Geschrieben am 7. September 2011 von für Kolumnen und Themen, Litmag

Mzansi moments – What’s up in Jo’burg?

Südafrika ist ein spannendes Land,  mit einer lebendigen Kunst- und Kulturszene. Deshalb freuen wir uns über unsere neue Südafrika-Korrespondentin Sandra Baker, die uns von nun an auf dem Laufenden halten wird. Diesmal berichtet sie von zwei interessanten Festivals, die im September stattgefunden haben (Jo’burg at 125), bzw. gerade gestartet sind (The Arts Alive festival). Also: Nichts wie hin zum Flughafen und ab nach Jo’burg.

Cultural and literary events in South Africa

–Hi Folks, for those of you who will be in South Africa, in September and in particular in Johannesburg (also known as Jo’burg, Jozi or Egoli), here are some of the highlights.

This month sees not one but two festivals. The first is the Arts Alive Festival in Johannesburg and the second is the Mail and Guardian’s, nicely timed literary festival called Five quarters: Jo’burg at 125.

The Arts Alive festival is an annual festival which began in 1993 and takes place every spring when the Jacarandas blossom. This year it runs from 1 to 25 September. It is a project of the City of Johannesburg that aims to provide free or low priced cultural events for the people of Johannesburg. Over 65000 people attended last year’s festival of music, dance, theatre, poetry/spoken word, visual art, comedy, film, and exhibitions and workshops. For more information see here.

The main focus of the Jo’burg Arts Alive International Festival takes place at the cultural hub of the Newtown Precinct with various other events happening in other parts of Johannesburg. The Newtown precinct is a product of a confluence of forces from past, present and diverse social and ethnic groupings. It is an area rich in history, and is currently re-inventing itself to become a safe, cultural haven from the harsh streets of Jo’burg where one can experience theatre, dance, music, art, photography, crafts and dining and drinking. It is most well known for the Market Theatre (more on this below), its famous pub, “Kippies” currently being refurbished and named after Kippies Moeketsi (Moeketsi toured with some of the best jazz bands in the country: the Shantytown Sextet, the Harlem Swingsters, the Jazz Epistles and the Jazz Dazzlers. He also played with some of South Africa’s great musicians: Jonas Gwangwa, Abdullah Ibrahim, Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela) and interestingly named restaurants such as “Gramadoelas” which means “in the back of beyond”, and which has served the likes of Nelson Mandela and the Queen of England as well as everyday folk. The restaurant serves traditional South African food. Other Newtown cultural places are MuseuMAfrica, Sci-Bono Discovery Centre, Bassline, Dance Factory and SAB World of Beer. For more information see here.

Also to be seen at Newtown is “Refuse the Hour, a live events-performance created by renowned artist William Kentridge, running from 6 to 18 September. It is a dialogue about man and his relation to time portrayed through a combination of assorted artistic events. Kentridge links heart beats to a man portrayed as a walking, breathing clock. The individual performance, “Dancing With Dada(16-18 September) showcases machines that display human characteristics, such as concertina-like lungs, and a spinning wheel acting as a flapping arm pushing a violin bow backwards and forwards. In this collaboration with dancer Dada Masilo and composer Philip Miller, Jo’burg audiences will see a prelude to the final show that will take place at DOCUMENTA 13 in Kassel in 2012. For further information see here.

Jo’burg at 125

The Mail and Guardian newspaper’s literary festival titled five quarters: Jo’burg at 125 is taking place at the Market Theatre in Newtown, itself, having an interesting history. The Market Theatre was founded by writer/director Barney Simon and producer/administrator Mannie Manim, both of whom wanted non-racial theatre. In 1974 they found the right place, the former “Indian” fruit market built in 1913 to present plays and to breakdown the racial segregation imposed by apartheid where theatres in “white” areas could play to whites only, both the performers and the audience had to be white.

Although the Market Theatre hosted international playwrights, it supported local playwrights, performers, and local plays. It soon had an international reputation including twenty-one international theatre awards and over three hundred South African theatre awards as merit for its artistic and courageous quality of work. Athol Fugard’s “A Lesson from Aloes”, “Master Harold … and the Boys”, “The Road to Mecca”, “A Place with the Pigs”, “My Children! My Africa!” and “Playland” played there, as did Barney Simon’s “Cincinnati – Scenes from City Life”, “Call Me Woman”, “Black Dog Inj Mayama”, “Outers”, “Born in the RSA”, and “Woza Albert!” Theatre-goers were also introduced to the likes of Pieter-Dirk Uys, Zakes Mda, Paul Slabolepsy, Mbongeni Ngema and Gibson Kente to name a few. In the 80’s and early 90’s the Market Theatre, including Kippies, which is on its doorstep, was a place where all races could enjoy the heady mix of freely interacting and crossing the racial-divide, whilst enjoying the cultural and intellectual stimulation of good quality theatre.

The literary festival’s theme is the celebration of the 125th year of the founding of Johannesburg, when gold was discovered at Langlaagte farm by George Harrison, an Australian prospector in 1886, of course gold had been found before in South Africa, but that is another story for another time.

The aim of the Mail and Guardian’s literary festival, is to consider Jo’burg as a city in the world as well as to look at the diversity within the city, in other words, to look at the “worlds” within Jo’burg as depicted in writing, be it prose or poetry, non-fiction or fiction across a range of genres from thriller to sci-fi and speculative fiction.

Speakers and participants at the festival include authors, poets, critics and others such as Cynthia Jele, author of “Happiness Is a Four-Letter Word (Kwela), which won the 2011 Commonwealth Writers‘ Prize Best First Book, Africa region; author of this year’s Alan Paton Award-winning memoir, “The Unlikely Secret Agent (Jacana), former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils; winner of the Arthur C Clarke science fiction’s premier award, speculative fiction author Lauren Beukes, withZoo City” (Jacana); Caine Prize-winner Henrietta Rose-Innes; poets and scholars Antjie Krog, Denis Hirson, Leon de Kock and Ingrid de Kok; commentariats Moeletsi Mbeki, Achille Mbembe, Sandile Memela and Andile Mngxitama; memoirists Hugh Lewin, Chris van Wyk, Ufrieda Ho and Mbulelo Mzamane. For further information see here.

A poetry session By Ingrid de Kok is also included in the festival. The poem below, “Today I do not love my country, is taken from De Kok’s new collection, “Other Signs (Kwela Books and Snailpress).  This poem was written in response to the Xenophobic attacks in South Africa in May 2008 when 62 people were killed.

Today I do not love my country
South Africa, May 2008

Today I do not love my country.
It is venal, it is cruel.
Lies are open sewers in the street.
Threats scarify the walls.

Tomorrow I may defend my land
when others X-ray the evidence:
feral shadows, short sharp knives.
I may argue our grievous inheritance.

On Wednesday I may let the winded stars
fall into my lap, breathe air’s golden ghee,
smell the sea’s salt cellar, run my fingers
along the downy arm of the morning.

I may on Thursday read of a hurt child
given refuge and tended by neighbours,
sing with others the famous forgiving man
who has forgotten who were enemies, who friends.
But today, today, I cannot love my country.

It staggers in the dark, lurches in a ditch.
A curdled mob drives people into pens,
brands them like cattle,
only holds a stranger’s hand
to press it into fire,
strings firecrackers through a child,
burns stores and shacks, burns.

Till the next time, cheers and Tschüss

Sandra Baker

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