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Celebrating Africa Day: 11 shows to see at #NAF16

Published on 25 May 2016

In celebration of Africa Day, National Arts Festival Artistic Director Ismail Mahomed shares 11 productions you should see at #NAF16

1. Drama for Life’s Afri-Queer directed by Warren Nebe with a team of performance artists from five countries, namely Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa. Afri-Queer is an evocative site-specific journey into the lives of men living on a continent that violently rejects the ‘other’; a dreamscape into a world that embraces queer in Africa. (Theatre)

2. Thambo Theatre Production’s site-specific adaptation of Mozambican writer Mia Cuoto’s novel Sleepwalkingland set in war-torn Mozambique at the end of the civil war when the tension between rival political parties was at its highest point. Sleepwalkingland is directed by Roel Twijnstra. (Theatre)

3. Sylvia Vollenhoven’s trilogy presentation The Keeper of the Kumm, which sees her work on the Festival’s Theatre, Film and Think!Fest programmes. The Keeper of the Kumm was shortlisted for the City Press inaugural non-fiction award. Vollenhoven is an awardwinning journalist, filmmaker and writer. (Theatre / Think!Fest / Film)

4. This year’s Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance Themba Mbuli’s Sold!, a reincarnation of four women whose skulls were part of the 20 skulls of Herero/Nama people that were repatriated to Namibia. The women embark on a journey to rediscover/uncover unnamed women in African History and in present times; interrogating the state of how women are perceived in Africa today. (Dance)

5. Standard Bank Young Artist Mohau Modisakeng’s exhibition Lefa Le Ntate, in which he uses his body to explore the influence of South Africa’s violent history on how we understand our cultural, political and social roles as human beings. Represented through film, large-scale photographic prints, installations and performance, Modisakeng’s work responds to the history of the black body within the (South) African context, which is inseparably intertwined with the violence of the apartheid era and South Africa in the early 1990s. (Visual Art)

6. With the current national debate about representation, Ruth Simbao’s lecture Decolonising the Arts is a must. Couple this talk with Brenda Schmahmann’s two-part series on monuments. The second part puts the spotlight on the 1820 Settlers’ Monument in Grahamstown. (Think!Fest)

7. Mike Bruton’s lecture Traditional Fishing Methods in Africa, an illustrated overview of an aspect of Africa’s cultural heritage that has largely been ignored. Mike has a lifelong interest in indigenous knowledge systems and a keen interest in the traditional fishing methods of the rural people of Zululand, Mozambique and Botswana. (Think!Fest)

8. Richard Haslop’s African Guitar Heroes with his focus that ranges from John Bhengu and Jean Bosco to Guy Buttery and Bombino, from D’Gary and Diamond Fingers to Derek Gripper, and from Barthélémy Attisso to Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, who are a few of this continent’s leading exponents. (Think!Fest). Also catch Guy Buttery perform with Samson Diamond’s Odeion String Quartet. (Music)

9. Kathy Tagg’s recital African Piano explores the sounds of the African continent by using every sound capability of a grand piano. The journey takes the audience through works for piano by African classical composers and those deeply influenced by the music of central Africa to arrangements of music as diverse as Zimbabwean mbira musica, Malian kora songs and original compositions. (Music)

10. UK-duo Hannabiell Sanders and Yilis del Carmen Suriel of Ladies of the Midnight Blue, an Afro-Latin percussion and brass duet who have performed all over the world for various festivals, charity benefits, peace rallies and protest marches. (Music)

11. Round off your selection with the high-energy rhythmic pulses and enchanting melodies of the Frank Pac Art Ensemble. Their music can be described as Nu-World Jazz – an amalgamation of jazz tones with its African roots from East to West. Frank Paco – a maestro on drums and percussion – started playing drums at a tender age in Mozambique and recalls making his own drums and guitars out of oil canisters as a child, as it was hard to find musical instruments in a Mozambique oppressed by a raging civil war. Despite the challenges he went on to achieve musical greatness, garnering numerous awards for his various collaborative projects and ensembles. (Jazz)

Mahomed says, “In making the above choices, I draw inspiration from a quote by Hannabiel: ‘The power to unite humanity and make peace rests with art forms that break stereotypes’.”