THROUGH THE AGES FIONA RAMSAY DAZZLES AS SHE TACKLES DIFFERENT PERSONAS AND PEOPLE

Finding a character is determined by reflections and reconstructions in the liminal argues artist Fiona Ramsay in her creative project for her PhD. DIANE DE BEER attends the performance:

One of the most exciting components of the arts – live theatre specifically – is the surprises that pop up ever so often and which you might be privy to.

Recently I was invited to something titled Creative Project for PhD by actor/also head of department for Theatre and Performance at WITS, Fiona Ramsay, and immediately knew this was something not to miss.

She was going to tell a story on stage, be creative, in fact, to illustrate a point and she would be using her stage craft to do so.

Then she explains: “I have appeared in around 400 theatre productions over a career spanning four decades and so aptly I selected four characters for each decade from the archive of my work to detail my process or methodology and the primary question the of my research is: ‘Can I play characters outside my cultural frame, and, if so, how far outside that frame can they stretch?’

She further expands on her methodology, the process of creating the character: “Mia is a distilled creation from many research sources – we spent six weeks workshopping and devising the production with Barney – he coaxed, teased and often wheedled character out of one’s research.

Introducing the creative project, she starts off by doing an extract as Mia Steinman from Born in the RSA written by Barney Simon and cast in 1985.

“I had elected to play a character closer to me, a professional person, as many of the characters that emerged from that era were not. I spent a week in the office of three human rights lawyers and Mia emerged as a summation of these to form a single character.”

She also acknowledges the value of her own lived experience. “ I am not sure no matter how much research I had done – without my embodied experience. I grew up in a politically charged and issue driven environment and this undoubtedly contributed to my understanding of Mia.

“I don’t think I would have had the ability to fully grasp the complexity of the milieu the character lived in.”

A recent performance of The Lesson starring Fiona Ramsay, Graham Hopkins and Lihle Ngubo at The Market.

But when it comes to finding a character, Fiona has always focused on the voice and her work as a dialogue coach underlines her belief. “I start with researching the voice. Broad strokes of vocal quality – light or dark, chest or head resonance, slow speaker or fast, any idiosyncratic vocal sounds or habits – coupled with more nuanced detail of accent and cadence of rhythm. This is suggested to me by the text, the context and the character,” she notes.

Discoveries made in relation to vocal choices are present in her performances she thinks, many of which have not been documented. “That’s why the archive and personal record becomes an essential component of reflection, revisiting and reconstruction of past performances. It can sit in a computer as a filmed version or reside inside your reservoir of embodied knowledge or in a memory that may be collective – that of the actor’s and audiences combined.

“This is why you will see Jurgen, who is documenting this performance as a component of my PhD research, and you will note he is definitely inhabiting liminal spaces all around me…

And then she goes on to explain how liminal spaces defined a character: there needs to be an experience of being nowhere, or being in between, on the threshold of discovery of these other selves, she suggests.

And right in front of her audience, she moves into a liminal space, the pause or in-between time, and in this space she attempts to become the German spy, Stella Goldschlag from the play Blonde Poison by Gail Louw. And after the performance, she explains her process of finding the character.

She very quickly realized that the final voice she found for Stella was that of her sister-in-law’s mother, Ruth. She was a survivor of the Holocaust who told Fiona stories of her parents being taken away on a train when she was just 14 years old, of how she felt speaking the German of the Nazis and how she came to be in South Africa.

“She seemed to have such resolve, such serenity and so much calmness in her voice – which belied the horrors of her experience. And although I must have ‘channeled Ruth’ and evoked her in the liminalities of the rehearsal rooms, when I watched the archived version of the performance, I heard only the cadence and lilt of her voice.”

She believes strongly that the actor’s creative process seems to require the ‘in between’, the ‘unresolved’, the ‘unknown’ – an open empty passage where one can explore en route to becoming other.

She notes that theorist Victor Turner described the transitional phase experienced by a person ‘during a rite of passage – going to the mountain to become a man’ of indigenous customs, a process of ‘leaving behind an old identity’ and ‘becoming something new and other’, as liminal.

“Neither here nor there, and not certain. It is a fearful and unnerving space – a place of not knowing or unknowing – of no certainty, often a place of discomfort where you are neither you nor not you yet, a space affording experimentation and discovery which Peter Brook calls the empty space – a space or time for magic to occur.

“So liminal spaces can be difficult – I wouldn’t call them fun places to be because these are experienced with intense feelings or qualities of ambiguity, instability and disorientation that are uncomfortable. But these allow for an exploration unquestioned.”

A selection of images from Delirium and If We Dig.

She does plays further characters to illustrate her points. And a reminder of the question she raises at the beginning: “I am not German nor Jewish, nor Greek nor Afrikaans, so how am I qualified to represent these characters – people or fictions – or am I?”

If cultural politics and correctness discourage or prohibit an actor from a particular culture – being only qualified to play another from your same cultural frame – what does the acting teacher need to alter in their teaching praxis and how, she asks?

“My teaching process focuses on the awareness of self, the neutral self and the transformed self – but would this be bound by culture or gender, or by ethnicity, bound by race and by language? What then of learning – does it limit or extend it? What of the perspective on that which is ‘other’ that sheds new light and encourages discovery to extend beyond personal limitations and public borders?”

As a vocal coach she teaches accents that require research and immersion into other cultures.

As an actor she embodies, plays or acts someone who is ‘other’ and requires research and immersion into the cultures of other.

“As a person,” she emphasises, “I am curious and interested in cultures other than my own and keen to unearth connections rather than disconnecting from these.”

And surely, that’s enough said.

Even though she suggests the following as a solution/option: “Perhaps a way forward might be to base all characters that are other in fictional worlds where allegory and metaphor are used to describe and denote a culture that is other with fictional countries and fictional languages so as to conform to political correctness in the hope of not offending anyone or appropriating any culture.”

And in the process I suggest, limit the imagination which goes against everything we want from theatre.

  • Fiona is currently in Salzburg directing Janna Ramos-Violante in the first production for the English speaking company at the Landestheater and part of the process is putting into practice whatb she has explored in this presentation.
  • She will also be doing the above presentation again on 22 January at 3pm with a view to having a Q & A with her supervisors and audience after the show.

SILENT LAND IS A FILM THAT SPEAKS VOLUMES IN ITS HAUNTING SILENCES

Each year, The European Film Festival is one of the movie highlights of the year – and this time is no different running between October 13 and 23. Here is a short review by DIANE DE BEER on one of the films:

SILENT LAND

POLAND

Director: Agnieszka Woszczyńska

Cast: Dobromir Dymecki, Agnieszka Żulewska, Jean Marc Barr, Alma Jodorowsky, Marcello Romolo

Genre: Drama

Time: 113 minutes

Polish, English, French, Italian with English subtitles – 2021

Everything about this film screams art movie in the best sense of the word. It’s the setting up of the story, the young couple playing the leads, the pace or sometimes lack thereof as well as the unfolding and slightly mysterious tone of film that adds to the quality of the viewing.

I was reminded throughout of European movies seen in the past presenting a similar atmosphere and handling of character and content. There’s no spoon feeding and the substance is serious yet accessible.

Director Agnieszka Woszczyńska says it best: ‘Silent Land is not only about the collapse of a relationship, but also about the collapse of the value system in the modern world, the general indifference to reality, and social lethargy. Ultimately, it is a tale about alienation, not only from each other, but also from the world. It’s about conformity and passivity, where the need for safety and convenience is a strategy for survival.’

This is a fantastic opportunity to catch up on many of the best movies from Europe of the past year. For details on all the films and how to watch visit www.eurofilmfest.co.za

ADAPTATION, SURVIVAL AND SUSTAINABILITY THE FOCUS OF DURBAN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

                                        

THE UNIVERSITY OF KWAZULU-NATAL’S Centre for Creative Arts (CCA) hosts the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) from Thursday, July 21 to Saturday, July 30. The 43rd edition of the festival programme showcases Adaptation, Survival and Sustainability. As is their tradition, the present a carefully curated selection of South African premieres, screening virtually (for free) on www.durbanfilmfest.com and in person at Cine Centre Suncoast Casino. DIANE DE BEER

On Thursday, DIFF2022 opens with the live and a free virtual screening of 1960, directed by Michael Mutombo and King Shaft. You’re My Favourite Place by Jahmil X.T. Qubeka closes the festival on July 29, after which film-lovers still have the opportunity to see the film online on July 30. The awards will also take place virtually on 30 July.

DIFF 2022 is presented in a hybrid edition with online screenings at www.durbanfilmfest.com and a diverse live programme at Cine Centre, Suncoast Casino, Durban. Tickets for all live screenings are accessible on www.cinecentre.co.za. The entire festival programme can be seen on www.durbanfilmfest.com. The 43rd edition of the festival is produced by the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts, in partnership and with the support of KZN Film Commission, the National Film and Video Foundation, KZN Department of Arts & Culture, Avalon Group and other valued funders and partners.

What I have really always liked about DIFF is that their choices are obviously dominated by the best from home ground, but the rest of their selection is always intriguing, unusual and dominated by issues of the day.

Here, for example, are short reviews of just four of my personal choices to give you an idea:

Valley of a Thousand Hills: It is beautifully shot and as, those who have been to this area will know, the scenery – as the name suggests – is spectacular. But more importantly, the themes are relevant and part of the fabric of so many lives not only in this country but across borders. What do you do when your girlfriend (and hopefully soon-to-be wife) is promised to your brother?

Not only is the arranged wedding problematic in this instance, but so as well is the same-sex relationship that is being hidden from both families. And to top this, Nosipho is being held up to her conservative community as the model daughter.

Directed and written by Bonie Sithebe with fellow writer Philani Sithebe, starring Sibongokuhle Nkosi and Mandilsa Vilakazi, it’s a story that showcases the dilemma of trying to force people to do something that go against everything they are and what they believe in.

It’s important that the language is Zulu, the one spoken most frequently in that region. It contributes to the authenticity of the story as well as the performances. It also celebrates  people claiming their own stories. This is how we really get to know one another.

Ring Wandering: If manga is your thing, don’t miss this one. In fact even if it isn’t, if for nothing else, it has one of the most beautifully magical endings one could imagine.

A young aspiring manga artist living in Tokyo is busy with a story about a hunter and a Japanese wolf. He is battling with this tale, especially with capturing the essence of the wolf, which is extinct.

Working on a construction site where he makes his living as a day labourer, he finds an animal skull and is intrigued whether it might be of the wolf he is trying to draw.

He takes it home without permission and returns to the site at night to see if he can find more of the missing bones. And this is where the story takes on a different hue in almost fabelesque fashion.

Written and directed by Masakazu Kaneko, starring Show Kasamatsu and Junko Abe, amongst others, and described as drama, fantasy, there’s something special and otherworldly about the film which is suitable for all in the family (8yrs and older I would guess) as well.

Klondike: This is the most upsetting and realistic of the four films but one, which perhaps because of its relevance, has the most impact. From Ukraine, it deals with the early days of the Donbas war in 2014.

A few years later and with that region now involved 100 percent in one of the most destructive attacks in recent memory, the story (which is based on fact) is truly chilling. With everything we know, you can imagine what is happening right now when watching this terrifying anti-war movie.

Expectant parents Irka and Tolik live in this region of eastern Ukraine near the Russian border. Already in 2014, it was disputed area and the violence heightened when flight MH17 crashed in the region.

Imagine not knowing what we know now and living in the midst of the suddenly explosive land where people of both Russian and Ukranian descent live. Making the war deeply personal while focusing on a couple expecting their first child draws viewers right to the heart of the story.

Not only are the young couple slightly freaked about the imminent coming of their first child, but the uncertainty of what is happening in their area compounds their horror. It is a deeply disturbing and harrowing tale, yet one that all of us need to deal with in our fast-changing world.

Writer and director Maryna Er Gorbach with cast including Oxana Cherkashyna, Sergiy Shadrin and Oleg Shevchuk, do a magnificent job juggling with the reality and emotional impact when your whole life is turned upside down from one minute to the next.

Informed as we are about what is currently happening in Ukraine turns this into newsreel rather than story. And the way the husband and wife tell their specific tale turns it into something up close and personal. We don’t dare turn away.

Donkeyhead: Depending on your age, this one might seem relevant or not, but because it deals with ageing parents, it is something that will impact everyone’s lives. Here it is the siblings that come into play.

All kinds of things happen to families when parents age, are incapable of looking after themselves, and the siblings have to step in. The burden of immediate care always falls on specific members who are either close by or capable of changing their lives to accommodate their parents’ plight.

In this instance, it is the youngest daughter, a struggling writer, Mona, who is still staying at home and most comfortable caring for her ailing Sikh father. When he has a debilitating stroke, the three more successful siblings rush back to their parental home to advise their youngest sibling, whom they see as a failure.

Family dynamics and dependencies are always traumatic and amusing because they are often so familiar even if in different guises. And whether we want to deal with this state of affairs either as children or parents, life doesn’t simply pass us by because we prefer to ignore the inevitable.

It is both an insightful and impactful telling of a much too familiar tale, but one we all need to grapple with before it’s too late. This Canadian directorial debut is directed and written by Agam Darshi and stars Agam Darshi, Kim Coates, Stephen Lobo, Sandy Sidhu and Marvin Ishmael.

All the films reviewed are also screened in cinema (priced between R75 and R115 a ticket), which means they will only start screening virtually (and for free) after their cinema date:

Donkeyhead: screening from July 22, 7pm to July 30.

Klondike: screening from July 26, 21.30pm to July 30.

Valley of a Thousand Hills: screening from July 28, 21.30pm to July 30.

Ring Wandering: screening from July 29, 7pm and July 30.

MARY MARY QUITE CONTRARY HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW

Pictures: Derrich Gardner and Wallace Honiball

If, like me, you have been watching that delightful British gardener Monty Don and his travels around the world with the spotlight on spectacular gardens, our very own garden series Tuintoere would have caught your eye. But perhaps not, because not everyone tunes into the Afrikaans channel VIA, which caters to a specific market. DIANE DE BEER discovers this green gem:

Wallace Honiball in character with plant power.

I was lucky to have some inside knowledge because I know the researcher, Wallace Honiball, who is also an exciting landscape architect. One of our Boeremark regulars, I have always loved listening to him talk about plants and the environment because of his knowledge – and yet, he almost landed in the profession by default. When he wasn’t accepted for architecture, he could opt for landscape architecture – and he wisely did.

To our and his advantage. With the world turning more and more to environmental issues, with water becoming more and more of a problem, what and how we do landscaping becomes more and more important.

A selection of place and produce from last season’s Free State Liedjiesbos whose owners Dawie Human and Henning de Bruin have become friends and clients..

As things stand currently, architects have to consider the space they’re designing for even more diligently, so you might as well include landscaping into your studies. It is so smart of the Tuintoere team to find someone like Honiball, who adds weight and substance to a series, which might have landed up just exhibiting pretty gardens.

Of course we have many of those – pretty gardens – but when the presenter Derrich Gardner (only realised the appropriateness of the surname now!) interviews the owners and gardeners of the properties and estates they select, he can engage with real authority and information that adds to the understanding of the space we are moving into as viewers.

In the case of Honiball, it is also lovely to see someone engaging so wholeheartedly with his passion. Not only as a landscape architect, but also as someone who is intent on finding the best information and background on every garden that is included in the series. And already in the first season, there were some spectacular – and surprising – ones.

I was for example gobsmacked by a real gem in the middle of the Karoo called Mauritzfontein and when you saw it from the sky (thanks to drone technology), here was this little piece of green paradise seemingly in a very arid landscape.

But of course there was more and for Honiball it has been fantastic to meet some of our most amazing gardeners in some of their own gardens (sometimes handed from generation to generation on some Midlands or historic Cape farms) and other professionals. Patrick Watson, for example, introduced in the first episode of the first series is now a plant buddy!

Wallace remembers a  grandmother who was a keen gardener but perhaps, also the architectural home he grew up in always asked for a special garden, which is still growing from strength to strength. He was also a keen artist at school and even some of those artworks had an organic feel to them – perhaps plucked from nature.

But I digress. He is a young man with a fascination and fortunate enough to be able to focus on that world and then apply it in many different ways.

He is excited about the series and the team he works with and considers the research to be hugely exciting – if hard work. He knows that his background is academic, but that is also what makes the programmes so extraordinary. He credits Hermi King and the amazing people from Mrs. King Productions working on Tuintoere for this creative endeavour.

He is aware for example that not many South Africans know about the European influence of so many of our historical gardens. These have evolved in time, which also adds to place and the pleasure. “Think, for example, of the Randlords,” he explains. Gardens were a big part of their legacy because they became a status symbol for those who could afford the best. He also points to Herbert Baker, one of our best known architects, whom he describes as the first landscape architect locally.

As with the first season, each programme in this second series deals with one garden, one designer and is 25 minutes long. That’s not long and it’s important to distil the knowledge into something palatable which lends substance, yet doesn’t overwhelm the audience. And that’s where Gardner steps in with his light hand and easy banter.

The creatively curated gardens of Henk Scholtz in Franschhoek.

From the start this has been an organic venture and since the early days, because they were breaking new ground, they could also establish the blueprint. Honiball also enjoys seeing the final product because of the post production, which has to put the story together in a way that captures everything the team has envisaged.

Wallace Honiball with Henk Scholtz surrounded by his collections of plants.

And then the grand dames of it all – the gardens. “We can only capture specific gardens at particular times,” notes Honiball – a fact we all know, but perhaps didn’t digest as a logistical nightmare. Some are only willing to show off their finery for one specific week of the year. Others only bloom for a very short period of time and all these details have to be taken into account.

The selection process is also very specific. Take someone like world-renowned artist and plant genius Willem Boshoff, who was showcased in the last series. His knowledge of the plant world and how he accesses it was a topic all its own – as majestical as some of the more spectacular gardens.

And when, as in the new series, you are walking into gardens that are 300 years old, you want to show them at their best. Honiball wouldn’t have missed this for the world. He is in awe of the people he has met and even adopted some as mentors because he was so overwhelmed by their knowledge and sensibility. Others again are great sources of hidden gardens in South Africa, all of which contribute to the excellence of the series.

It is the education he has gained that most thrills this budding landscape architect who with his own work, is also discovering the gardens in the rest of Africa, like at a Nairobi project where he is currently engaged.

But in the meantime, here is the running order with the series starting on Thursday (Via at 5pm with re-broadcasts) and showing an episode a week for the next 13 weeks. And luckily there is already a third series planned…

• EPISODE 1 – TUIN TANYA VISSER – Die Potskuur is an intimate look at one of our best known gardeners Tanya Visser situated in KZN.

• EPISODE 2 – JOHANNESDAL VILLA / Stellenbosch is a garden overflowing with artistic touches and roses.

• EPISODE 3 – CAVALLI / Somerset West spotlights authentic Cape gardening with a fynbos garden of note.

• EPISODE 4 – RUSTENBERG / PIETMAN DIENER /Stellenbosch showcases a grand old dame who clings to the past yet embraces the new.

 • EPISODE 5 – HUIS STORMVOGEL /Stellenbosch is a collector’s garden where modernity and colour is introduced by the unusual gardens and plants.

 • EPISODE 6 – BENVIE / JENNY ROBINSON / KZN boasts the largest exotic garden in the southern hemisphere, and certainly the largest in South Africa.

• EPISODE 7- HENK SCHOLTZ / Franschhoek. This garden is a flourishing abyss, located in the heart of f this quaint village. Every nook, cranny and decorative piece is carefully curated and positioned to play tribute to his life’s poetry

• EPISODE 8 – LANGVERWAGT / Kuilsrivier; Nestled secretively in a valley lush with vineyards, forests, abundant water and ancient oak trees, lies this historic working farm.

• EPISODE 9 – LE POIRIER (the place of pears) / DANIE STEENKAMP/Franschhoek lies between oak trees, surrounded by mountains and overlooking a rive. The architecture, interiors and landscaping are completely integrated

• EPISODE 10 – TIM STEYN – Brahman Hills is in Nottingham road / KZN shows off its spectacular new garden.

 • EPSIODE 11 – LUCAS UYS – 1 Jacana Drive Ballito – Bonsai Garden / KZN is a Bonsai garden of note.

• EPISODE 12 and 13 are dedicated to the spectacular gardens at TOKARA / Stellenbosch with the Simonsberg mountains as the backdrop. It’s fynbos-rich and home to exceptional vineyards since the 17th Century.

TOYOTA US WOORDFEES POP-UP TV HIGHLIGHTS FROM 15 TO 28 JULY 2022 ON DStv CHANNEL 150

Babbelagtig (Picture: Nardus Engelbrecht)

DIANE DE BEER

For those not traveling down to Mkhanda for the National Arts Festival, Toyota SU Woordfees is presenting its second TV pop-up channel, which has been specifically curated to embrace a broad range of genres: writers and books, which is what started the festival in the first place, theatre, contemporary and classical music, dance, lifestyle, discourse, stand-up comedy, film, and visual arts.

There is a strong focus on quality-Afrikaans books, theatre, music, and film, as well as this year’s newbie, discussions on agricultural issues.

A selection of 2021’s most popular TV festival programmes will also be broadcast in non-primetime slots. New programmes specially produced for 2022 will be available on DStv Catch Up.

Here are a few personal highlights:

WRITERS’ FESTIVAL
The Woordfees started 22 years ago as an all-night poetry festival, and books and writers are still at the heart of the festival programme.

There are 18 new book talks on the programme, including the following:

Dol heuning with SJ Naudé: A Hertzog Prize winner – and the first person to win the prize two years in a row for prose – refers to himself as “an activist for the short story”. He talks to Marius Swart about where he gets his inspiration from and Sandra Prinsloo reads an extract from one of his stories.

Wanneer vandag en gister nie lepellê: Kirby van der Merwe (Eugene), Audrey Jantjies (As die katjiepiering blom) and Brian Fredericks (Hou jou oë oop) share their inspiration with Diane Ferrus.

Digtersparadys: With Philip de Vos, Lynthia Julius, Elias P. Nel, Louise Boshoff, Grant Jefthas and Franco Colin, Dean Balie and Kabous Meiring (presenter). It’s an afternoon with poetry, musical arrangements by Wilken Calitz and a special musical reading by Dean Balie from the new Adam Small collection.

Pretoria se Elon Musk; Adriaan Basson speaks to Michael Vlismas and Herman Wasserman about Elon Musk – Risking It All (an unauthorised biography).

 All 19 book talks filmed last year, including a conversation between iconic theatre maker Marthinus Basson and his friend,  2021 Booker Prize winner, Damon Galgut, will be broadcast again. It’s magnificent if you missed it before.

Proscenium: Babbelagtig:

This is quite delightful as seven quirky clowns play juggle with mimicry, magic and fun. De Klerk Oelofse, Dean Balie, Jemma Kahn and others provide a joyous experience for the family.

Proscenium: Toutjies & Ferreira

Toutjies en Ferreira

Saartjie Botha’s award-winning play starts out as a comedy focussing on backstage before the lights go on, but then it turns into heartache as parents left behind after their children emigrated are in the spotlight. Frank Opperman and Joanie Combrink star.

If you haven’t seen the Rachelle Greeff production starring Sandra Prinsloo, Die Naaimasjien, it’s a must-see with great writing and an extraordinary performance.

Mis and Krismis van Map Jacobs will be re-screened from last year, but the one to watch over and over again is Andrew Buckland and Sylvaine Strike in one of my all-time favourites,

Ferine and Ferase. The play was directed by Toni Morkel, with musical accompaniment by Tony Bentel, and film direction by Jaco Bouwer. It received the coveted kykNET Fiësta Award for Best Festival Production.

https://debeernecessities.com/2022/03/18/firefly-glows-with-wonder-as-a-clutch-of-artists-celebrate-the-magic-of-live-theatre/

Also catch the short but powerful Cleanse by the young creative Jane Mpholo, someone to watch as she addresses issues that need airing in a very personal way. It cuts to the bone.


CONTEMPORARY MUSIC, according to Artistic Director Saartjie Botha, has been given special focus.

Not to be missed are:

Al om Antjie: Antjie Krog is a multi-award-winning literary icon. She is best known for her evocative Afrikaans poetry, her reporting on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and her book Country of My Skull. Artists including Frazer Barry, Anton Goosen, Laurinda Hofmeyr, Antoinette Kellermann, Babalwa Mentjies, Churchil Naudé and Jolyn Phillips celebrate her 70th birthday with some of her most beloved poems set to music.

Brel/Piaf: described as a stylish revue of the timeless songs of Jacques Brel and Edith Piaf, performed by André Schwartz and Amanda Strydom, accompanied by Coenraad Rall and Dawid Boverhoff and directed by Saartjie Botha, is a welcome addition as I missed the live show when it had short runs in Joburg and Cape Town.

Afrika Blues is what guitar genius Schalk Joubert describes as one of his favourite shows. And with the mesmerising voice of Sima Mashazi and musical virtuosos Louis Mhlanga, Schalk Joubert, Albert Frost and Jonno Sweetman, it’s pure gold.

Hanepoot Brass Band Live at The Daisy Jones is also something to witness. They know how to swing. In 2019, Jannie Hanepoot (Gereformeerde Blues Band, African Jazz Pioneers) wrote some new arrangements for eight of his favourite musicians and the Hanepoot Brass Band was born. They’re to die for.

Smeltkroes.

Highlights from the 2021 contemporary music series will be re-broadcast:
David Kramer Tribute – Boland to Broadway
; Karen Zoid & die Kaapstadse Filharmoniese Orkes; Smeltkroes

CLASSICAL MUSIC

Viewers are spoilt for choice with:

Community Spectacular Gala 2021: Anna Davel, Earl Gregory,  Luvo Maranti and Zip Zap Circus perform with the Cape Town Philharmonic in the latest annual community gala that raises the roof at Artscape each year. 

Elgar Cello Concerto: by South Africa’s foremost cellist, Peter Martens, and Schubert’s Symphony No. 5 conducted by Bernhard Gueller.

Mozart and Schubert: Esthea Kruger performs Mozart’s Piano Concerto in D minor, KV 466, and Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony conducted by Bernhard Gueller.

Celebrating Stephenson and Rajna: The Amici Quartet perform works by Allan Stephenson, Thomas Rajna and Ravel as well as Puccini’s Crisantemi.

Zorada Temmingh (Picture: Nardus Engelbrecht)

Th eStellenbosch University Choir concert as well as Zorada Temmingh’s organ recital  from 2021 will be re-screened.

DANCE

Krummelpap, Afval en Sunlightseepbaddens by the celebrated Garage Dance Theatre from Okiep present dance with poetry by Ronelda Kamfer. I won’t miss this hook-up that makes perfect sense.

Pergolesi se Stabat Mater

Pergolesi se Stabat Mater: During lockdown in South Africa, Cape Town Opera, Cape Town City Ballet and the Cape Town Baroque Orchestra joined forces to create a physically distanced film of excerpts from Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, choreographed via videocall by Mthuthuzeli November. It is a multi-faceted exploration of grief, empathy, and faith.

There are some fantastic lifestyle programmes, including Stellenbosch and its very particular and exclusive lifestyle, which features architecture from this historic town, wine (naturally) food and mushroom foraging amongst others.

Standup comedy is also a large feature with both new performances and the popular ones from last year again part of the schedule.

Kabous Meiring.

DISCOURSE

A variety of discussions around hot topics hosted by seasoned journalists Kabous Meiring (anchor of kykNET’s Prontuit) and Pieter du Toit (Assistant Editor for in-depth news: News24).

The seriously funny (or so they say) Filosofiekafee 2021 will be screened again.

AGRICULTURE

Discussions with experts about food sustainability, land issues, and stories of hope.

FILM

Prophet/poet/songwriter/singer Koos du Plessis

En tog die deuntjie draal – Die Koos Du Plessis-verhaal: this poet/songwriter changed the landscape of Afrikaans music and lyrics and I will not miss this screening of one of our greats.

Locked Doors, Behind Doors: Indoni Dance, Arts and Leadership Academy directed by the award-winning Sbonakaliso Ndaba explore the stark reality of their members’ lives during the pandemic, when home induced feelings of powerlessness and despair.  The documentary uses research into the migrant labourers and slaves of preceding generations to develop choreography that expresses the sacrifices of those who helped to forge the nation of South Africa. 

Die ongetemde stem – ’n Herontdekking van Afrikaanse musiek: a programme I caught at this year’s Silwerskerm and again, not to be missed, featuring Churchil Naudé, Frazer Barry, Deniel Barry, David Kramer, Johannes Kerkorrel, Koos Kombuis and more, directed by Riku Lätti and Gideon Breytenbach.

The WOW festival which is the youth leg of the Woordfees will also be represented.

Check Toyota SU Woordfees for times and schedules.

JOHN KANI AND MICHAEL RICHARD SLAY DRAGONS IN THE JOBURG THEATRE’S KUNENE AND THE KING

DIANE DE BEER

PLAY: KUNENE AND THE KING

PLAYWRIGHT: John Kani

CAST: John Kani and Michael Richard

SINGER: Lungiswa Plaatjes

DIRECTOR: Janice Honeyman

LIGHTING: Mannie Manim

SET AND COSTUME DESIGNER: Birrie le Roux

VENUE: The Mandela at the Joburg Theatre

DATES: Until June 19

To sit in a buzzy theatre and wait for a play to start in Gauteng has been a rare thing these past few years, but it is seriously starting to happen again.

And what a thrill to witness two of our greats, John Kani and Michael Richard, sparring with each other in a play written by Kani.

He has, as many times before, read the times right and written accordingly. When someone of his stature and experience decides to tell our story in whichever way he chooses, we should listen. He is scratching at the heart of our much maligned nation and does it in a way that draws his audience in and has them laughing and crying with great regularity.

Staged in the big Mandela Theatre, where I have witnessed many musicals in my time, and perhaps one or two plays at most, I was nervous about the space and if it could hold the play.

But with the knowledge that racism in whatever form is even more relevant now than at any other time and should be talked about – especially by those who live the experience  –  the space embraced the play and the people. With only 50 percent capacity allowed, the theatre wasn’t packed, but enough of a crowd was there and they were vocal.

It is the kind of work that allows for that. Two old men, one white, one black, meet under less than favourable circumstances with the one dying and the other employed as his caregiver. Nasty old patterns creep in from the start as the white patient realises a (black) intruder has just entered the room. Stereotypical? Yes, but that’s what we need in these circumstances and Kani is wise enough to know how to tell this story and make his point with great force.

You realise from the start that there’s no subtlety here, but the thing is, racism doesn’t and can’t demand that. And I would much rather be hit full-on over and over again with a problem that persists so viciously through the ages, than sit with the denial countries like the US have to tackle now. They’re still arguing about slavery!

With our apartheid history and if the audience witnessed in the theatre that night are a sample of who we are, we at least know what racism is and that we have it in this country in abundance, but we’re also far enough down the road that we can sit together and both laugh and cry bitterly at what people do to one another. Even when facing death.

Kani has cleverly told his story with all the familiarities around an everyday situation. He is dealing in broad strokes so that you don’t miss the awful stupidity. And then you put it in the hands of two accomplished actors who can pull it off – brilliantly.

It is the stupidity of so much of human interaction that allows Kani to bring enough seriousness to the topic to never veer too far away from what we are dealing with. He has a distinct speaking and writing voice and it’s a thrill to experience both. And now he has added grace and elegance to the ageing process to have one watch in awe how he slips onto his knees and pops back again with the alacrity of someone much younger.

It is the skills he has honed with his abundance of stage smarts through his decades of dedication to his craft which are joyous to experience time and again. And fortunately for those of us who love live theatre, while he enjoys the honours of Hollywood and is picked for the big ones these days, he always returns to his first love. And we benefit gratefully.

Richard is another who always returns when offered the chance – and this was a good one. He does curmudgeon well and switches easily between biting his caregiver’s giving hand and dismissing his own foot-in-the-mouth statements while ignoring the impact on someone who lived through the worst of apartheid at the harshest receiving end.

That’s what this play is about, mirroring those tap-dripping daily ignorant remarks by careless people who have no clue how their behaviour impacts the lives of others.

Tired of people asking when recriminations about apartheid will stop, I turned to my truthsayer, who said: When the victims say so.

And especially in circumstances where one group mistreats and denies another even the basest of human rights, those on the other side, whether participating or not, should listen and learn. And this is what Kunene and the King does so magnificently.

There’s nothing here that we haven’t heard before – in abundance and regularly. The point is that we still hear and witness many of these loathsome behaviours on a daily basis. We’re 27 years into our democracy, a number that rings harshly in South African years.

It is 2022 and we have had a couple of dastardly isolating years during which to reflect, if nothing else. That’s why a play like Kunene and the King is a blessing especially when it is delivered in such a generously heart-warming yet heartfelt fashion.

Lungiswa Plaatjes

The production is gently moulded by director Janice Honeyman, who is at her best when having to tell a story. She added the sass of design wiz Birrie le Roux and lighting genius Mannie Manim to add the visual strength as well as a magnificent musical interlude to soften the edges and complete a magical circle.

Kani and the team have  staged a  joyous theatrical experience in spite of the seriousness of the subject. That’s the way to make us laugh and learn.

COLSON WHITEHEAD SHUFFLES WITH WORDS AND YOUR MIND WITH OH SO SMART SLEIGHT OF HAND

Colson Whitehead’s Harlem Shuffle (Fleet) reviewed by

Diane de Beer

Reading has been good to me these past few months. Just like the last book I read/reviewed, this is another author who always has me running to find his latest offering.

Following the deeply political Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys, both Pulitzer-Prize-winners, Harlem Shuffle doesn’t disappoint. And like these two former books, while not overtly so, it also has a political thread running throughout. How could it not if it is Whitehead and Harlem is part of the novel’s name?

What grabs one though (and having heard Colson speak about the novel) is how different this is to anything else he has written – the story, that is. Not the writing, that’s as brilliant as ever.

He has a way with words, shuffles with your emotions this way and that (even had me wiping away a tear towards the end) and takes you into a world far away from your own and yet, turns it into something familiar and recognisable. He also has you smiling at the way he writes. Sometimes it is funny, but it is also his way of turning a phrase, his vocabulary and the way he paints pictures with his colourful language.

I truly love reading his writing.

Here is a conversational segue which slips in while telling of a death-defying  journey his main character is in the process of making:

His accomplice asks him if he knows how to use the gun and Colson writes the following: “There had been one time in high school when his father was out and rats had been squealing for hours behind his building. That anyone can hear it and not go crazy was inconceivable. He knew where his father kept his gun. On the closet shelf where his mother had kept her hat boxes, Big Mike had a shoebox with bullets and knives and what Carney later figured was a makeshift garotte. And this month’s gun. The day of the rats it had been a .38 snub nose that sat like a big black frog on Carney’s thirteen-year-old palm. It was loud. He didn’t know if he hit any critters, but they scattered and Carney lived in fear for weeks that his father would find out he’s been in his stuff. When he opened the box months later, there was a different pistol inside.

He told Pepper he knew how to use it.”

Naturally it is also the story he tells. And everything that comes in such layered fashion. This, for example, is how he describes his wife Elizabeth, who works for a travel agency that finds safe routes and cities for black people to travel through and to in the US:

“On the wall at Elizabeth’s office they had a map of the United States and the Caribbean with pins and red marker to indicate the cities and towns and routes the Black Star promoted. Stay on the path and you’ll be safe, eat in peace, sleep in peace, breathe in peace; stray and beware. Work together and we can subvert their evil order. It was a map of the black nation inside the white world, part of the bigger thing but its own self, independent, with its own constitution. If we didn’t help one another we’d be lost out there.”

Our main guy, Carney, is described thus before we even meet him: “Carney was only slightly bent when it came to being crooked …”

And then the story begins. It is about two cousins who for a time in their lives lived like brothers and formed an unbreakable bond. Carney was the good one, and his cousin Freddie the one who got him into trouble.

But that’s only part of it, even if it drives much of the tale. Our unlikely hero is also married to Elizabeth and with their two children, he dreams of creating a very specific life for his family. With that in mind, he takes regular solo walks to a certain part of Manhattan where he hopes – someday – to move to so that he can live the life of his dreams.

In his daily life, he owns a furniture store, which he bought with ill-gotten gains. But now he hopes to keep it straight and yet, he is constantly pulled into another world – until it threatens his dreams.

It’s the story being told on the surface and that cannot be ignored because there’s a rhythm that keeps you transfixed as Whitehead ever so often meanders and detours to deal in metaphors  of a different kind. It’s not your regular crime novel or family saga, even though all of that is there.

It’s about specific lives, their doings determined by their race, which is determined by another race and even more.

How Whitehead manages to shape even something that feels from the start like a crime caper is astonishing. And he does this with such sleight of hand that you never feel manipulated as a reader What he is sharing is simply the lives of others and in this way we get to know how some people complicate (with intent and sometimes deadly consequences) those lives of others.

If you haven’t yet delved into the world and words of Colson Whitehead, you’re in for a treat.

THE TENTH SILWERSKERM FILM FESTIVAL IS ALL ABOUT CELEBRATING THE LOVE FOR LOCAL MOVIES

Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Silwerskerm Film Festival, kykNET has released the names of a slate of local films lined up for a brand-new hybrid format between 23 and 26 March 2022.

Pictures of features apart from previous winner Poppie Nongena are all part of this year’s competition.

Stiekyt deals with an actor who performs at a drag club and is discovered by his wife.
https://youtu.be/GsCs1vo5_Ns

Since all the events on the main programme will take place simultaneously at the Bay Hotel in Camps Bay and the Silwerskerm Film Festival website, movie lovers from across the country can now sign up to enjoy the festival from the comfort of their homes. (See details below and check for details on the movies on the Silwerskerm website: https://silwerskermfees.co.za/)

Included are nine local feature films in competition for the festival’s prestigious awards and 17 short films produced with the financial support of kykNET and the festival.

Besides these exciting films, guests and those attending virtually will also have access to Q&A sessions with the filmmakers, industry discussions and some existing local films that have received limited releases in the past two years.

DIANE DE BEER chats to Ricky Human (centre), programme director who together with its founder Karen Meiring (right) and director M-Net channels Jan du Plessis (left), has been with the Silwerskerm Film Festival from the start:

In 2010 the kykNET Silwerskerm Film Festival started as a dream to establish a local film festival and a vision to create a platform for their own storytellers to showcase their work to each other, to develop young filmmakers and to discover new voices in the local film industry.

“We often look back fondly at how the festival started with only one feature film, ‘n Saak van Geloof and an exciting short film competition,” notes Ricky Human, programming director.  

https://youtu.be/hOICLDW-I80

“We believed that we could establish a festival incubator program for passionate young filmmakers to develop their own stories with the guidance and the financial support needed to start their careers in the local film industry.”

“Ten years later, some of the most passionate and brightest young filmmakers have emerged through the ranks of the short film competition and more than 160 short films and a variety of feature-length films with the funding and support from kykNET and M-Net Movies were launched. Young talent from 10 years ago are now established producers, directors and scriptwriters,” she says proudly.

In this time, the festival has also become a successful networking event and continuous exposure to key role players in the industry, from new to established, as well as veteran filmmakers has led to a revival in the local film industry with a focus to increase the level of production.

It further had the effect that authentic South African films set in the Cape flats, different cultures and new story idea planted at this festival is leading a wave of transformation in the Afrikaans film industry with new audience growth and more job opportunities.

The occult is centre stage in Gaia which tells the story of two off-the-grid men who come to a forester’s aid.

https://youtu.be/Q9HYegwSw1s

 As the festival developed in the latter years, and with the 10th anniversary in mind, a big focus became a renewed festival to not only harness all the elements that made it successful, but to expand the programme to be more inclusive of a variety of film genres. This would include public participation and growing the networking and film market element to sustain growth for the next 10 years.

 “We launched an on-line app last year, new competition categories for script writing and digitally produced content. We also welcomed international guest speakers who are experts in their field to share their industry knowledge,” she expanded. They also have big dreams of international collaborations.

 https://youtu.be/r-4WmEoxD8Q

In most international markets its mostly the big blockbusters and large scale independent films that are able to secure a standard theatrical release in cinemas. Distributors and cinema owners worldwide negotiate a film’s release based on potential box office results versus the cost to releasing the film in cinemas.

It has always been a risqué platform with no real guarantees on box office returns, and with many new entertainment options for audiences worldwide, it is a harsh reality that most filmmakers need to take on board when releasing their films in cinemas.

 And then Covid also moved into the mix with the future still uncertain. The motion picture industry, which relied on cinema attendances came to a halt.

Yet the Silwerskerm Film Festival has boosted the local film and television industry and there are many success stories. The short film and Silwerkerm alumni list is growing on an annual basis

Scenes from the extraordinary Poppie Nongena

Probably the most successful has been former stage director Christiaan Olwagen who directed Poppie Nongena, winner for Best Film, Best Script, Best Director and Best Ensemble Cast at the last live event at the 2019 festival.

In 2013, he made his debut with the short film Toevlug which won Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Short Film and landed him a 3-picture deal with M-Net Movies.

His first feature film in 2016, Johnny Is Nie Dood Nie scooped seven awards at Silwerskerm Film Festival including Best Director and Best Film. In 2018, Kanarie won five awards including Best Film and Best Director and went on to be a local and international LGBTQ sensation.

Racheltjie de Beer which won Best Production Design and Best Actor awards in 2019 was written, directed and co-produced by Matthys Boshoff, who made his debut with the short film Vlees van my Vlees which won Best Director and Best Short Film in 2016.

Beurtkrag tells the story of the darkness to be found and explored in relationships.

https://youtu.be/7cp9WqmNgi4

In 2015, Stian Smith won Best Script for the short film, Beurtkrag which was adapted for stage by Jozua Malherbe and features in the main competition this year as a full-length feature film.

Similarly another short film entry for the 2014 competition, Vuil Wasgoed led to Bouwer Bosch forming his own production company and producing the feature-length film version, whilst the writer Bennie Fourie contributed to popular television series Sterlopers and Hotel. Fourie and his fellow writer Stian Smith also won SAFTAs for their work in the local industry.

Another fabulous success story is that of Gambit Films, the production house which entered the short film, Nommer 37 with director, writer, producer Nosipho Dumisa winning the 2014 Best Director and Best Script awards.

They received further funding from M-Net Movies and Dumisa followed with the full-length feature version to critical acclaim locally and internationally.

When money comes into play families can be split apart as is shown in Down So Long.

Through networks created, inexperienced producers also meet their veteran counterparts, and in this instance, with the support and guidance of Homebrew Films, the Gambit creative team also became involved in other television projects for kykNET an kykNET& kie.

This lead to the development of the popular Suidooster soap, for which they formed Atlantic studio. This studio has subsequently created numerous jobs and opportunities for the Western Cape film community.

And the accolades run on and on.

For the future, they are hoping to embrace a fully inclusive festival with more and more expansive opportunities for film and documentary makers. Viva la movies! We all stand to gain and benefit as our local stories are told by people who lived them.

The registration fee for the virtual festival and four days of premium local movie entertainment – is R190 and will be donated to the Tribuo Fund, which was created to assist entertainers suffering a loss of income due to the Covid-19 pandemic. To register for the virtual festival, go to the Silwerskerm Film Festival website – silwerskermfees.co.za

MAGICIAN MARTHINUS BASSON PASSES ON HIS DIRECTING SKILLS TO FUTURE STORYTELLERS

When I first read the press release on the Klein Karoo National Arts Festival’s (KKNK) plans to present a theatre director’s course digitally with the support of the National Afrikaans Theatre Initiative (NATi) with acclaimed director/mentor/lecturer/designer Marthinus Basson presenting, I knew this was one where I wanted to be a fly on the wall. And this is how it played out …

DIANE DE BEER

With no aspirations as a director, I was keen to witness and write about this unique, almost year-long process which aimed to challenge and stretch theatre makers, those already in the profession and those who wish to learn. It was all about offering opportunities in the theatre world so hard hit by the pandemic yet looking at a future with hope and expectation as well as huge encouragement.

There was no doubt that for anyone attending, this was the chance of a lifetime. Just the reach of this director, one of the best in the business, and to add to his many directing accolades, a true love of teaching, which isn’t always a given. He has knowledge in abundance and a generous desire to pass it on.

Genius director and mentor, Marthinus Basson

And as I expected, that was exactly what I experienced class after class. As a theatre writer and someone who has spent many years watching theatre productions, this was a chance to dig deep and experience the process from start to finish. I was also  keen to see how this would work digitally, as Basson was very clear from the start that all this was new to him as well. He wasn’t sure whether the participants could benefit without working on stage (or in a room) – where he still hopes to fit in some real time with these students, when the future allows.

But even Basson has conceded that in many instances everyone gained in this novel process and there are certain instances that surprised everyone. Because live theatre wasn’t an option, once a few texts had been read and discussed by the group under the guidance of the mentor, the participants were given the task to take small sections from different plays, which they then had to stage – digitally.

This is where the fun and the creativity began. Not only were they now expected to use their directing instincts, but they also had to apply it in a way that was a learning curve for everyone. A few with film experience in the group had prior knowledge to help them navigate, but in most instances their imagination was expected to kick in.

I was reminded of a theatre practitioner who had experience of working here and internationally, who noted that because we have never had money for the arts, imagination plays a much bigger role – and often to the advantage of the production. It’s also not as if these artists were suddenly in a position of not having money to work with.

That has always been the case. In this instance, Covid was just another stumbling block. Watching them apply their instincts to tell stories digitally was quite something. From the start they used every trick in the book, some more successfully than others, but failure wasn’t an option. There’s also the credo in theatre that if you don’t fail sometimes, you’re not pushing the boundaries.

A selection of the most recent Basson productions

Following the screening of each session, everyone was given a chance to comment with Basson having the last word. His educational spirit is something to witness. He’s easy with both good and bad because either way, the participant can learn and grow and that’s the point of the exercise. This was a safe space to take chances and to discover what works, how to change things and how to work with space, players and words.

Listening to Basson speak about the way he approaches any new play was insightful. He advised the burgeoning directors to start by reading the play. “How do I understand the text?” That was the first question. “You must read a script like a detective.”

And then he gave guidelines and pointers to explain how they should break it down and start making notes for the planned production. You have to map the process from beginning to end which, as the conductor, helps you to know exactly what is going to happen every step of  the way.

He would make statements like: “The accent isn’t important, the meaning is what counts.” Always the text, always the story, and for those of us watching, if the director cannot get you engaged with the story, there’s no point at all. Once you have unlocked the text for the audience, they will be on board. It’s the big question about communicating to your audience, that’s why the text is what leads all the time.

“Never under-estimate your audience. But don’t confuse them, stimulate them.” That’s why they’re there – to experience, not to struggle.

And with every point he makes,  he also expands the mind as he skips off into a story about a memorable book, film, opera, theatre production, to illustrate a point. Knowledge is what informs everything he does.

If these fledgling students got only the grasp of this great man’s mind and how he never stops learning and searching for new productions that inspire – even starting with a couture clothes line for dolls to teach himself some rudimentary sewing techniques which could be applied to costumes in the future.

That’s what you do when money is an issue. You add as many skill sets as possible and you do this whenever you find the time. Artists will know, that theirs is a calling, not a career. If passion isn’t involved, chances are you won’t stay the course.

Something that has always impressed me about Basson’s productions is the casting. And he explains: “I want people who will feed one another. Casting can make or break a production. Clever direction helps the audience,” he explains. And that includes casting.

He points out that directors have a toy box in their hands to play with and how they apply that is where the work starts. Every decision has to make sense, be logical.

And even in these times with money even more absent than usual, keep dreaming. Never stop. The fact that you can’t get there does not mean that you have to stop trying. If you think of some of the productions you have seen at festivals and with how little they have achieved so much, that alone should inspire.

In another insight, he underlines that if you don’t put in the work, you won’t get the results. If aspiring directors only hold on to that, they have already grasped the essence of the things that matter in life.

I could go on and on … and the fortunate and willing participants who were present all the time would have mined this opportunity for all its worth. They will also have the future support of this genius director, who will never give up on artists who need his help.

This was such a clever concept and will reap benefits. Here’s hoping that it can have a future in some kind of form … thanks to KKNK and NATi.

SASOL NEW SIGNATURES 2021 CELEBRATES ARTISTS WHO STAND UP FOR WHAT THEY BELIEVE

Only after I engaged with the winner and runner-up statements following the award ceremony of the Sasol New Signatures 2021, did I realise what stood out most in this second pandemic year was that many of the winning works – especially these two winning pieces – were equally issue-driven and creatively excellent.

What seemed to inspire many of the artists was their engagement with particular issues and ideas that are important to them. 

DIANE DE BEER

New Signatures winner Andrea du Plessis with her winning work Paloceae Lupantozoa

For example, the winner, Andrea du Plessis, is especially inspired by the natural world at a time when heated discussions about climate change are dominating universally. It’s as if someone has flicked the switch and the world’s leaders are taking it seriously for the first time.

And part of this awareness is the result of not only the young but also the artists around the world who are using their creative voices to focus on this particular narrative. As the winner, Du Plessis walks away with a cash prize of R100 000 and the opportunity to have a solo exhibition at the Pretoria Art Museum in 2022. 

The runner-up, Dalli Weyers, describes himself as an artist/activist and his manifesto has been activated to draw attention to the gross inequality (and everything which follows that) in the world today. He won R25 000.

No one can be happy with the absence of humanity seen everywhere we turn. Often those in power are all about greed while ignoring the people they were elected to serve. It’s as if there is a lack of understanding of why they were given the power. But more and more people are standing up for what they believe is right – and at the forefront are the artists.

For this year’s winner, it was her fourth attempt at entering the prestigious competition and, with her work being selected for the first time, she grabbed a win.

But then, Du Plessis’s narrative about her life and her art points to determination and drive. Not only could she not finish her fine arts course at the University of Pretoria because of financial problems but she also suffered from clinical depression.

Andrea du Plessis’s winning work Paloceae Lupantozoa

For seven years after dropping out, she had very little interest in making art. Yet during this time she decided to travel to the UK where she worked for four years and also enrolled for a course in art therapy which slowly pulled her back into making art.

She returned to South Africa in 2010 (to Pretoria, where she was born and spent most of her formative years) and later enrolled for a degree in Multimedia Digital Visual Art at Unisa.

In 2015, she moved to Cape Town where she works from her studio as a freelance designer, illustrator and multimedia artist.

Describing her winning work, she says Paloceae Lupantozoa is part of a body of work called Supernature. “It was created in 2020 as part of my final year work for Unisa. It is a personal response to being in lockdown, which triggered a deep questioning and exploration of our complex relationship with nature in an augmented age, and how our access to the natural world has changed over the centuries.

“The work aims to create a link between art historical representations of nature (18th century, Romantic landscape painting) and contemporary representations of nature (new media such as augmented reality and artificial intelligence).The work is multi-faceted but, in short, I wanted to work with the notion of the sublime (experienced through nature and technology) and interconnectedness (in both the natural world and digital media).”

It’s a complex work that has to be experienced in real life to fully understand what she’s playing with. It’s also a response to the pandemic and lockdown, which had a huge impact on her and her work. “I’m privileged to have had a little garden to hang out in during lockdown and this really became a sanctuary as I began noticing all the insects and birds going about their day.”

While she was uncomfortable because of the isolation of lockdown, she also views the time as a “necessary metamorphosis” for which she is now grateful. “My research also involved biomimicry and I was reminded of the fact that nature is the ultimate engineer. As a ‘superior species’ we have so much more to learn and discover. We don’t exist on this planet in isolation. Everything is interconnected. That is the message I want to bring through my work.”


She describes herself as a multidisciplinary artist because she enjoys working with a very wide range of traditional (painting, sculpture, drawing) and new media (videoart, augmented reality and AI-generated art).

“I find it difficult to choose and specialise in only one medium. I need variety, and each medium carries its own meaning conceptually. My process is usually very layered and I like to combine several types of media into something new.” 

Thinking ahead with her eye on next year’s solo exhibition as part of her prize, she is researching flower anatomy, metaphysics and virtual reality. “Hopefully 2022 will offer new possibilities to produce and exhibit my work,” she said before knowing she was the winner.

Well, it certainly will, and for her solo exhibition she envisions something immersive, meditative and surreal. In the world she creates with her art, that certainly predicts something extraordinary and exciting!

For the runner-up, Dalli Weyers, it was also a long and winding road – this was his third attempt. 

And viewing the work, his voice was the one I was intrigued to explore. He explains best: “To date, my professional career can be characterised by a tension between my creative impulses and my commitment to social justice and progressive activism. I’ve consistently looked to find ways in which to bring these seemingly disparate elements together and to further my appreciation of, and to make concrete, the role and contributions creative voices and my own creativity can make to society.

“In the words of James Baldwin, I am at this point in my artistic journey because I believe ‘… the role of the artist (activist) is exactly the same as the role of the lover. If I love you I have to make you conscious of the things you don’t see’.”

Influenced, encouraged and supported by friends, this activist/artist “rails against the crass individualism that has come to define so much of our politics over the last few decades and the concomitant loss of community of intent, purpose and inclusion. 

“My politics appreciates the need for commonality to be found and fostered in order to rally progressive causes. The piece I created serves to start a dialogue around a clear set of principles that a community of creative voices needs to articulate in order to chart a course to a more just and equal society.”

Working during the pandemic by using unconventional materials readily available at home, his art practice under lockdown resembled a cottage industry. His intent was also to attempt to avoid an idealised, romanticised picture of scarcity and of individual, privileged domestic idyll. 

“My anxieties often manifest in visions of apocalyptic doom. This work is in response to a world that was already on fire prior to the pandemic and to which the pandemic has simply been fuel to fire.”

The use of plastic bags can be traced back to previous works in ceramics where the relative fragility of ceramics was highlighted through the use of various plastics to bind cracked and broken ceramic pieces.

 “I’m weary of using mediums in my work that on their own do not convey a sense of the moment we find ourselves in. In my mind, ubiquitous plastic bags stitched together, fragile and in a way impermanent (they disintegrate but do not decompose), are illustrative of the real world and the social conditions we live in that are a product of history and our intent in this moment.”

In these crazy and troubled times, Weyers is determined to make his voice heard. He believes his work has impact because it touches on the notion of the art of innovation both in the cultural sphere and in the broader society. “I believe my use of plastic bags as  the sole medium is innovative and that it is furthered because the plastic is enlisted to embroider.” Again it is a work that has to be seen, and the manifesto read slowly to let the message seep in, and then look at the work and the way it was made.

And for me, that is really what these two winning works capture – innovation in a time of lockdown, which was both challenging and seemingly a great source of inspiration and innovation.

Hot Conversations by Patrick Rulore, 2019’s winner and this forms part of his Stage 4 Moments series.

The Sasol New Signatures Art Competition exhibition, featuring the work of the 2021 winners and finalists is currently underway at the Pretoria Art Museum until 9 January 2022.  A total of 123 works in a multitude of mediums can be viewed – from traditional painting and drawing to mixed media works, sculpture, installation pieces and video.

The 5 Merit winners were:

Nico Athene (Cape Town)

Cultivating our Unbecoming:  with Gabrielle Youngleson and Johno Mellish (2021)

Diasec

Michèle Deeks (Pretoria)

Pandemic

Mixed media

Sibaninzi Dlatu (Umtata)

A story of resiliency

Fired clay (bisque)

Eugene Mthobisi Hlophe (Durban)

The new crazy normal

Photography

Monica Klopper (Pretoria)

Choice

Shed snake skin and epoxy

Each Merit Award winner received a R10 000 cash prize.

Alongside the exhibition, the 2019 winner, Patrick Rulore’s solo exhibition, Stage 4 moments is also on show. His exhibition captures typical moments in many South African households during load shedding. The series explores human connections against the backdrop of an ephemeral world of light and shadow.

Pretoria Art Museum
Corner Francis Baard and Wessels Street
Arcadia Park
Arcadia


Tel:  012 358 6750
Email:  artmuseum@tshwane.gov.za

Museum Hours
Tuesday to Sundays:  10am to 5pm.
Closed on Mondays and public holidays

Both exhibitions can also be viewed virtually on the Sasol New Signatures website.  This virtual 3D platform gives you high definition 360 degrees access to all the artworks from wherever you are.