Arts festival update

WORDS: Remy Raitt   PHOTOS: Sarah Schäfer


Besides a bit of a dip in the weather, things in Grahamstown are still hot, hot, hot. Festivalgoers are really powering through the cold, a bit bleary eyed from last night’s tipple at the late night eatery and bar The Long Table, but still happy to share their insights on the shows they’ve seen.

There was a mixed reaction to Steven Cohen’s ‘The Cradle of Humankind’, which was of course to be expected. The controversial artist took to the stage with his now 90-year-old co-performer Nomsa Dhlamini, and certainly drew a varied response from his crowd. Tackling the nature of our continent, with a special focus on Cohen’s and Dlamini’s unique relationship, the piece offered a powerful experience that certainly affected each person who was fortunate enough to see it. Watching the legendary South African artist perform in the theatre is something many South Africans may have doubted they would get to see again in their lives, and the experience and memory of it is something the culture vultures and art history majors in the crowd will treasure forever.

The Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance, Bailey Snyman, proved why he was selected for the award with his sublimely performed piece ‘Moffie’. Inspired by Andre Carl van der Merwe’s novel of the same name, the show is challenging and visually provocative, exploring and exposing the fears, anxieties and denial of gay people in the military. The dancers’ bodies mesmerise, the story line stirs, and the audience leaves in awe.

The same can be said for The Young Artist for Visual Art, Mikhael Subotsky’s exhibition ‘Retinal Shift’.  The photographs and video pieces on show gleam professionalism and speak of a photographic eye that anyone with a good camera could only wish for. The exhibition investigates the practice and mechanics of looking, from a technical sense to that of a more inquisitive nature. The audience, using their own eyes, takes their time to contemplate the expansive show, which not only comments on society but also tackles the medium itself.

Other notable shows we have seen include the dark comedy ‘Dogyard’, which focuses in on a therapist that specializes in taboo sexual practices. The main actor, Shaun Acker, was exceptional; he had the audience in stiches in one moment and cringing in the next as he helps his patients while revealing issues of his own. Another performance by a young cast, ‘Les Pigeons’ also tickled the funny bones of its audience, through a clever piece of theatre that centres on the secret life of pigeons as imagined by two institutionalized mental patients.

There is still a lot more to see until the Festival ends on Sunday. We’ll fill you in on what we catch on Monday, till then follow us on Twitter