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The year in review: Creative Feel’s 2021 highlights

The end of 2021 is upon us! We always like to take this time to reflect on the many people, projects, performances and artworks we’ve featured in Creative Feel over the course of the year. Naturally, there’s too much to mention in a single article, but here are just a few of our highlights from 2021. Scroll through and click on whatever interests you for some great reads, videos, audio clips, and more!

A winning year for the arts

Despite the ongoing challenges facing the arts as a result of the continuing pandemic, we managed to report on a great deal of good news this year, including awards, nominations, art prizes and more. For example, we were thrilled to see Amy Jeptha’s film Barakat representing SA at the Oscars, musician Wouter Kellerman being nominated for a Grammy, and novelist Damon Galgut winning the 2021 Booker Prize! Then there was also the announcement of the Standard Bank Young Artist Award winners, the Sasol New Signatures winner, Absa L’Atelier winners, and the Cassirer Welz winner. And these are just a few of the many awards and accolades given out to South African artists this year! 

Barakat trailer

Trailblazing theatre

Speaking of awards, the annual Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards and the Standard Bank Ovation Awards reminded us of the enduring power of South African theatre. It was another difficult year for the stage, but South African theatres managed to keep the curtains raised with brilliant productions like Rose, Bloodknot, and A Better Life. We also put together a list of the SA theatres you should know. Give it a read here.

The 2021 Fleur du Cap Awards

Local and international film

Remember the European Film Festival? With the pandemic changing our lives so drastically, they took us on a journey of healing. They also introduced us to one of our favourite films, Stop-Zemlia, a sincere and contemplative coming-of-age film that breaks from the Western tradition. Most film festivals went online this year including the MyFrenchFilmFestival and NollywoodWeek. Earlier this year we gave you a list of online exhibitions, films, music, and performances to stream during lockdown, and now, with uncertainty lurking this festive season, we thought we’d make up a new list of art-related performances, podcasts and talks to stream while we wait to see what happens next.

Stop-Zemlia trailer

New perspectives on the arts with My Art Radar

One of our stand-out projects this year is, without a doubt, our My Art Radar platform. Dedicated to new voices, perspectives, and ways of documenting the arts, My Art Radar became a platform for new writers, photographers, and filmmakers from across the country. From intergenerational conversations on Nakhané and in-depth analyses on Zanele Muholi, to thought pieces on the rise of contemporary African fashion, read it all on our dedicated My Art Radar page (and get to know the contributors) here.  

Caswell Lengoabala chats to Durban filmmaker Mel Mthembu

Championing arts education with Imbali

One of our favourite arts organisations, The Imbali Visual Literacy Project, continued to make great strides in the realms of South African arts education this year with their Imbali Artbook workshops. Read our coverage of their workshops here, and find out all about their groundbreaking set of artbooks here.   

Curating through the pandemic with UJ Arts & Culture

We’re regularly blown away by the kind of work being done by the team over at the University of Johannesburg’s Arts & Culture division. There’s too much too mention here, so be sure to watch our interview with head of UJ Arts & Culture, Pieter Jacobs here and reflect on more than two decades of tireless curation at the UJ Art Gallery with former gallery curator Annali Cabano-Dempsey here. We’re also excited to see how Thabo Seshoka continues this legacy next year as he takes the reigns. Read all about his appointment as curator of UJ’s Gallery here.

In conversation with Pieter Jacobs, Head of UJ Arts & Culture

Embracing innovation with Absa Gallery

Similarly, the team over at the Absa Gallery were doing some brilliant work this year – exhibitions, talks and masterclasses – all on their innovative Absa Art Hot Spot platform. We spoke to Absa’s Senior Specialist Art Curator, Dr Paul Bayliss about what it takes to keep the arts alive during a time of great upheaval. The answer? Hard work and innovation! Read the full feature here.

Inspirational exhibitions at NWU Gallery

We had the pleasure of reporting on the many exhibitions that took place at NWU Gallery this year, even taking a few road trips out to Potchefstroom to cover the openings in person and tour their many galleries on and off campus. To wrap up a great year of art and curation, we spoke with NWU Gallery curator Amohelang Mohajane. Read it here.

In conversation with incredible artists

Of course, this year was also filled with rich conversations with the many artists, musicians and performers who continue to help us see and engage with the world in different ways through the work they do. Again, there are too many to mention here, but a few of our highlights include our profile pieces on Hannelie Coetzee and Thabang Lehobye; our catch-up Q&As with former magazine cover artists Olivié Keck, Cale Waddacor and Brett Rubin; and our features and in-depth interviews with painter Zarah Cassim, Sasol New Signatures 2019 winner Patrick Rulore, sculptor Belinda Blignaut, and Greyton-based painter Marcel Herholdt.    

Taking the arts online with the National Arts Festival

Another year of an all-virtual National Arts Festival, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t just as enjoyable as the Makhanda-based event. The 2021 vNAF was filled with cutting-edge performance, visual art, talks and more. Check out some of our top picks here, and be sure to watch our interview with NAF CEO Monica Newton here.

In conversation with Monica Newton, National Arts Festival CEO

The power of music

Music is a huge part of what keeps the Creative Feel team doing what we do. This year we were lucky enough to listen and speak to some of the best in the business. Read all about Cape Town Opera’s Puccini Extravaganza, read our exclusive interview with world-renowned violinist Ye Eun Choi, listen to the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra’s Bongani Tembe talk about the need to keep the orchestra alive and, ahead of the holidays, give Gregory Porter’s new album a listen. You can also listen to all the new albums we’ve had the privilege of featuring over the last year here.

Embracing innovation with Sasol New Signatures

This year’s cohort of Sasol New Signatures winners proves that innovation is central to keeping the arts alive. Read all about the 2021 winners here and be sure to check out the impressive exhibition of all of the shortlisted artists, as well as 2019 winner Patrick Rulore’s solo exhibition here.  

The 2021 Sasol New Signatures Awards Ceremony

Reader favourites

Some of the top lists loved by you, our readers, include the most stunning sculpture gardens in South Africa, Johannesburg’s iconic public sculptures and the South African theatres you should know. You all seemed interested in learning more about the iconic Norman Catherine, and reading up on Kwa-Zulu Natal’s Astral Msekeli, a 22-year-old Security Guard from Ophongolo, who was named South Africa’s national winner in the BIC Art Master Africa competition.

We could go on, but we’ll cut off our highlights here. To make sure you don’t miss out on the best in local and international art news, features, reviews and interviews in 2022, be sure to sign-up for our weekly Creative Feel newsletter here.

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