Revolution in the streets finds its way onto our stages

YOUTHFUL “revolutionary” energy on South African streets which is being driven by the “brutality of poverty”, found it’s way onto the hundreds of performances at the National Arts Festival.

This was the message given at the final awards and closing ceremony up in the Monument above Grahamstown on Sunday morning by a range of speakers, among them festival leaders, festival arts committee members and arts critics.

After judging 232 shows which premiered on the Fringe, Ovations committee head and arts critic Tracey Saunders said they found that a new generation of young black women performers had emerged and were criticising the brutality of life in SA.

Saunders said the work showed that the country was at a “tipping point” with the mood of “revolution” brewing in the streets finding many powerful expressions on festival stages this year.This was despite a shortage of funds and resources facing theatre-makers.

The leader of the team which judged student productions, Jaqueline Dommisse, said that in the same way that the youth of 1976 had grown “tired of waiting for the grown-ups to sort things out and took to the streets, youths in 2015 had again “realised that adults entrusted with leading us, are messing things up and again they took to the streets”.

She and a panel of student advisors had watched 15 student works from SA tertiary institutions.

“We had the privilege of witnessing how seriously young people are taking their political role and the mantle of the new voices of SA theatre. We can be proud and grateful for their vision.”

She said the “theme or zeitgeist which emerged this year was the woman’s voice.

Students had explored dance, musical, physical, and visual theatre, puppetry, masks and made references to ancient Greece, Shakespeare, Satre and Arthur Miller,

National Arts Festival board of directors member and former Constitutional court judge Albie Sachs commented: “The energy on the streets is flooding onto the stage and is producing well-crafted works with immense vitality. Everybody has said this was one of the best festivals yet, because of the energy of these new voices and thoughts. This was the place to be, to talk and listen.”

Festival CEO Tony Lanekster said: “This has been a really, really difficult festival but we cracked it thanks to the deep levels of passion, expecially from the festival committee.”

He announced that the NAF’s third annual Cape Town Fringe festival, which starts on September 22 would be extended and the 43 shows would run mostly in the evenings.

He announced a new partnership with the V&A Waterfront would see the launch of a Cape Town Buskers Festival for 30 street performer shows, including international street artists. This would happen during the Cape Town Fringe.

Outgoing artistic director Ismail Mahomed thanked the National Arts Festival for its committed team and for a board which never once in eight years “censored me”.

Wits Universities Drama for Life project won the Adelaide Tambo Human Rights Award for being a global leader in arts for social transformation and healing through its production Afri-Queen which brought African artists together to make work “which gives a voice that humanises and gives dignity to those who continue to be oppressed”.

Drama for Life director Warren Nebe said on receiving the award: “It is time for us, in our own country, to find our voices so that we can forge a way for artists to move forward.”

The winner of the best new work at festival, which tookgold, was Sillage, by the Rust Co-Operative.

Shows which came second with silver awards were Ityala Lamawele (Artscape), Sacre for One (Alan Parker), The Graveyard (Rust Co-Operative), and Die Glas Ennie Draad (Artscape).


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