If you’ve never discussed the meaning of freedom of expression, brewed wild Rooibos tea in the open fire with Karoo bred cherry lipped brunettes to the music of John Coltrane, then you haven’t lived. The National Arts Festival - the annual 10 day arts and culture jambalaya takes places from 2 - 12 July in Grahamstown.
The DSG Hall and its surrounds will be draped in blue and white banners and awash with jazz thirsty fans scurrying, bobbing and bumping in search of new tunes. This is the site of the Standard Bank National Jazz Festival. The virtuoso guitarist and composer Lionel Loueke from Benin by way of the USA, will be there alongside former Standard Bank Young Artist Award winners like Concord Nkabinde, Shane Cooper and others. This corner of the festival probably also has the highest number of people per capita whistling at any given time. It’s here where jazz pianist, Nduduzo Makhathini will showcase his new music since being awarded the Young Artist of The Year Award.
Makhathini’s opening gig will only be an hour ahead of another Standard Bank Young Artists of the Year, Athi-Patra Ruga’s performance of his new work at The Thomas Pringle Hall, Monument. Together they’ll be a day ahead of Musa Ngqungwana, their fellow award winner who will sing at the Rhodes Chapel, the gig is almost a home coming for the Port Elizabeth born baritone opera singer. He is now based in the United States.
The festival brings together thousands of art lovers and creatives from across the country for what has been called 11 days of Amazing! This means dance and theatre enthusiasts too are set to travel down to the Eastern Cape to witness the work of star dancers and choreographers like Luyanda Sidiya whose Siva (Seven), created with the Vuyani Dance Theatre marks his reign onthe national stage as Young Artist of The Year too. Like Christiaan Olwagen, whose adaptation of A Doll’s House will hit the boards at Rhodes Theatre first on the evening of Friday the 18th. This is only the tip of the ice berg.
There’s more magic promised elsewhere. Like on the street corners where enterprising boys and girls from the surrounding townships with chalk painted faces and grown up’s clothes ply impromptu street performances for a buck or two. During the national Arts festival, everyone is on stage. It’s an energy you have to experience to understand. Hope to see you when you get there!