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The year that was… postponed | Creative Feel’s Editor-in-Chief reflects on another trying year for the arts

By Lore Watterson

As this year draws to a close, our Editor-in-Chief, Lore Watterson, looks back on the survival of the arts during the second year of the pandemic and shares some of the great projects that Creative Feel initiated or collaborated on in the past 12 months.

Life and Times of Michael K
Life and Times of Michael K IMAGE Fiona McPherson

The year that was… postponed

Looking at my reflections from the last year, there is one particular wish that I feel I share with many others, ‘Can we please get our normal lives back! Being able to get on with our lives as we used to know them while earning some reward for all the hard work we put in!’  

The arts environment was once again badly hit by Covid-19. We have all lost close friends and irreplaceable artists. Writing obituaries once again became part of our regular publishing routine. The lockdown restrictions needed to fight the pandemic, resulted, of course, in a lack of income for many. The most used word during 2021 must have been the term ‘postponed’, affecting most performances during the year on the cultural calendar. Once again, among many others, the much anticipated performances of William Kentridge’s The Head and the Load and the adaptation of JM Coetzee book of Life and Times of Michael K, by Lara Foot, in collaboration with the Handspring Puppet Company, have been postponed until early next year – hopefully.

The Head and the Load PHOTO Stella Olivier

There is of course much talk about doomsday but I would like to end the year on a positive note, something that has given me hope and that I want to share with you. These are a number of the really extraordinary and amazing happenings that we either collaborated on or initiated during the last 12 months.

We are incredibly grateful to our loyal and longstanding clients for, once again, making a real difference to many artists by supporting and sponsoring their work during this second year of the pandemic. This is when our Creative Feel Virtual Events Portal came fully into its own. This allows artists to continue performing and for creative spaces to stay open to the ‘virtual’ public through live streams, live events and forums that show what South African artists are capable of and what extraordinary work is being done. Right from its very beginning last year, this portal has been the showcase for many great names in the arts. It became a voice for Standard Bank and the great National Arts Festival, and for Sasol with the longstanding New Signatures art competition. Absa showed their commitment through the Absa Gallery with exhibitions, talks, masterclasses and their L’Atelier award, and the University of Johannesburg made the most of lockdowns with most innovative student work from their Arts and Culture department, showcasing exhibitions at the UJ Gallery.

Slindile Mthembu Old Soul Waiting
Old Soul Waiting by Slindile Mthembu, National Arts Festival vFringe

North West University shared the work of their lively, productive students and gave them a voice through physical and virtual portals, and corporates like MTN helped The Imbali Visual Literacy Project to make continued great strides in the realms of South African arts education this year with their Imbali Artbook workshops.

We continued, for part of the year, our collaboration with DITSONG museums in our Creative Feel Virtual Vault and shared so much about South African heritage and culture. We covered the art of Artist Proof Studio, the Bag Factory and with the help of RMB covered some young emerging artists.

And of course music, always a major part of Creative Feel, was generously supported by Universal music, enabling us to share new exciting releases with our readers. The wonderful Johannesburg Philharmonic carried on in spite of having only one live season, and Cape Town Opera hosted virtual concerts, keeping tabs on performing times and ‘postponements’ for their audience. Thank you to everyone who made such a difference to our hosting of the Creative Feel Virtual Events Portal.

Inspiration, productivity and some funding in the chaos of 2021 have produced some exceptional and note-worthy initiations and collaborations for Creative Feel.

At the beginning of 2021 we collaborated with the The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative (FATC), one of South Africa’s leading dance organisations, on the My Body My Space: Public Arts Festival (MBMS) in a festival of public performances and exhibitions that took place in public spaces throughout the Emakhazeni Local Municipality (ELM), in rural Mpumalanga. This unique Public Arts festival brings together the diverse citizenry of Emakhazeni by disrupting the familiar ways in which people move through shared social spaces. All of this was virtual and a new MBMS Festival is planned for early 2022.

My Body My Space
Thulani Chauke in PJ Sabbagha’s “Forest Dance” (Christo Doherty)
My Body My Space
Thulani Chauke (My Body My Space) PHOTO Christo Doherty

We also collaborated with wonderful spaces like Zeitz MOCAA and the Norval Foundation, to show some amazing work, while also trying to give a helping hand to artists, whom we felt needed our support.

But my own, much cherished highlight of the year has been the start of our new project My Art Radar, on our website, aimed at sharing a fresh and more diverse view of the South African arts by a host of emerging and first-time writers, filmmakers, and designers from across the country. Following the widespread loss of jobs and available platforms in the arts, Creative Feel put out a call for applications, urging lovers of the arts to share their thoughts, opinions, and reflections on an exhibition, artist, theatre production, arts festival, or virtual performance that was on their creative radar. The result is a collection of in-depth and insightful reflections on the arts, from video diaries and written reviews to narrative essays and short-form documentaries. Most importantly, with some funding we were able to pay these young contributors for their work and a number of them have been subsequently commissioned by other institutions to produce more work.

Browse through the creativity, the perseverance, and the talent housed by the My Art Radar project here.

In closing, I saw that my wish from last year for 2021 actually came true, I was hoping that a successful Covid-19 vaccine was going to be made available to everyone, and it was! My wish for next year is simply that everyone will get their vaccine and help us all to stop the obituaries and to get our lives back!

2022 will not be postponed and we wish you all a special time during the break. Once again, we will be with you all in 2022 with new energy and new ideas. Please keep safe, stay healthy, and take care.

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