KAROO KAARTE LEADS THE WAY IN THE ARTS WITH A PROJECT DESIGNED AND DESTINED TO ELEVATE AND PROMOTE REAL CHANGE IN COMMUNITIES

South Africans are starting to realise that we have to do it for ourselves. That’s how change will really make an impact. It’s something artists Neil Coppen and Vaughn Sadie put into practice with the establishment of Karoo Kaarte at (and with the help and support of) the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees and a handful of other funders . DIANE DE BEER spoke to the two art activists about this ongoing dream of theirs:

Co-Facilitator Vaughn Sadie leading a discussion with the core team (left) with co-facilitator Neil Coppen during rehearsals for Op Hierie Dag. Photography by Ryan Dammert.
Karoo Kaarte (Karoo Maps) was one of the most intriguing and important productions at this year’s Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees (KKNK).

The project’s name Karoo Kaarte plays on the dual meaning of kaarte in the Oudshoorn context. The English translation of kaarte is maps and in the local vernacular “om kaarte te sny” refers to hanging out and telling both serious and light hearted stories.

Described in the festival guide as the heart of the festival, it was the result of months of research and work done in Oudtshoorn. It was the dream of the late Dr David Piedt, a founding member and Chairman of the KKNK and someone who worked tirelessly for the transformation and renewal of the KKNK over the years.

The project driven by the KKNK was established to make a transformative difference in the Karoo town where the festival is based.

Facilitated by the smart combo of the innovative theatre maker Neil Coppen and the visual artist Vaughn Sadie, the idea was to use the arts in many different ways to change the narrative of the Oudtshoorn community to a more inclusive one.

Karoo Kaarte team gathers for the research and creative process used to bring together a range of participants to reimagine the archive as an inclusive community resource. And images and details of the Karoo Kaarte team engaging, over a series of workshops, with Zietske Saaiman’s large-scale map of Oudtshoorn and its many suburbs which she painstakingly demarcated in masking tape on the floor of the CP Nel Museum Hall. Photography by Ryan Dammert and Karoo Kaarte.

Storytelling is one of the most powerful and compelling tools we have as people to bring about change, and it is exactly what was applied in this project in many different forms. The whole community of the town was encouraged to participate and engage in the research projects, which focussed on as many individuals as possible telling their individual stories, and more particularly, how they saw themselves featured in the town.

The whole exercise is about bringing people together. With our past in mind, many of our towns and cities still show the former fault lines and it is wishful thinking to hope that things will slide into normality by itself. This is some of what they were working with to incorporate and bring everyone together to tell their stories and become part of the fabric of this Karoo town.

Coppen explains how it all started: “I’ve worked with Hugo Theart (KKNK Artistic Director) multiple occasions as a producer and across many of our conversations, he always expressed the festival’s need and enthusiasm for developing projects that invested in the Oudtshoorn arts community and deepened the relationship between the festival, residents and local artists.”

 “The Karoo Kaarte Project was born from these conversations and is an expansion and deeper iteration of a variety of projects Vaughn Sadie and I have worked on over the last decade, both in collaboration and separately. As artists and facilitators we both are deeply passionate about, and committed to, initiating public participatory arts and theatre projects across South Africa, creating work that attempts to stimulate empathy, awareness, dialogue and deeper listening through performance and visual arts mediums.”

With the help of  the KKNK, their resources and energy, they were able to pull off a project and programme of this depth, complexity and reach. Both Coppen and Sadie moved to Oudtshoorn for six months, collaborating daily with what they  describe as an incredible team of young artists, writers, musicians, performers, arts leaders, activists and educators.

The good news is that this is an ongoing project. With the KKNK, their vision is to establish a solid and effective long-term engagement with the community of Oudtshoorn through the arts and expand the project annually to include and feature more and more local artists at the festival.

A big part of the success depended on the people involved. The process was one of broad consultation, which meant that Coppen and Sadie engaged with around 60 businesspeople, traditional knowledge holders, political leaders, supporters of the festival and artists to reflect on the possibilities of implementing a community-led festival programme for the KKNK in 2022. 

“Once the project began, we selected a core team of Oudtshoorn-based artists, poets, arts leaders, writers, musicians, researchers, facilitators and educators . These participants were guided over the four-month ‘first phase’ of the project through a series of weekly workshops to introduce the project methodologies and processes.

“Essential to the success of these processes was the involvement of leading intangible heritage consultant Deidre Prins-Solani, who facilitated a series of key workshops around developing the project ethos,  harnessing deep listening skills and the importance of preserving and archiving the intangible heritage of the region.” 

The core team participants were then trained in oral history skills and methodologies and, from October 2021, conducted 35 oral histories with a range of residents around the themes of music, land, identity, sexuality, disability, history and place. These unearthed a compelling set of stories and life histories which were and are being collated and used to bolster the existing archives housed in the CP Nel Museum, which means that the history of the town is being broadened to capture as much of the community as possible.

For change to truly manifest, everyone has to claim ownership.

From this body of research the team also generated content in the form of four Zines (small magazines distributed at the Festival), art exhibitions, a theatre production and a musical performance for a week-long community-led programme at the 2022 KKNK Festival, all of which we as festival goers could engage with.

On the art side, a participatory collage process saw the team working with hundreds of images handpicked from the CP Nel Historic archives and a selection from the KKNK’s past 25 years of theatre festival photography, as well as personal images brought to workshops by participants. These collage workshops were held with school learners, unemployed youth in outlying rural areas (in partnership with the Youth Cafe) and the broader public. 

This process was designed as a quick but thought-provoking introduction by capturing how participants from various walks of life imagined themselves, as well as their sense of place and context within the town and outlying areas.

 This then lead to the theatre production Op Hierie Dag and the public arts programme. Both the theatre and arts teams (each featuring around ten participants in their teams) sifted through vast bodies of research to create performances and exhibitions which fall outside of the more stereotypical ones that have come to define the region – and of course many others.

To find musicians, actors, writers and poets for the theatre production, a series of open auditions were hosted covering the town extensively. In the end, the panel saw over 100 people and completed call-backs and workshops to finalise the cast and musicians for the production.

Sadie explains that the visual arts, theatre and music are all invaluable modes of expression for communicating the research. “It’s important to have multiple entry points to make the project accessible to different audiences through different registers.”

“I was deeply inspired by the level of dedication, talent and commitment shown by the whole team and was challenged and changed by creating this work and dreaming alongside all of them. I believe the Karoo Kaarte process proves that collaboration at this scale can yield powerful and exciting creative results,” noted Coppen.

He argues that  much of art and theatre making in the Western world is about individual ego, hierarchies and ownership, while all the outputs of Karoo Kaarte were achieved through deep conversation, consultation and collaboration with dozens and dozens of incredible minds and talents. “It was a process whereby each one of us were encouraged to contribute our respective skill sets and abilities to the mix.”

 The theatre production of Op Hierie Dag, for example, featured many voices and contributions and a text inspired and co-authored by the citizens of Oudtshoorn. “One of the local participants, Tiffany Saterdacht and I worked incredibly hard to wield all these narratives into a coherent theatrical experiences, but the material itself literally stems from thousands of pages of research and interviews that were gathered by the Kaarte core team.”

“In the end there were so many people responsible for its success and reception and who could feel a sense of pride in what they collectively accomplished and saw up there on the stage.”

Some of the Karoo Kaarte team members including (L to R) Clarissa Saaiman, Glenisha Tarentaal, Tiffany Saterdaght, Cole Wessels, Zietske Saaiman, Lauren Theodore, Mirinda Ntantiso, Ané Koegelenberg,  and back Theo Witbooi, Janion (Noemwoord) Kennedy Vaughn Sadie and Neil Coppen.

What excites Coppen and Sadie is the talent they unearthed. Many of them were young artists and arts leaders who worked tirelessly at their craft and disciplines for several years and honed their abilities despite the challenges they have faced around lack of access, recognition and platforms.

 They both agreed that many of the participants across this project were some of the most talented and hardworking artists they had the privilege of working with.

If anything, this project set out to try dismantle this misconception that artists and performers from small towns (the fringes of more urban arts centres) are lesser or “amateur”… when all that’s really missing from the equation is the access to space, platforms, mentorship and resources.

 When you are able to offer these elements to these artists and storytellers, they are truly able to shine and receive the sort of recognition that is long overdue to them. So a project like Karoo Kaarte tries to foster and build these platforms and shift the national spotlight to shine on worlds, people and stories that have been excluded from national stages and conversations for way too long. It’s really about treating Klein Karoo based artists and storytellers with the respect, audiences and attention they deserve.

For those of us lucky enough to see some of what they had created, the most impressive was the participants and their enthusiasm.

Thato Mbambe during his solo in the Vallei Klanke concert at the 2022 KKNK festival. Mbambe was one of the successful younger candidates from the audition process to land roles in both the theatre concert and stage production.

If I had one bit of criticism it was about not understanding the breadth of the project. I missed out on the museum collages and I know many were unaware of the musical evening at the end of the festival, one of my highlights of the festival. The result was that even more excitement around the project could have been generated.

 Fortunately, as Coppen states, “the dream is for this process to continue and grow and expand well into the future and we are already dreaming up new processes as a collective for 2023”.

The acclaimed Lida Botha as part of the Op Hierie Dag cast.

That is heartening and I for one will be planning ahead to make sure I witness Karoo Kaarte’s evolvement from start to finish. And I’m crossing fingers that this is a process that will spread to cities and towns across the country.

The six Kanna Award nominations for the theatre production alongside the Kanna Herrie-prys for cutting-edge contribution to the festival saw the Karoo Kaarte team sharing stages and recognition with some of South Africa’s top theatre and arts luminaries, an achievement that further begins to blur the lines between so called “community” artists and those who operate in the “mainstream.”

Karoo Kaarte, a KKNK project, was supported by the ATKV, Nasionale Afrikaanse Teater-inisiatief (NATi), the Oudtshoorn Municipality, the Western Cape Department of Culture and Sport, Mzansi Golden Economy (MGE), the Netherland Embassy of South Africa, the University of Stellenbosch’s Department of Social Impact and Transformation, the C.P. Nel Museum, SON, Business Arts South Africa (BASA) and Absa. Research was supported under the To-Gather programme of the Swiss Arts Council, Pro Helvetia.

KLEIN KAROO NASIONALE KUNSTEFEES PROVES THERE’S NOTHING TO MATCH LIVE THEATRE

The youthful purity of innocence with Wilhelm van der Walt in Ek, Anna van Wyk.

What joy to attend the first of the arts festivals with the re-opening of the annual Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees (KKNK) on 29 March 2022. The programme was fantastic in spite of short notice with the pandemic holding everyone to ransom and artists and audiences alike seemed to trip the light fantastic in what felt like new-found freedom. DIANE DE BEER reviews her best of the best  ̶  because of course, there was more…

PICTURES: HANS VAN DER VEEN

Dancers Grant Van Ster (left) and Shaun Oelf (right) with (centre) Dean Balie (narrator).

It was when watching the magnificent Karatara that I truly realised the impact of the past couple of years without live theatre.

Personally, live theatre is where the emotional impact of a performance can truly take me to another place – and that’s magical. Karatara is one of those, a production of the KKNK.

It is all about the feeling and the way the story about the catastrophic fire in Knysna in 2018 is told. In this instance, artist Wilken Calitz came up with the concept and handed that to actor/director Gideon Lombard. They have  a strong working relationship, and it shows.

It’s the choice of performers (dancers Shaun Oelf and Grant Van Ster and actor Dean Balie, all who show their versatility brilliantly), the soundscape put together by Lombard that envelops and tosses you this way and that, and the combination of the powerful choreography, text and lighting.

The versatility and vitality of Karatara.

The devastation of a fire that completely destroyed communities had huge impact at the time – and then disappeared like  lightning from the consciousness. Not only does the piece play critically with the way the powerful manipulate the limitations of the powerless, but it also reaches back into the past to tell a very particular tale about the grotesque greed that determined and devastated the lives of others, and which still has consequences today –  as was so damagingly laid bare by this particular catastrophe.

Terminaal 3 with (left) Edwin van der Walt and Carla Smith and (right) Anna-Mart van der Merwe and Stian Bam.

As we have come to expect, director Marthinus Basson produced two very different plays, both with extraordinary theatrical reach. Terminaal 3 would have played at the cancelled 2020 KKNK and was revived with Basson introducing us to the Swedish playwright Lars Noren.

It’s the originality of the piece that delivers the knockout blow. It takes a while to get to the crux of what is happening in this particular waiting room with two couples, one young (Carla Smith and Edwin van der Walt) and waiting to deliver their first baby, the other older (Anna-Mart van der Merwe and Stian Bam) waiting to confirm that it’s their son who has died.

The couples don’t interact, but their stories hauntingly reflect and bounce off one another. The puzzle is revealed as the four individuals all seem to be fighting for their particular  lives – not in unison but uniquely alone.

Again it is the way the story is told and played with remarkable aplomb, the discomfort of the viewer as specific dilemmas are discussed and discarded, and the almost clinical way in which life and death are juggled. It’s the way we think we can plan our lives, the curve balls that have to be manoeuvred and manipulated, and in particular how both writer and director scramble our thought processes.

The visual splendour of Ek, Anna van Wyk.

And then there’s the homage to Pieter Fourie, a founding member of the KKNK with Ek, Anna van Wyk. This is Basson’s second time round with this play and as someone who celebrates the courage that Fourie displayed with his writing, which first appeared in the darkest days of apartheid, he also acknowledges the durability of the work, which is as relevant today as it was then.

Carlo Daniels and Wilhelm van der Walt are part of an exciting ensemble.

A fearless Tinarie van Wyk Loots plays the title character surrounded by a fantastic cast starting with Carlo Daniels,  Dawid Minnaar, Geon Nel, Wilhelm van der Walt, Gideon Lombard, René Cloete and Albert Pretorius as the interrogator.

Patriarchy is being explored and exposed, something that hasn’t shifted all that much since the play was written – and not because many of us haven’t tried. In this instance, Anna has no choice  –  and we can point to many examples in our daily lives that show similar patterns.

It happens to be the horror of the Afrikaner male in this instance, but we all know this is a universal issue and many of the ills in today’s world are the result of those previously all-powerful men refusing to let go – and whom the world enables … still.

The emotional breadth of Tinarie van Wyk Loots.

It’s a magnificent production from the Basson vision, the performances led by a heart-wrenching display by Van Wyk Loots and valiantly supported by the rest of the cast. I could watch it on a loop … over and over again.

As she always does, Antoinette Kellermann enchanted with Antjie Krog’s engaging poetry in die oerkluts kwyt. Compiled and directed by Frieda van den Heever who previously had such success with Die Poet, Wie’s Hy?, and again showed her delightful sensibility and approach, which seems to hold everyone on stage as well as the content in the most delicate balance.

Kellerman and Krog both celebrate their threescore years and ten in 2022 and this is not their first coming together on stage. Krog has translated a couple of texts with Kellermann in the lead, Koningin Lear being the last. But these are truly her own thoughts and words as she describes a life lived in a topsy-turvy world. She is a woman from this harsh but fabulous continent and she speaks her mind, yet often in jest even when speaking hard truths.

Kellermann shifts all the theatrics aside as she engages with the text in almost conversational tone. She allows the words to drive the performance with Krog’s poetry taking centre stage.

With what is fast becoming her trademark ingenuity, Van den Heever added a musical element and one that magnificently enhanced rather than detracted. Ancient Voices, consisting of the duo Lungiswa Plaatjies and Nimapostile  Nyiki, was one of my discoveries of the Festival. They also participated in the experimental Lucky Pakkie (Lucky Packet) with music and instruments that are from Africa, and with content that is performed in a way where meaning is self-explanatory.

But also their presentation and personalities are reflected in their performance and colourful presence.

The stylish Dineke van der Walt at the Opening of the Visual Arts at the Festival.

On the art side, curator Dineke van der Walt has become hot property for the festivals and it is easy to see why. She has a contemporary touch and is innovative with her presentations, which offer a wide range of art often unfamiliar even to those of us who try to keep in touch.

Two installations by the towering Mary Sibande as the Festival Artist set the bar high, but exhibitions like that of Karin Preller’s Beyond Memory (in which she uses family movies and portraits as her starting point), the fabulous use of fabric in the Van der Walt curated Rich in Fibre and Nkensani Rihlampfu’s magnificent display of An Orchestrated Reality (with ropes made from canvases) all held their own.

It also proved Van der Walt’s majestically illustrated point that art can emerge in many different ways and mediums – quite extraordinary.

Though very different in style and performance, Nataniël and Emo Adams both soared in their professional approach not often achievable when presenting musical shows on this grand scale at festivals.

Stories and  songs combined powerfully in the fabulously sparkling showman’s Prima Donna, the KKNK’s celebratory opening production showcasing Nataniël’s wit often laced with wisdom and some of his favourite songs with his original arrangements.

The Adams onslaught comes in silky-smooth style with music through the ages as he captures and gently spoofs musical favourites in cunning combinations to capture a real South African flavour – with a huge wink at everyone.

Both of these acts – pure class!

Sima Mashazi in full swing in Afrika Blues.

And staying with stylish voices, if you ever spot the name Sima Mashazi on a musical programme, catch this woman with the spectacular voice. She brings emotional depth to music sung in a local language you might not understand but the feelings tell it all.

I haven’t even touched on the hugely successful Lucky Pakkies which was an extension of the previously popular Uitkampteater. In similar fashion, these short experimental plays gave especially young artists the chance to play and audiences the opportunity to fast-track if they wanted to see a selection in different variations. It can easily be extended for a few years.

And watch this space in the not too distant future for more on Karoo Kaarte, which is a fascinating exploration of Oudtshoorn and its people … one that could and should be replicated around the country.

Here are this year’s nominees for the Kanna Awards which will :

Best debut production (music or theatre)

  • Die halwe huis
  • Karatara
  • Ek, Anna van Wyk
  • Terminaal 3

Best theatre production

Op Hierie Dag
  • Karatara
  • Ek, Anna van Wyk
  • Op hierie dag
  • Terminaal 3

Best music production

  • Emo Adams and Take Note
  • Nataniël: PRIMA DONNA
  • Anna Davel: 21

Best contribution to the visual arts

  • Karin Preller for the exhibition Beyond Memory
  • Dineke van der Walt as curator of Rich in Fibre
  • The artist Nkensani Rihlampfu for the exhibition An Orchestrated Reality

Slurpie Prize: best upcoming artist

Marinda Ntantiso in Op hierie dag
  • Janion Kennedy for his performance in Op hierie dag
  • Marinda Ntantiso for her performance in Op hierie dag
  • Conradie van Heerden for his performance in the short-piece Om skoon te wees
  • Adriaan Havenga for his performance and text in the short-piece Om skoon te wees

Best actress

  • Antoinette Kellermann for die oerkluts kwyt
  • Tinarie van Wyk Loots for Ek, Anna van Wyk
  • Carla Smith for Terminaal 3
  • Anna-Mart van der Merwe for Terminaal 3
Marlo Minnaar in Die Halwe Huis

Best actor

  • Marlo Minnaar for Die halwe huis
  • Wessel Pretorius for Kiss of the Spiderwoman
  • Stian Bam for Terminaal 3
  • Edwin van der Walt for Terminaal 3

Best supporting actor

  • Carlo Daniels for Ek, Anna van Wyk
  • Wilhelm van der Walt for Ek, Anna van Wyk
  • Geon Nel for Ek, Anna van Wyk
  • Albert Pretorius for Ek, Anna van Wyk

Best supporting actress

Nomapostile Nyiti and Lungiswa Plaatjies in die oerkluts kwyt
  • The Ancient Voices: Nomapostile Nyiti and Lungiswa Plaatjies for die oerkluts kwyt
  • René Cloete for Ek, Anna van Wyk
  • Marinda Ntantiso for Op hierie dag

Best director

  • Neil Coppen and Tiffany Saterdaght for Op hierie dag
  • Marthinus Basson for Ek, Anna van Wyk
  • Gideon Lombard for Karatara
  • Marthinus Basson for Terminaal 3

Best theatre design

  • Op hierie dag – Zietske Zaaiman, supported by the company
  • Ek, Anna van Wyk – Marthinus Basson
  • Karatara – soundtrack and design by Gideon Lombard

Excellent literary contribution

  • Frieda van den Heever for adaptation of die oerkluts kwyt from the work of Antjie Krog
  • Ricardo Arendse for the newly written text Die halwe huis
  • Tiffany Saterdaght and Neil Coppen, with contributions from Janion Kennedy, Hannes Visser, Theo Witbooi and Danny B, for the text of Op hierie dag

Best children’s or youth theatre

  • Pietersielie en Roosmaryn vertel stories
  • Liewe Heksie en die rolskaatse

Coligny Laer Om Skoon Te Wees

Best Lucky Pakkie production

  • Coligny Laer
  • Ruby en Roach – ’n animasieprent
  • Om skoon te wees
  • Onder in die bad

THE KLEIN KAROO NATIONAL ARTS FESTIVAL IS CELEBRATING ITS RETURN WITH DIVERSITY

With Covid-19 still a part of our lives, the uncertainty of live events is constantly hovering. Will it or won’t it? That’s the question on everyone’s mind as each event or festival comes into play. And while dates have to be juggled and last-minute plans put into play, this year’s Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees has come up with an exceptional programme in any circumstances – but especially now. DIANE DE BEER spotlights some highlights of this year’s KKNK which starts at the end of the month:

I can still remember hearing the news about the first Covid-19 lockdown at the 2020 Woordfees and while all of us were devastated and slightly bewildered, none of us realised quite the impact it would have on our lives – and the arts.

This was to be our last arts festival in a couple of years and the effect of that on the lives of artists who need live audiences has been disastrous.

Nataniël’s Prima Donna opens the festival.

There have been brilliant innovations in the intervening years and the word hybrid will fortunately become part of the festival landscape to broaden their audiences as well as capturing theatre on film for those who cannot attend a festival but would love to see productions.

And yet, nothing will compare with the real thing, which is why the announcement that 2022’s Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees (KKNK) will be happening from 29 March to 3 April was received with such joy.

Not only are they back, but the programme is something to cherish, especially in these haphazard times where everything has to happen almost on the trot. But as they suggest in their big reveal, “even in its slightly smaller format, the festival acts as a fuse for the explosion of productions and experiences to be presented by heavyweights in the South African arts industry!”

“This year’s festival is truly overflowing with exceptional programming in celebration of the KKNK’s return to Oudtshoorn, while retaining the quality that makes festivalgoers get in their cars and drive to Oudtshoorn annually,” says Hugo Theart, Artistic Director of the KKNK.

He isn’t just boasting  –  two of my personal favourites, Nataniël and director Marthinus Basson, are leading the way with their productions.

Nataniël’s Prima Donna, a debut show, will be opening the festival on Monday evening (March 28) and part of the excitement of the production is that he will sing a bunch of his favourite covers, all of which he has arranged himself. Add to that a collection of his fantastical tales, and those attending will be starting their festival with a bang.

Basson will be presenting two plays, Ek, Anna van Wyk, in memory of, and to honour Pieter Fourie (the first CEO of the KKNK), who recently passed away, starring Tinarie van Wyk Loots and Dawid Minnaar, Albert Pretorius, Carlo Daniels, Wilhelm van der Walt, Geon Nel, Gideon Lombard and René Cloete, and internationally acclaimed playwright Lars Norén’s Terminaal 3 with Anna-Mart van der Merwe, André Roothman, Edwin van der Walt, Carla Smith and Stian Bam. Both will delight festival connoisseurs.

Three iconic female artists further enhance the star line-up with the internationally acclaimed Mary Sibande this year’s Festival Artist and the double celebration of Antoinette Kellermann and Antjie Krog’s 70th birthdays in 2022 with Kellermann creating magic in the words of Krog in die oerkluts kwyt.

The picture tells its own story of Neil Coppen’s storytelling in Op Hierdie Dag

Other new scripts at the festival include Die halwe huis, a one-man show written by Oudtshoorn resident Ricardo Arendse, with another Klein Karoo local, Marlo Minnaar, in the lead, with Lee-Ann van Rooi as director; the promising Agulhasvlakte by young playwright Herschelle Benjamin with Kanya Viljoen as director and Wilhelm van der Walt, René Cloete and Kay Smith on stage; while another Oudtshoorn production Op hierie dag forms part of the KKNK Karoo Kaarte project, which will be the heart of the festival this year, showcasing Oudtshoorn residents’ various talents. Theatre couple Lida Botha and Johan Botha, who have relocated to this region, will be directed by the exciting playwright/director Neil Coppen and visual arts curator and facilitator Vaughn Sadie.

Mbulelo Grootboom and Wessel Pretorius in Kiss of the Spider Woman. Picture Fiona McPherson

Nêrens Noord-Kaap, following its success on television, returns with Geon Nel, Albert Pretorius, and De Klerk Oelofse; while the Sylvaine Strike production Kiss of the Spiderwoman featuring Wessel Pretorius and Mbulelo Grootboom; Spertyd honouring deceased Elsa Joubert, with the phenomenal Sandra Prinsloo in the lead and the return of Oscar en die pienk tannie, directed by Lara Bye, complete a very strong line-up.

Looking for something unusual, dance enthusiasts can book for Karatara with dance group Figure of 8 – the 2020 KKNK Young Voice Prize recipient, who joins forces with Dean Balie and director Gideon Lombard.

If you’re in the mood for something light, comedies include Transpirant with Bennie Fourie and Schalk Bezuidenhout – who can also be seen in Schalk sing sleg; motormouth Marc Lottering in his stand-up comedy show Uncle Marc; Adriaan Alfred in Adriaan Alfred Live; Lizz Meiring in her solo show Kameras, konserte en kleedkamers; Marion Holm returns with Holmruggery; while Koos Kombuis, Dana Snyman and Erns Grundling, as well as Pietman Geldenhuys and Lyntjie Jaars from the Oppiestoep TV series, entertain audiences with their storytelling ingenuity.

Making music, David Kramer Vanaand, a solo show for Kramer, and Amanda Strydom with Nostalgie are the two evergreen performers who have performed at every KKNK.

Kombuis, Dana Snyman and Erns Grundling, as well as Pietman Geldenhuys and Lyntjie Jaars from the Oppiestoep TV series, entertain audiences with their storytelling originality.

Coenie de Villiers and André Schwartz

Coenie de Villilers and André Schwartz, both on piano, team up for a celebration of their work. Karen Zoid followers will be thrilled that she performs in an acoustic and more intimate show, and Emo Adams and Take Note bring the flavour of Cape Town entertainment to the Klein Karoo.

Six of the country’s well-known guitarists will be together on one stage in Kitaarkonings, with the  gentle muso Louis Mhlanga playing in Afrika Blues.

Another highlight is The Music of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber with Lynelle Kenned, André Schwartz and the Stellenbosch Symphony Orchestra presented on the Celebratio pomegranate farm outside Oudtshoorn, where Spoegwolf 10 Jaar also takes place. Other contemporary shows include Elvis Blue, Luna Paige, Rocco de Villiers, and Anna Davel.

For classical music enthusiasts a special recital of Beethoven and Beyond with the well-known American pianist Gustavo Romero is included on the programme.

Those familiar with the “out of the box” theatre concept will know that this is something to watch. This time it is called Lucky Pakkie Theatre, which means you will be going for a lucky packet stage version of the popular musical chairs game… Be ready for loads of fun. Three Lucky Pakkie packages will cater for all ages, from younger viewers (Melkbaarde) to older viewers (Sagtebaarde), and adult viewers (Hardebaarde). Each mystery round of entertainment will last 15 minutes.

Last but not least is the Visual Arts programme, curated by the innovative Dineke van der Walt, which for example includes the colourful Mapula creations, all of which can be viewed in the familiar  Prince Vincent building.

Joylyn Phillips (second from right) in Bientang also rewarded with Kunste Onbeperk Young Voice award.

The festival has honoured individuals in the industry since its inception, and this year’s four exceptional people include playwright Jolyn Phillips receiving the Kunste Onbeperk Prize for a Young Voice (she can be seen in the debut production Bientang); Nic Barrow, one of the founders of the KKNK and the individual who planted the seed for a festival in Oudtshoorn, is honoured for his contribution to the KKNK; and the ever-popular and exceptional Frank Opperman (to be seen in Ek Wens, ek wens) who is awarded the Kunste Onbeperk Prize for Interpretation.

Frank Opperman in Ek wens, ek wens, also honoured for interpretation with Kunste Onbeperk prize.

Ticket sales are open and accommodation can be booked through LekkeSlaap at www.lekkeslaap.co.za/akkommodasie-naby/kknk, or kknk.co.za/verblyf-lekkeslaap/.

Interested festivalgoers can get more information by subscribing to the KKNK newsletter, following the KKNK on social media, or visiting www.kknk.co.za. Feel free to contact the festival office on 044 203 8600 or send a WhatsApp message to 065 285 2337.

The KKNK will follow a vaccination mandate, but terms and conditions for exclusions apply. More information is available at www.kknk.co.za.

DIS BAIE LEKKER BY DIE SEE

Publishing this following story about a Durban/Kwa-Zulu Natal visit a month before the horrifying insurrection was quite tricky. In fact it was going to appear a day before the riots – but fortunately didn’t. In the meantime we’ve all been holding our breath so I’m hoping and have checked the places mentioned and nothing has changed apart from the city (I am told) getting a clean-up around elections, so please, if you’re planning to holiday in that region in the coming festive months, have a blast.

And for those who don’t understand the heading: It’s very good at the sea, or some such!

DIANE DE BEER gives a few impressions:

Our final birthday destination: Shangrila Beach House (in Bazley), a self-catering house, cottage and chalet with an exquisite garden designed by indigenous landscape gardener and botanist Alice Pooley.

When a friend decided to celebrate her 50th birthday on the Kwazulu-Natal South Coast recently, five of us decided to travel to Durban for a few days prior to the celebrations to explore especially the art and the food in a city none of us knew at all.

Art and culinary adventures are passions for all of us and we had read enviously about the hot spots in both Durban and the coast and we were excited to go on this adventure.

Travelling down by car, our first stop was for lunch in the region of Van Reenen’s Pass where two of our companions had previously enjoyed some excellent meals. The road to Oaklands Country Manor with a name change to Oaklands Farm Stay turns off (for a few kilometres) at the little town of Van Reenen and is easily worth the detour.

Together with the handful of super siblings (four sisters and a brother I think) who are in charge, the setting and the farm itself is special. On the day we stopped which happened to be a Sunday, there was a polo match in progress but quite a few families were occupying the outside tables with spectacular views, ready for lunch.

The splendours of Oaklands Farm Stay.

The menu was perfect for travellers, simple but with enough variety to cover the spectrum.

Salads either garden or chicken, toasted sarmies with chips, beef burger and chips, game pie or tagliatelle with garlic, chilli, anchovies, capers, broccoli and parmesan were the options. Our table covered the full menu and while the rest of the team started with a special cocktail, as the dedicated driver, I went for the homemade ice cold kombucha-style mixer, which was spot on.

The food was delicious, (I shared the game pie and the tagliatelle with the birthday girl because we both were undecided), but so was the atmosphere, the company and the hosts. We will be back whenever we travel this way.

We had ample sustenance for the rest of the journey which isn’t an easy one with all the trucks making their way to the coast. The bill without the lunch drinks was R250 per person (coffees included) which was a really good deal.

Durban was a huge surprise, great fun but not exactly what we expected. We took into account that we were there just before a strict lockdown and as we arrived the province was struggling with high covid numbers.

The splendours of the Phansi Museum.

On the art side we had two excursions: the one was the truly mind-blowing Phansi Museum (with on the side the exquisitely stocked African Art Centre if you’re in the need for some serious local craft shopping) and the other the Kwazulu-Natal Society of the Arts with a vibrant indoor/and out coffee bar/deli attached which was buzzing when we arrived.

The Phansi Museum will blow your mind. The breadth and scope of the collection is simply overwhelming and one wonders why this isn’t duplicated in every city in this country. There’s hardly a more accessible way to introduce the depth of the different cultures in South Africa. And I would travel all the way to the coast if only for a visit to this world-class museum.

Taking a guided tour with the embracing and embraceable guide, it’s amazing to discover the wealth and cultural riches of our people. Even if you are aware of the diversity out there, to see it all gathered together is magnificent. And there’s much to admire and much to learn, a truly heavenly experience.

This was followed by the Society of Arts also in the vicinity but unfortunately they were setting up for their next exhibition, which was a development project. We were, however,  enchanted that in spite of the lack of any art happening at that precise moment, the café was packed. That is good news and I want to appeal to all the large art institutions around the country, in Pretoria in particular (The Pretoria Art Museum, The Javett and Association of Arts particularly on my mind), to find a way to serve at least good coffee with some refreshments. It’s a way of drawing people in whether for an exhibition or simply to gather for some bonhomie.

This particular space is enchanting, and you could see that the refreshments and food were as good and it has to have that stamp of approval. Nothing could be more welcoming and it makes perfect business sense if you get it right. They also have a fun museum shop and anyone traveling to world museums, will know how important those are. Our art venues have to find ways to appeal to visitors. Once there, they will hopefully be captivated by the art.

We popped into one independent gallery just off the well-known Florida Road, but they were also busy setting up and apart from these three, that, according to what we discovered and were told, was it.

Florida Road, a destination we returned to time and again.

On the food side it was also hit and miss. Our first stop was a breakfast/coffee shop which came highly recommended in an online paper and sadly was a huge let down. When writers go all out with their praise that might not be warranted, you are then reluctant to follow their advice. With only a few days at our disposal, we didn’t want any more disappointments.

Fortunately we also had some pointers from friends and locals and we started with what for me was a real find and a must if you go to the city. Glenwood Bakery and its pumping pavement area is an instant comfort. These are locals and you can see this is their regular haunt.

Our visit explained why. Starting with the bill, breakfast with two cappuccinos each, cost R100 per person, which was quite extraordinary considering the quality of the food. Bread and pastries is a big thing at the Bakery and our choices were as varied as our taste – from my mushroom and egg affair which was perfect in size, produce and preparation to bagels with various toppings, and even sweet delights with flavours like hazelnut and apricot which had to be set aside because things were flying off the shelves. We were told probably to preserve freshness, only a very specific amount of baked goodies are prepared each day, so once they’re gone, that’s it.

After our previous flop, this was at the other end of the cuisine spectrum and one to keep in mind if you need a failsafe option. It’s guaranteed!

Of course we had to do Indian and the name we had was Palki, which a few sources had recommended. On our last night we wanted to do take-out and as there were restrictions anyway, it worked out well.

Our cuisine connoisseurs made the choices and we had a mixed bag, which in this style relates to a food feast. Again it is the option to go for when you have such a diverse group of diners, all foodies but with different tastes. But it also allows you to be adventurous in some of your choices and to add new dishes to the group’s repertoire. This time round, it was the not to be missed paratha and dhal makhani, both of which should be part of any Indian meal. Added were a paneer driven dish, a chicken curry and a brinjal pakora. And for the solo diner who is reluctant to be too daring, there’s always a Lamb Curry mince.

And that’s how we even drag the less adventurous along who eventually cannot resist and grow their palate. Palki is not cheap, but it’s quality with great flavours – which is what we were told.

A series of coffee shops and ice cream parlours to choose from in Florida Road.

In between we hung out in the popular Florida Road, kept missing the Patisserie du Maroc which is French flair with Moroccan inspiration, but we had a Monday and public holiday squeezed into our stay, both not good for certain businesses. We caught up on lots of good coffee and artisanal ice cream (a delicious rum ‘n raisin flavour) and even managed to squeeze in some samoosas at the Indian market.

Which is where we spent the rest of the time; a variety of markets on and around Warwick Junction. Outside of lockdown, there are tours available and probably one of these can be fun to do as the different types of markets within the bigger precinct will be showcased.

The colourful area in and around the city markets.

We didn’t have the luxury of a tour guide, but old hands, we easily found our way around the colourful markets, which range from typical Indian and African fare to the ubiquitous Chinese goods which seem to have invaded all local markets.

Getting goods during these difficult times are also problematic and without the foreign buying power, these markets also seem quite depressed. We nevertheless had a great time just walking around, checking the scene (in between a confluence of railway tracks and a graveyard with some interesting gravestones) and seeing how the city centre functions.

From there it was a brisk walk to the Durban City Hall, Post Office and some other majestic buildings including a beautifully preserved Norman Eaton building from a bygone era but many of them still in use today. Sadly the back stairs of the post office was a sight to behold and those who are responsible for cleaning, cannot point fingers at the state of the rest of the city centre if this is the example.

And that was the sad thing about this very vibrant and embracing city centre. With its wide avenues leading to the sea front, it should be a tourist mecca with the markets and beautiful buildings included in this space. But the neglect is horrifying and typical of so many South African cities as white business moves out, it appears owners of the buildings also stop caring.

Also disturbing was the fact that we were the only white people in the area on both days we were there. Just the traffic and the double parking and navigating was like an hilarious movie. It just seems such a pity that a space this vibrant if spruced up and embraced by a much wider community – could become a real tourist mecca.

We had a blast and were welcomed everywhere we went but my heart bled for those who had to spend their lives day in and day out under these sometimes horrific circumstances while hardly a kilometre away, the Durban seafront is a completely different matter.

Personally I suspect its all about money but there’s bags full to be made if the city centre was given a touch of love and care – not gentrified – just a look that a buzzing city centre deserves. It already has all the basics!

We concluded our Durban trip with a breakfast at the promenade at Circus Circus. We were told they serve great coffee and the breakfasts are hale and hearty. It was good to witness the Durban community in all its splendour with joggers, cyclists, rickshaws and hawkers all part of the parade.

From there our trip became a celebration as we moved to a little touch of heaven called the Shangrila Beach House (in Bazley), a self-catering house, cottage and chalet (depending on the amount of people) with the best sea view, its own access to the beach first crossing a working railway line, and an exquisite garden designed by indigenous landscape gardener and botanist Elsa Pooley.

The bliss of Shangrila.

And I haven’t got to the best yet, a mass of friendly dogs and the most wondrous wrap-around stoep. Self-catering with a chef (á la Dr Hennie Fisher) in our midst was bliss and apart from an excursion to Botha House (now a guest house with spectacular views), which was built for the former prime minister Louis Botha by his friend Sir Frank Reynolds, we pretty much stayed put in our imagined home away from home.

Two last suggestions on the way back, was a fuel stop just off Pinetown called the Polo Pony Convenience Centre (571 Kassier Road, Assagay) with a Woolworths food store with the best takeout sandwiches and coffee.

A little further up the road, again at Van Reenen’s Pass (this time on the left hand side of the road on the way to Jozi), there’s the perfect lunch stop at The Little Church Tea Garden which serves food made by the local farming community.

We opted for pies followed by scones and coffee as well as browsing through their well-stocked shelves for some last-minute pressies if needed. There’s also a chance to visit the little church and while having lunch, the views are spectacular. Again, it’s the perfect stop before hitting the road back home.

THE KKNK VIRTUAL ART GALLERY IS ALL ABOUT FEELING YOUR EMOTIONS THROUGH FANTASTIC ART

Feelings dominate in the second Klein Karoo National Arts Festival Virtual Gallery. DIANE DE BEER chats to the curator Dineke van der Walt about the moods she hoped to capture in Feel/Voel, with artistic director Hugo Theart adding his impressions:

Emotion (Curator Dr Paul Bayliss , Absa Gallery)

The Klein Karoo National Arts Festival (KKNK) was the first of the arts festivals to be impacted by Covid-19 last year.

Announcements of the country’s first lockdown came crashing down during the last weekend of the Woordfees (Stellenbosch) only a couple of weeks before the start of the 2020 KKNK.

It was a huge blow and while we are much more adept at adapting almost 18 months later, at the time festival managements were reeling and artists were trying to work out how they would earn a living without live performances.

Thinking on their feet, Artistic Director of the KKNK Hugo Theart and his young first-time festival art curator Dineke van der Walt realised that they could create a virtual art gallery of the 11 exhibitions which were already on their way to Oudtshoorn at that time.

And it worked! Following the huge success of last year’s first Virtual Gallery, supported by Absa, they have flung open their “doors” for a second time running.

They had tested it almost on the run the first time round, but this year they had the experience of the first effort, which had been richly rewarded. And this time they could work with a digital endgame from the beginning.

“It is a privilege to be able to offer such a fantastic range of visual art to art enthusiasts in the comfort of their homes for the second time,” says Theart. “Van der Walt is again the curator of this gallery having won a Fiësta Award for her work on last year’s virtual gallery.”

This time round, the gallery showcases of six exhibitions with a total of 260 works by 83 artists from far and wide across South Africa, as well as from Zimbabwe, Taiwan, America, Ghana, Mauritius, Kenya, Iran, and Namibia, with many artists from the Klein Karoo and Garden Route region, which is also the festival’s home ground.

The theme of this year’s gallery is Voel/Feel. “This collection of exhibitions presents a wonderful opportunity for us to see, feel and understand more about the way we experience and process feelings and emotions. My hope is that viewers will find the experience enriching and exciting,” she says. 

If you think about it, just midding in the meantime (or) Progression (Curator Fadzai Muchemwa)

The six exhibitions are: Emotion (Emosie),compiled by Absa with Dr Paul Bayliss as curator,Feeling Things, compiled by Donavan Mynhardt, Paint. Verf., compiled by Johan Myburg, If you think about it, just midding in the meantine (or) progression, compiled by Fadzai Muchemwa, Something Pauses, compiled by Christa Swart and Amplifica: A Medley of Moods in Miniature, compiled by Van der Walt herself.

“Since we built the platform last year, we have received valuable feedback from our visitors regarding what worked. So this year we had the opportunity to focus on aspects we couldn’t introduce last year. The artworks are, for instance, available on our e-commerce platform making it much easier to acquire. 

“Having the virtual architecture in place for our gallery was also beneficial for curators, who could select work that would present well in the virtual rooms. This however didn’t stop us from experimenting. I believe it’s important to continue exploring ways to present works and mediums that might be regarded as too difficult for digital platforms, even if it’s not yet clear how to do so.”

All artworks, she believes though, need to be seen. There are miniature artworks, three-dimensional sculptures and ceramics (Feeling Things), as well as primarily paintings (Paint.Verf. ), or digital artworks (Emotion) and works on paper (Progression). “We’re exploring how these different mediums interact with the overarching theme of emotions, but also how various mediums present online,” she notes.

And especially  from a digital perspective, I have sometimes found these works difficult to view as part of a more conventional exhibition because it breaks the rhythm of the viewing process. But here, it can be seen as a stand-alone exhibition and because it is digital, it makes sense to view it online.

Talking about the theme of the exhibition, Van der Walt feels there’s a striking irony in titling the virtual gallery VOEL/FEEL and presenting various material textures of artworks that viewers are unable to access through touch. “For me, this presents a playful opportunity for unpacking the possibilities of art as an emotional access point or a way of finding an emotional connection with others – even when it is presented digitally and virtually.”

It was particularly important for them to continue to expand and optimise the user experience of the virtual gallery started last year.

“I have noticed many people shifting focus and looking inward, considering the emotional impact that the outside world has on them. With this in mind, I wanted to select a theme that could be both meaningful – a way for viewers to contemplate their inner emotional lives – and that would allow playfulness. After all, emotions are not all dark and challenging, they can be light-hearted as well,” she reminds us.

In these times she specifically aimed for balance in the emotions explored because she wanted an equal playing field for both positive and challenging emotions. “Too often we regard the one as more important than the other. We might feel pressured to be happy all the time, or consider the ‘tortured artist’ exploring her/his dark emotions as more intellectual or powerful than light-hearted approaches.

“There’s certainly immense value in both, but I don’t think specific emotions can be regarded as more complex or important than others. We need the variety in that medley of moods we experience from time to time. Placing too great an emphasis on feeling happy, for instance, disregards the necessity of other emotions. Similarly, focussing on dealing with challenging emotions ignores that emotions can be shaped by our thoughts and how we choose to guide our attention,” she argues.

Her hope and her aim was for artists, curators and viewers to explore the fascinating complexity of our emotional lives. “There is so much that we can still learn about our own feelings, and we do this best when learning from one another.

“In observing how others express their emotions, we can learn to understand our own. We shape each other, and heighten the role that emotions play collectively. And while we cannot connect to people in all the ways we did before, art can be a form of exchange. It becomes our meeting place.”

This is even more important than before, and art also benefits from being seen virtually and in everyone’s own time and at an  individual pace.

Ilene Bothma’s Displacement (She Felt her Heart Sinking to her Feet)(Emotion)

There are many ways to view the work, and the gallery encourages individuals to find their personal preference. On the kknk.co.za website viewers can get a quick visual overview of each exhibition and read more about each artist, curator and artwork.

There’s an option to view each individual artwork in full screen, where one can also zoom in to see more detail. This allows you to get closer to inspect a work than you probably might in brick-and-mortar gallery spaces.

“Being able to zoom in is especially helpful when viewing the miniature artworks of Amplifica, and also specifically when viewing Paint.Verf. curated by Johan Myburg – an exhibition that centres on the medium itself.” 

Each exhibition is also curated in a virtual room, showcasing the works in relation to each other, as artworks in dialogue encourage fascinating themes to emerge. In the virtual room for Emotion, viewers can watch video and sound artworks in their own time but also as often as they choose.

It’s also insightful to listen to the audio walkabouts of the curators when virtually ‘walking through the spaces’. Language choices are also available.

“In many ways, the virtual experience empowers viewers to construct their own ideal viewing experience,” says Van der Walt. And that is true. You have the choice to view in exactly the circumstances that are personally ideal.

In conclusion, Theart notes there is something for everyone in these exhibitions, with fantastic artworks on sale from only R500. “Absa customers also receive a 10% discount on their purchases as a bonus.”

Visit the KKNK Virtual Gallery, supported by Absa, at www.kknk.co.za until the end of August 2021.

ARTISTIC FIREWORKS AS THREE COMMUNITY EMBROIDERY GROUPS SHOWCASE THEIR WORK AT THE ASSOCIATION OF ARTS IN TSHWANE

It’s a triple treat with three important community embroidery groups coming together for a phenomenal exhibition at Tshwane’s Association of Arts with the bonus of some traditional work, which had an influence on all the others. DIANE DE BEER embroiders on the show that will be running until May 29 :

MAPULA EMBROIDERIES: A Covid-19 panel by Dorah Hlongwane, Maria Phalatsi & Rossina Makhubela.

With Needle and Thread is the perfect name for this exciting and extraordinary exhibition where three community groups creating hand embroidered textiles from the Eastern Cape, Gauteng and Limpopo as well as some solo women making traditional cloths from Northern Limpopo, are all brought together to showcase their work.

Included are the Keiskamma Art Project, (Hamburg, Eastern Cape), Kaross (Letsitele, Limpopo), Mapula Emrboideries (Winterveld, Gauteng) and as an added bonus some traditional Minceka by the Tsonga-Shangaan women in the far Northern Limpopo.

All three projects are established embroidery groups with works hanging in museums locally and abroad and they feature in many national and international publications on textile art. All three are highly regarded and can be seen as the most important community art projects in their field in this country.

The Kaross embroidery project produces beautiful and evocative quality African embroidery,  which are hand-crafted by women and men from VaTsonga and Northern Sotho cultural backgrounds since its inception in 1989. Their impetus has always been sustainable development and employment and they strive to create a commercially viable product that will help sustain all their embroiderers and employees. 

Before the devastating effects of Covid-19 on International tourism, they provided an income to more than 1 400 embroiderers, mostly women.

Their skilled stitching and their affinity for unusual and artistic colour combinations combined with well-designed Kaross images, makes their work distinctive.

They create mainly tableware, homeware and wall art, and currently export worldwide.

www.kaross.co.za

www.karossfoundation.org

The Keiskamma Art Project is part of the greater Keiskamma Trust, a South African not-for-profit organization dedicated to the holistic care of the communities that live in the area. alongside the Keiskamma River in the Eastern Cape. The trust was founded in 2000 by artist and doctor, Carol Hofmeyr and today the Keiskamma Art Project, the flagship of the greater Trust, works to maintain its founder’s vision, providing vital livelihoods through dignified work, while communicating, through art, the reality of rural lives affected by both poverty and history. 

Their aim is to provide employment and to support the development of creative skills for predominantly women and young members of the community who are then empowered with entry into the economy.
The Art Project engages collaboratively with artists from around the world and supplies training in design and craft skills and nurtures skills in production, financial administration, and computing, useful for the running of the Art studio and its shop. 

They are especially well known and loved for large scale monumental artworks, from the Keiskamma Tapestry on permanent exhibition at the Houses of Parliament in Cape Town to the Keiskamma Altarpiece which has toured North America and England for two years, displayed in the most prestigious cathedrals, such as Washington and Southwark and their Keiskamma Guernica, a magnificent work can be seen in the UP Javett Art Centre.

But the anticipation for this current exhibition are the three large tapestries depicting key events in the life of Reverend Stephen Mzamane, the main character in A Sin of Omission (2019), the novel by Marguerite Poland, which has just been named as one of the books on the Sunday Times longlist for fiction 2021.

The novel is based on a true story and opens with Stephen (Malusi) Mzamane, a young Anglican priest, journeying to his mother’s rural home to inform her of his elder brother’s death. First educated at the Native College in Grahamstown, Stephen was sent to England in 1869 for training at the Missionary College in Canterbury. But on his return home, relegated to a dilapidated mission near Fort Beaufort, he had to confront not only the prejudices of a colonial society but the discrimination within the Church itself.

Seventeen artists from the Keiskamma Art Project were involved in the making of these works, in tribute to Poland, a long-time collaborator and close friend of the project. The themes of her literary works are felt intimately within the communities of the rural Eastern Cape where their Art Project is based.

The artists visited Nondyola, the missionary station to which Stephen was sent on his return from Canterbury, and the site of the Anglican Institution in Grahamstown, in order to understand more fully who Stephen was and what he experienced. Moved by his story, the artists chose scenes from his life to depict as tapestries.

Once you’ve seen the embroideries, you will want to read the book.

Mapula Embroideries celebrate their 30th anniversary this year. They assist over 150 women in developing artistic skills as they create unique embroidered works for sale. This income helps to feed and educate their children and improve their overall lives.

The Winterveld, where the women live and create, 70 kilometres northwest of Tshwane has a complex and troubled history because of political, social, economic and gender forces that have left the area under-developed and many residents unemployed, poor, and vulnerable. Their struggles and triumphs have been reflected in many of their embroideries over the years.

MAPULA EMBROIDERIES: Elizabeth Malete.

The project was initiated by the Pretoria Club of Soroptimist International in 1991. They have developed an intricate system involving design, production, and development of artistic skills. The project is now administered through the independent Mapula Embroidery Trust, a locally registered non-profit organization.

The Sisters of Mercywho live and run an education and skills training centrein the Winterveld, provide the embroiderers with the use of a workspace free of charge and have been involved with the project from the beginning.

They are internationally known for their depiction of historical events and social history through their embroideries. Their part of the exhibition will consist mainly of wall hangings with these themes. They include deeply personal images of the very real implications that Covid-19 has had on their lives and their society. 

MAPULA EMBROIDERIES: Elizabeth Mafamadi and Kelelo Maepa.

www.mapulaembroideries.co.za

Shangaan Minceka:

The traditional Tsonga /Shangaan Minceka are also being shown at this exhibition as they can be regarded as influencing some of the embroiderers of Kaross and Mapula Embroideries.  They are, for some of the embroiderers, their traditional inspiration.

A ncheka (singular)  (minceka, plural) –  is part of the traditional attire which is worn as a wrap that ties across the woman’s shoulders. It can be either a cloth, printed in bright colours, or a dark blue cloth with a printed black pattern, richly embroidered by incorporating beads, small mirrors, bells and safety pins. Hundreds of small brass safety pins are used to pin on the garment which then forms the patterns. The brass safety pins are referred to as the quick stich.

To see these authentic and increasingly rare cloths in real life is special.

As in so many instances across the country, Covid-19 has had a severe economic impact on each project. They’re hoping that the sales from this exhibition will help towards their sustainability but for viewers, it’s a fantastic opportunity to see the scope of the country’s community embroiderers – and that’s quite something.

The exhibition which opens this weekend runs until May 29 at the Association of Arts, 173 Mackie Street, New Muckleneuk.

Tel: 012 346 3100

Gallery Hours Tuesdays to Fridays: 9am to 5pm; Saturdays: 9am to 1pm

WITH HIS LATEST EXHIBITION WORD/WOES, WILLEM BOSHOFF GETS THE WORLD READING

It’s glorious to know that one of our most exciting and enchanting artists Willem Boshoff is currently exhibiting in the Javett Art Centre at the University of Pretoria. DIANE DE BEER tells more:

No better introduction of Willem Boshoff possible!

When genius artist/wordsmith Willem Boshoff appointed Hélène Smuts as his curator a few years back, his instincts were as savvy as his art.

Bless the Javett Centre that in these tough times they had one of the few art exhibition openings worthy of a creator of Willem Boshoff’s calibre.

And with the wealth of experience of the curator and artist combined, they have stretched this one to early January 2022, so that South Africans will have more than enough time to experience both the earlier and latest work of one of our most exciting artists. Also keep an eye out for all the events, workshops, launching of an extensive catalogue, druid walks by Boshoff, all of which will be announced and will be huge fun to engage in.

Willem Boshoff’s BLUE close-up of making process

The exhibition (as the press release states so succinctly) Word Woes is a retrospective of works spanning the duration of  Boshoff’s artistic practice. The exhibition title, taken from a signature work by Boshoff, is understood in English and in Afrikaans. In either language the two words look identical, but their meanings differ sharply. Read in English, the title WORD WOES bemoans difficult issues around words and language. Read in Afrikaans, the same words liberate, prompting us to let go and be wild.

Detail of Word Woes etching (2014)

And so it goes with Boshoff’s art. It is as awe-inspiring as it is accessible, and huge fun as the artist works with words in a way that is genius while those who look, first have fun with the vocabulary and then get lost in the artwork and the way the artist produces something so spectacular. His work is always detailed and can take the viewer exploring indefinitely.

He has already moved on, he says. Busy with approximately 30 works currently, he had a breakthrough that morning (of the opening) and was itching to get back to test his solution – something that will probably brilliantly bewitch viewers in the future.

Boshoff’s concern according to the curator and entrenched in his work is often with the context in which we receive language and the power it yields to exclude or to privilege. He uses unconventional tactics, she points out, to challenge the use of language as an instrument of cultural identity or exclusion. He describes all his works, whether sculptural or graphic, as conceptual books. That’s why it needs time to view as you not only look at the work but also read the different “books”.

City Book

As art writer/critic Dr Johan Myburg, the opening speaker noted: “Although meaning (what does it mean?) is an important aspect of Willem Boshoff’s art – in order to get the meaning, to get the hang of the words, requires a performative input from the viewer (the viewer has to change his or her position: either to under+stand or to vêr-staan or to get up close to (I am thinking of Abamfusa Lawula)) – the presence of the artwork – from the earliest aluminium Cube to the recent Blue, made from wood, cut paper and glue – has the ability to communicate immediately. In the words of the poet TS Eliot: ‘genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood’.

It is the way he states his case – not with the obvious but in a way that is often playful yet deadly serious in message.

Myburg also explains that WORD WOES/WORD WOES (and a preamble to this current exhibition as are many other works), the mural made in Richmond in 2018, has been dedicated to a fellow artist, the writer Karel Schoeman – known for his novels (translated) such as Promised Land, Another Country and This Life.  He died the year before in 2017.

In front of the word wizardry of artist Willem Boshoff at MAP

The similarities between these giants are remarkable, says Myburg in his speech. “Both Boshoff and Schoeman are writing with stones and slabs of granite, both are writing with thorns and sand.  Both are employing words searching for meaning, for double meanings, for hidden meanings, for meaning lost in translation. Both are employing woeful words to lament the lack of meaning. Above all, both require to know: What is the meaning of it all.”

And that, he says, is what Hélène Smuts as creator, translator of meaning, states so clearly with this remarkable retrospective exhibition.

“The ability to marvel – and not to know for sure.

The ability to doubt woes – without any one firm belief.

The ability to question, om te bly torring, to unravel, om te ontrafel.

Die vermoë om te speel, om te goël, om woes met woorde om te gaan. (The ability to play, to cast a spell, to work fiercely with words.)





And then concludes: There is only one Willem Boshoff.”

 And it takes one poet to recognise and explain another.

Smuts elaborates that the wanderings of Word Woes started in 2019 when a smaller version of the current exhibition was curated for the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) in the UK by Smuts and Louise Lohr (YSP) to introduce the spectacular artist after he had a work included in the YSP’s permanent collection.

As with this current exhibition, the Claire and Edoardo Villa Trust facilitated the Yorkshire exhibition after Boshoff had received the trust’s award in 2018. And with this current one,also co-sponsored with the Matthias and Gervanne Leridon Collection.

Smuts explains that she has expanded the curatorial focus “to a locking and unlocking of knowledge and meaning through the artist’s life-long exploration of language”.                          .

A supporting educational and public programme will offer guided tours, school/student workshops, printed educational resources and weekend events with invited guests.​ Watch this space. It will be worth watching out for walkabouts with the artist talking about his work. He is as much an artist when he talks.

Willem Boshoff Druid Walk Main Reef road (2010)

Venue: The Javett Art Centre at the University of Pretoria, 23 Lynnwood Road, Hatfield, Pretoria. https://javettup.art/contact for more detail. Open daily from 10 am to 5pm and they have a number of free entrance days throughout the year  listed.

Guided tours on the hour from 1pm to 4pm.

To book for tours email: bookings@javettup.art

ACTORS AND DIRECTOR COME OUT TO PLAY AT THE ANNUAL BLACK HISTORY PRODUCTION AT MARKET

PICTURES: Lungelo Mbulwana

Pass Over starring Hungani Ndlovu

DIANE DE BEER

Life is slowly and almost silently returning to the Market Theatre – just in time to benefit from President Ramaphosa’s latest concessions doubling on the 50 seats already conceded.

Artistic director James Ngcobo kicks off tonight (running until March 28 starting at 6pm but check opening times on specific days) with his annual Black History Month production also celebrating the 45th anniversary year of The Market. Showcasing an African American playwright and in the past – as now, giving him the opportunity to spotlight some of the hottest young playwrights from the US.

The title of this year’s production, Pass Over, is suggestive of many things depending where you come from and whether you are religious, but it is also a play that has been inspired (as many before) by Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. It features two young black men, Moses and Kitch, who are forever stuck in a cyclical existential conundrum: how do we get off this street corner and into paradise?

Kathu Ramabulana (right)and Hungani Ndlovu (centre) as Moses and Kitsch and Charlie Bouguenon as Mister

But they keep busy by swapping visions of the promised land, imagining all the delights that await them there. Into this conversation steps a white man, Mister (a name that already suggests many different avenues in this context), and he startles the two young men with his preppy demeanour. He has lost his way while heading to his mother’s house to bring a basket of food. With this seemingly bottomless basket packed with delicious treats Mister is blissfully free and bursting with potential tralala…

He leaves shortly after the entrance of Ossifer (a jumble of letters which could also make up officer), a white policeman … and naturally the scene is set for many contemporary struggles while referencing both Beckett and Exodus with obvious intent.

Pass Over creative team Kabomo Vilakazi, Sibusisiwe Manqele and James Ngcobo

Written by Antoinette Nwandu, a New York playwright, it premiered a few years back at Chicago’s acclaimed Steppenwolf Theatre as well as travelling to London. She has been honoured with amongst others The Whiting Award, The Paula Vogel Playwriting Award, The Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award, The Negro Ensemble Company’s Douglas Turner Ward Prize, and a Literary Fellowship at the Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College with a bachelor’s degree in English and holds a Master’s of Science degree in Cultural Politics from the University of Edinburgh, and an MFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU Tisch School of the Arts.

What appealed to Ngcobo is that it is a play that speaks to the now and with so much happening in the US (and around the world on a race and oppression level if you look at the Time Next 100 list) with especially Black Lives Matter, all of that seems especially (and rightfully) heightened. “It just makes for interesting conversation,” he says. And even more than that. It seems finally, race has become the issue with Covid-19 bringing it into even sharper relief – and about time.

The cast of Pass Over

And the writing itself, notes Ngcobo. In a note from the playwright she explains that “the language is intentionally heightened, calculatedly rhythmic and playfully human. There is a kind of poetry and energy that is written into the words that Moses and Kitch use, which invites the audience to fully understand these characters and the world they inhabit.”

Ngcobo says because of the way it’s written that while dealing with tragic topics, it’s also very funny. “In rehearsal we are looking especially at the environment that gave birth to the text.”  And he is especially excited about his casting of Kathu Ramabulana and Hungani Ndlovu as Moses and Kitsch and Charlie Bouguenon as Mister and the rest.

Pass Over is staged in commemoration of Black History Month and while mainly celebrated in America, Ngcobo believes that the play will inspire South Africans to have the tough conversations around issues  of common interest including police brutality and white supremacy still flourishing long after apartheid.

Khathu Ramabulana and Hungani Ndlovu

It explores the unquestionable human spirit and the resilience of young black men who keep hoping for miracles. Moses and Kitch are struggling to survive on the tough streets of America. It’s a rare piece of politically charged theatre from a bold new American voice, just the kind of fighting spirit we need on stage in these crazy times to get audiences going.

Another project in the  making is a return of Zakes Mda’s brilliant Mother of all Eating directed by Dom Gumede with Vusi Kunene back on stage joined by Thulani Nyembe. It’s a fantastic play for these times and should be a grand face-off between these two acclaimed actors and a welcome return to live theatre.

Corruption heads the issues in this tale set in Lesotho in 1992 which shows just what happens when power is allowed to go unchecked. It plays from March 12 to April 11.

Three online productions start at the same time with Avalon written and performed by Lunga Radebe and directed by Vice Motshabi Monageng (from March 12 to 21) revolving around Sabantu, a young nouveau riche who, desperate to save his mother’s life, takes advice from a traditional prophet to search for his grandmother’s grave in one of South Africa’s largest cemeteries. He is instructed to perform a ritual on the grave, which is meant to remove the black cloud hanging over his family. What seems like quite a straightforward task turns into something much more daunting.

The next one has the provocative title of A Vegan Killed my Marriage written and directed by Craig Freimond who hasn’t worked at The Market for quite some time and stars Aron McElroy. Streaming from March 26 to April 4, it tells the story of James, a meat eating man. He is however plugged into all the scares about meat and the climate catastrophe about to happen. It’s something he tries to ignore but a work trip shakes him out of his comfort zone. He turns vegetarian which turns into vegan which becomes a kind of crusade as this king of the braai, bans all meat from his home and declares it a meat-free zone.

Di a Paro Tsa Mama (My Mother’s Clothes) is written and directed by Rorisang Motuba with performance dates from May 21 to 31.

In line with Ngcobo’spassion for indigenous language plays, this one is set on the eve of their mother’s funeral, with two sisters, aged 23 and 29, sorting through her clothes in search of the perfect outfit to bury her in. Their sensitive nostalgia morphs into harrowing discoveries about death, grief and survival in what promises to be a sensitive piece.

Depending on what happens later in the year, these three might also make their way onto stage.

Another live performance is Rose (previously played by Annabel Linder at Theatre on the Square) starring the sublime Camilla Waldman in a surprise return to the Market stage. It has been quite some time and is also a return to his old stomping ground for previous artistic director Malcolm Purkey, taking the directing reins for this one.

Camilla Waldman

Rose is a survivor. Her remarkable life began in 1920 in a tiny Russian village, took her to Warsaw’s ghettoes and a ship called The Exodus, and finally to the boardwalks of Atlantic City, the Arizona canyons and salsa-flavoured nights in Miami Beach.

It’s described as a sharply drawn portrait of a feisty Jewish woman and a moving reminder of some of the events that shaped the 20th century.

It plays in the John Kani Theatre from April 23 to June 6.

As inspired, later in the year, is a return of Athol Fugard’s Blood Knot directed by Ngcobo with two of the best, Mnedici Shabangu and Elton Landrew. And for the moment, that’s enough to keep theatre enthusiasts smiling.