The journ and drama departments at Rhodes used to share the same building, and I became curious about these oddities that shared the same verandah with us while we smoked our cigarettes there outside the Rhodes Theatre. They seemed to have a lot more fun. But hey! Had to pay the rent somehow, so into the maelstrom of hard news and all of its own drama I went, and before I realised what had happened I was running my own news agency. But thanks to those drama students (who threw great parties), I continued watching and writing about theatre to keep sane amidst the politics, crime and protests of daily news. The National Arts Festival became an annual pilgrimage to get buzzed by creativity. After having worked in various media capacities at festival, Mike Loewe and I in 2009 convinced arts fest CEO Tony Lankester he needed a reviewing blog and the Artsblog was created on the NAF site. That was fantastic but the need to not just be provided complete editorial independence, but to also be seen to have it, as well as the desire to have a platform to write on year-round, led to the closure of the Artsblog and the establishment of the Critter. You can blame the campus architecture
I live and work in the Eastern Cape. In the middle of nowhere. But I prefer it that way. The performing arts have been integral to my life since I stole the show as Widow Twankey in the standard 5 school play. I’ve done my time onstage and served plenty of time backstage too. I own a fancy Honours degree from Rhodes in theatre directing, dance culture and education, physical theatre performance and dramatic literature… so I know my stuff. Having studied and worked in the arts industry for 12 years, I now write about it as a way to be surrounded by characters without encountering too many actual people. I live for the intriguing and fantastical, love South Africa madly, prefer animals to humans and think arts can do more for personal and socio-political transformation than any other plan the bigwigs think up. When I’m not busy with something artsy, you can find me up a mountain, on the beach or in my skedonk Jeep seeking new adventures.
The National Arts Festival is one of few remaining truly free spaces for artistic creative freedom and that is why it is a fine starting point for myself. I am not an arts critic. I am more of an arts writer. I am interested in my intuitive response to work and thanks to 24 festivals, 22 in a row, I feel released enough to go with the flow. Did I get the narrative? Did it matter? Did it move me in an unexpected way? Did I learn something? A new fact, feeling, a piece of history or principle which moved others many years before me? I have come to seek out the new, the original, the unthinkable, but mainly to learn, find out about everything. I was shocked, nah, stunned by my first festival. The piece on the horrors of conscription did not call for an end to conscription (our thing back then), and the actor, Nicky Rebelo, was utterly disdainful of my complaint. It’s art. Long live!