THERE was water in the Critter house’s taps in central Grahamstown this morning.
And there wasn’t. A bit of a widdle but it’s all coming back as promised by Makana Municipality’s earnest mayor Nomhle Gaga at yesterday’s media launch opener.
She promised a show of engineering like no other to get water through the system, and, with the eyes of a election obsessed government on her at the dawn of an amazing, 66% government-funded arts extravaganza, she will no doubt be under a lot of pressure to get the pressure up, so to speak.
On to the media launch at City Hall yesterday – thankfully almost an hour late as per tradition which was about the time spent enjoying the Amatole mountainscape at the stop-go roadworks just beyond Coombs.
So we are back, they kept saying, the gargantuan 42nd 11-day National Arts Festival, with its 600 shows at 60 venues.
It will be amazing, said the panel of government leaders in the wooden city council chambers.
Pemmy “DJ” Majodina, as the provincial sport, recreation, arts and culture MEC was dubbed by her arts and culture deputy minister, Rejoice Mabudafhasi, said more money and effort was going into building the Fingo Festival and bringing shows closer to the township.
But she had strong words for the 10-year-old township accommodation project, Makana iKwam, saying it was time to bring in a new cohort of entrepreneurs who would keep their businesses going throughout the year, and not just during the festival.
She said the festival had launched the talents of many famous Eastern Cape artists.
Festival CEO Tony Lankester said ticket sales were strong but said the festival had taken a view against having to grow year-on-year.
“We don’t want to focus on the tens of thousands who will be coming. We want to change one person’s outlook. It is intimate and personal.We are focusing on the one. And over and over again.”
Mayor Nomhle Gaga said the James Kleynhans pumps had been dried out and baked in East London and were driven back and put back in place and aligned yesterday.
She claimed only the townships were affected by outages, which beggared belief since everyone in Grahamstown knows that was not true.
But said valves in water pipe system were being opened but sometimes closed to allow the system to balance and settle.
Engineers were working “24/7 with us”.
Deputy minister Mabudafhasi said the festival was both an Eastern Cape and an international phenomenon.
“In terms of diversity and scale, is the only one of its kind.”
She spoke glowingly about how festival fitted in with government-supported events, commemorations and policies of youth month, the NDP, other festivals, the Mzanzi golden economy, the women’s march, and 250 community arts centre.
You had to feel for the minister as she read her speech inexorably approaching her Ron Bergundy moment, not missing a beat as she said SA was celebrating “100 years of Rhodes University”. Just in case you think it’s true, it’s not. It’s 100 for Fort Hare University, okey doke?
Won’t lie but had a chuckle at how DJ Pemz’s eyes suddenly widened and Lankester’s slitted for a split second.
Ah, you gotta love politics.
The government leaders and Lankester reaffirmed the contribution of the festival to the provincial GDP of R340-million of which R90-million was earned by Grahamstown and the Makana local government.
Lankester said 150 extra police were brought in and safety was a priority “but don’t do silly things, like walk alone at night, leave a handbag in a car or hanging over a chair. You are in a wonderland but be realistic.”
SRAC head of department Mzolisi Matutu said the value of the festival to the people of the province was growing “in leaps and bounds”.
Majodina said that althought he festival had excellent tangible benefits for Makana, her department was pushing to move it more “towards the township” bit by bit, starting with an increase in the funding of the Fingo Festival.
“Come 2017 we will have more programmes. We are testing the waters now.”
Lankester said not one tavern owner had to come forward and offer to become a festival venue. He urged them to step foward. The answer would be a “resounding yes”, he said.
He called the new 2016-18 R17-million funding agreement with the Arts and Culture Department a “renewal of our vows” and recognition of the R30-million-a-year festival as a “national flagship project”.
He said the the National Lotteries’ R10-million contribution to the Fringe was a vote of confidence in the festival’s ability to offer a “massive open-access, unmediated platform, a democratic voice where people get to have their say. It is unique globally.”
He said 80% of the festival involved women as performers, directors or in show themes.
He called the 48-hour water outage “a dry run. It felt good to get a call at 10am on a Sunday from officials who were already on the way to fix the problem. We have sold lots of tickets. It will be a fantastic year, he said.
Twenty nine countries are represented at the festival.
Let’s doen it!