Edinburgh gives SA artists exciting ‘shop window’

Business Day Live | Christina Kennedy:



Grammy-winning traditional music sensations Ladysmith Black Mambazo, provocative artist Brett Bailey and the internationally decorated Handspring Puppet Company will take pride of place at the 2014 Edinburgh International Festival, as part of the SA-UK Seasons of arts and culture.

Two of Handspring’s puppets with Jude Sandy and Prentice Onayemi during a performance of WarHorse. Photo by Paul Kolnik

The SA-UK Seasons in 2014 and 2015 are the sequel to the highly successful SA-France Seasons that took place in 2012 and 2013, showcasing the creative capacity of the participating countries in a series of performances, activities, collaborations and events.

The aim, as Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile pointed out at the launch of the SA-UK Seasons in Johannesburg on Tuesday, is to create sustainable job opportunities and to foster goodwill, mutual understanding and “people-to-people” relations between nations.

This bilateral initiative, supported by the Department of Arts and Culture and the British Council in South Africa, comprises collaborative projects, a South African Season in the UK, and the British Council’s Connect ZA project in South Africa, as well as independently funded projects.

The cherry on the cake is that to commemorate its 20 years of democracy, South Africa will present a season of work in August in Edinburgh, at the world’s most prestigious arts festival — and will also have a strong cultural presence at July’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Cape Town’s celebrated Handspring Puppet Company — which won Tony and Olivier awards for its puppetry design for the National Theatre’s War Horse production — will present Jane Taylor’s multimedia work, Ubu and the Truth Commission, directed by William Kentridge and starring Dawid Minnaar and Busi Zokufa.

The festival will also see the world premiere of Inala. This potent cross-cultural collaboration will feature the isicathamiya vocal harmonies of Ladysmith Black Mambazo (who will also perform a separate, one-off concert), as well as dancers from the Royal Ballet and Rambert (including South African-born dancers Dane Hurst and Mbulelo Ndabeni).

Exhibit B, created by Bailey and his Third World Bunfight company, is a moving site-specific “performance exhibition” featuring live installations: black performers explore racism and colonialism by drawing on the “human zoos” and ethnographic displays of old.

At Tuesday’s launch, Edinburgh International Festival director Sir Jonathan Mills said that the eight festivals across Edinburgh in August would provide a vital “shop window” opportunity for South African artists, exposing them to about 2,000 media and 5,000 international producers and promoters.

South African artists will also take part in the Edinburgh Art Festival (Thembinkosi Goniwe’s exhibition with works by Kay Hassan, Kemang Wa Lehulere and Mary Sibande), the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival, the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the Edinburgh International Film Festival. And this year, South African gumboot dancers will take centre stage at the world-famous Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

Mandela Day will be celebrated in Glasgow and the multidisciplinary Afrovibes festival will tour various UK cities, with more partnerships on the cards with other venues and arts festivals.

Highlights of the British programme in South Africa include the Royal Court New Writing Programme, the Young Creative Entrepreneur Awards, developing designers through the Maker Library Network, collaborative arts projects in public spaces, bringing Alfred Hitchcock’s early silent films to life in Durban with a live score, and hosting open-air screenings by young British filmmakers on the city’s beaches.


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