After a two-year break, the most diverse arts festival in the country is returning to celebrate in-person arts and culture from 23 June- 3 July in it’s home town of Makhanda. Welcoming back artists and arts enthusiasts from across South Africa and beyond, this year’s programme boasts an eclectic array of performances that provoke, question, and reimagine our world. Here are some of the most intriguing shows on offer:
In this interdisciplinary project, Krastin reinvents performance as acts of service. It follows the journey of a group of queer ‘artists-come-garden-gnomes’ as they work their magic in the streets of Makhanda through a series of local community collaborations. These acts probe conventional understandings of heroism and masculinity by turning the Greek tale of the ’12 Labours of Hercules’ on its head. Krastin, a renowned local interdisciplinary artist and the 2021 Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Performance Art, documents these 12 offerings in an exhibition and will perform some of them live during an artist walkabout.
Passport Blessing Ceremony
National passports have become a pervasive part of our world. They have the power to include and exclude, to build identities as well as barriers. In an age of global migration, Singhalese choreographer Venuri Perera questions the often-discriminatory processes which certain passport holders are subjected to. Passport Blessing Ceremony is a satirical take on these ritual procedures that will take place through live performances at various public spaces in Makhanda.
We live an age of excessive consumption where little is sacred and saved from being turned into a product to be consumed. But the earth is running out of space to host the waste, leading to the decadence of some poisoning the homes of others. Pollution, waste, and litter plague (black) communities in South Africa which often neighbour dumpsites, undermining people’s physical and holistic health. Award-winning visual artist, Nyaniso Lindi, interrogates this phenomenon, shining a light on the need for greener municipalities in South Africa’s rural and townships areas. His exhibition will be open to the public for an hour on three days of the festival.
Hullo, Bu-Bye, Koko, Come In
Exploring what it means to be a black queer women and artist in South Africa, South African poet Koleka Putuma takes her words to the stage in a multimedia adaptation of her work. The performance mixes elements of poetry, sound, and projection mapping to reflect on the names, lives, memories, and histories of erasure faced by black women in society and the arts. Putuma’s show is set to be an incredibly layered and immersive experience that brings life to her already powerful and seething words.
Clara Delorme: Double Bill
There are few things as controversial and loaded as the naked body. The French performance artist and choreographer will showcase two pieces of work that are linked through real life happenings. In the first, L’albâtre (Alabaster), Delorme depicts a white body on a white background, to explore themes of immobility and silence. After Delorme was asked for permission to upload a video of this artwork onto a porn site, she created the second piece titled after the suggested upload: Clara Delorme Lift Her Leg to Make Her Vagina Lip Come Out. Through this, she reclaims her name and her body and subverts the objectification that was forced upon her. The two performances are shown back to back with an intermission.
How a Falling Star Lit Up the Purple Sky
Cowboys, ‘Indians’, gunfire, and arid landscapes are images deeply grained into popular culture. The Western is a cliché film genre that is broken down and interrogated in this production by American choreographer Jeremy Nedd and the Pantsula artists of Impilo Mapantsula. Tropes of the ‘hero’ and the ‘other’ battling it out in a vast and empty land are challenged and made strange. The performance instigates a paradigm shift so that the meaning behind these tropes of the western, (Wild) West, and the South are exposed and re-assessed. Described as a ‘dynamic visual poem’, the production uses the Western as a starting point for new myths and stories to enter the stage and our popular imagine.
Finding humour in the chaos is the fuel of great comedy, and the past few years have provided plenty. Award-winning comedian, Yaaseen Barnes, presents a comedy show packed with ideas, thoughts, and jokes of a busy mind in a mad world. Reflecting on the messy process of attention and how we are constantly bombarded with new information, Barnes is sure to make the audience laugh and reflect in equal proportions. With seven performances lined up for NAF, he thinks that the world is burning and that we may as well go down laughing.
A show that children and adults alike will love, Brendon Peel is back with more mind-bending illusions in his magic show. The internationally recognised performer and magician will toy with the limits of feasibility with his illusions, magic tricks, and psychological experiments. More than a man with a rabbit in his hat, Peel uses his astute intuition has a mentalist to trick the mind and distort perceptions. This mind-bending show might just have you believing in the impossible.
Race, class, and privilege are heavy topics that are sometimes best approached with a hint of humour. 2019 Standard Bank Ovation Award-winning stand-up comedian Nkosinathi Maki is back with a new stand-up show set in the suburbs. He invites the audience to tour of his new affluent neighbourhood in Cape Town and shows how he has aligned himself with his white neighbours. Sure to serve political commentary with steaming-hot hilarity, Maki’s show promises to be another one for the books.
Complete Works of William Shakespeare: Abridged a New Variant
Filled with wit and parody to boot, this is no classical Shakespearean theatre. The cast bring all of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets to life (yes, all of them), promising a ‘laugh a minute’. It is quick-paced, action-packed, and full of entertaining, chuckle-inducing prose. Who said Shakespeare is boring?
From heavy themes and reflections to light-hearted escapades, this is just a sliver of what NAF 2022 has to offer. Full of music, dance, comedy, theatre, poetry, and art, the programme has something to offer everyone. For more information about the shows and bookings you can head to the National Arts Festival website www.nationalartsfestival.co.za