We can take the artistic heat, says Government

GOVERNMENT will be criticised at the 41st National Arts Festival, but artists have been assured that the ruling party “can take the heat”.
Deputy minister of arts and culture Rejoice Mabudafhasi told the media launch of the festival in Grahamstown last night that constructive criticism was good, as long as it was “patriotic”. She said the festival made an important contribution to building social cohesion and unity.
Satire was one of the most prevalent themes of work proposed to the festival, said CEO Tony Lankester (subs: Lankester) and a decision was made to make this a festival focus.
The government yesterday dedicated the festival to the life and work of Nelson Mandela on this first day of Mandela month.
Lankester said the deal struck with Eskom to protect “City 2”, the area where most of the shows were concentrated, meant that people in “City 1” area would have to endure 12 days of darkness.
Despite a tempestuous relationship with some journalists, Eastern Cape sports, recreation arts and culture MEC Pemmy Majodina said journalists were the “eyes and ears” of the festival.
“You can never be taken you for granted,” she said.
She said Eastern Cape artists from street performers to actors on stage were benefiting from the festival.
Majodina announced that the translation into Xhosa of “The Long Road to Freedom”, would be launched at the festival.
Lankester said that, based on a comparison of last year’s 315 000 ticket sales, “we will have a strong year”.
The deputy-minister recommitted her government to a R15-million three-year funding commitment to the NAF (R5-million a year) which ends next year.
She said: “This festival attracts visionaries and pioneers who are on the forefront of the aspirations and hopes for a united country. The department is proud to support the National Arts Festival because of this. There is no way we can dump something that brings joy and grows people to be independent who go (move) out of poverty.”
Lankester said he could not guarantee no loadshedding or other mishaps, but “we have the best team available on the ground, from the festival team to Makana, and Eskom, who have a 24/7 hotline dedicated to the festival.”
“This is an exceptionally strong programme. There are 2 500 performances. If you try to see them all, we will have to carry you out. You have to cherry pick and build your own festival (show selections).”
The official opening was due to start last night with performance art, song, dance and speeches at the Guy Butler Theatre. ­ mikel@dispatch.co.za

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