started right at the beginning of South Africa’s national lockdown, The Lockdown Collection was a hugely successful initiative that raised much-needed funds for artists and the broader arts community. Find out more about the initiative here, and read Artist Proof Studio’s Kim Berman reflecting on the inception of the project.
JPO and KNZPO’s online tributes and performances
The Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra and the KwaZulu Natal Philharmonic Orchestra have been keeping classical music and musical performance alive this year by performing virtually. In addition to their recent Virtual Spring Symphony Season, they also performed a touching tribute to South African citizens with their lockdown rendition of ‘Amazing Grace’.
The Imbali Artbooks website launch
The Imbali team have been doing incredible work for years. In 2018, after ten years of work, the Imbali Visual Literacy Project launched The Imbali Artbooks: Adventuring into Art. This set of eight books, a treasure-trove of knowledge, is aimed at helping educators to teach art in South Africa, but they are also an invaluable resource for anyone interested in improving their visual literacy or learning more about South Africa’s arts heritage. During lockdown, they launched The Imbali Artbooks website, a complementary accompaniment to be used in conjunction with the books. Read our interview with Justine Watterson and Ruth Sack here and check out the website here.