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Creative excellence rewarded at National Arts Festival 2015

Published on 12 July 2015

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][FESTIVAL NEWS] Some of the most exciting productions on the Fringe programme at this year’s National Arts Festival, which ran from 2 to 12 July in Grahamstown, have been recognised for their creativity, experimentation and innovation with the awarding of Gold and Silver Standard Bank Ovation Awards.

A panel of judges selected three Gold Ovation Award winners this year: the exceptional jazz vocalist Asanda Mqiki, and two theatre productions: El Blanco: Tales of the Mariachi, an epic tale written by Gwydion Beynon and performed by James Cairns; and Greig Coetzee’s spectacular Johnny Boskak is Feeling Funny, directed by Roslyn Wood-Morris and performed by Craig Morris. Seven other productions were awarded Silver awards.

“The Standard Bank Fringe Ovation Awards have earned a reputation as a credible reward for productions that raise the bar on excellence,” Festival Artistic Director Ismail Mahomed said on Sunday.

During the 11 days of this year’s Festival, a total of 42 Ovation Awards were announced. “This is the highest number of awards since the inception of the Standard Bank Fringe Ovation Awards in 2010 – and is indicative of the high quality of productions on the Fringe,” Mahomed said.

The awards provide “a valuable incentive for artists on the Festival’s Fringe programme to strive for excellence, experiment with innovation and to challenge and shift the boundaries of creativity,” said Mahomed. “Audiences and visiting producers from other festivals enthusiastically look out for winning productions.”

After reviewing a show, a panel of experts – who remain anonymous until the end of the Festival – “robustly discuss” whether a show is deserving of a Standard Bank Ovation Award. Criteria considered include production values, the quality of performances, writing and direction, the conceptualisation, innovation and originality of a work, and the overall impact of the production.

“When a production is given an Award, it signals an optimism that the judges share about the potential that the production can enjoy growth and success beyond the Festival,” Mahomed said. “For artists, the stamp of approval opens doors to newer audiences, extended tours and, in some cases, even to funding.”

The awarding of Silver and Gold awards is at the discretion of the panel.

The winners of the Silver Ovation Awards are:

Standard Bank Ovation Encore Awards, which recognise merit and potential in works that can be developed, were presented to If The World Was Listening, a contemporary dance piece from KZN Dance Productions; acoustic-soul group Blaqseed; and Mongiwekhaya Mthombeni’s Qhawe, which uses puppets to tell the story of a lost child who finds his way home.

Judges noted that this year is the first time a stand-up comedy act had not received a Silver or Gold Ovation Award. They said South African comedians should perhaps push themselves out of their comfort zones to present fresher, edgier and more boundary-breaking work.

The 2015 Standard Bank Standing Ovation Award was presented to the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in recognition of their support of the artistic exchange between South African and Dutch artists for the past 20 years.

“The Embassy has supported various genres at the Festival across the Main, Fringe, Arena, Student Theatre and Development initiatives,” Mahomed said. “They have supported more than 300 Dutch artists in over 50 Dutch productions that have been presented at the Festival in the past two decades. The award is presented to the Embassy in acknowledgement of their contributions and also in recognition of the solidarity that Dutch artists gave to the anti-apartheid movement.”

“The last 11 days have been a showcase of the best artistic talent that this country has to offer and we are delighted to support the Ovation Awards in acknowledging the artists who contributed to the National Arts Festival this year. We hope that this award will inspire winners to strive for excellence and soar to greater heights,” said Jenny Pheiffer, Head of Brand and Group Sponsorships Standard Bank.

The winner of the Adelaide Tambo Award for Celebrating Human Rights Through the Arts was also announced on Sunday. This award aims to recognise artists who engage in the arts as a platform to advocate social change and entrench a culture of human rights. Irene Stephanou’s Searching for Somebody was selected as the receipient in the Fringe category, while the Market Theatre Laboratory’s Noord! was recognised in the Student Theatre category.

Stephanou was “a fearless voice at the Festival during State of Emergency in 1980s South Africa”, the judges said. Her one-person satires and solo plays commented humorously on South African social life. Stephanou is also well known for her contributions to arts education, documenting South African theatre history, and her activism for social justice.

Stephanou returned to the Festival this year with Searching for Somebody, the story of life with multiple sclerosis, reclaimining her space as a bold social commentator in a year when the Festival celebrates the genre of satire as its Featured Artist. George Bizos described her as a woman who “even Aristophanes would be proud of”.

Serving as custodians and advisers for the Adelaide Tambo Award this year were Albie Sachs, Elinor Sisulu and Mandie van der Spuy.

The AHa Award was presented to Lexi Meier’s Sipping Lapping Slap. The judges commended this dance piece for its “surprisingly cutting-edge approaches that challenged audiences to reflect on the work”.

The PANSA New Writer’s Award, which aims to to stimulate new writing on the Fringe, was given to writer and performer Jannes Erasmus for Smaarties.

The work by a new generation of theatre professionals was honoured by the Student Theatre Awards. A panel of advisors comprising Jaqueline Dommisse, Peter Terry, Warona Seane and Gez Casey of Live Theatre : UK adjudicated the 17 student productions presented at the National Arts Festival this year.

The winners of the 2015 Student Awards are:

  • Most Promising Director: Mariska Denysschen for Medea (Tshwane University of Technology)
  • Most Promising Writers: Katya Mendelson, Ameera Conrad, Thando Mangcu for Don’t Shoot the Harbinger (University of Cape Town)
  • Overall Best Production: Void (Rhodes University)

Special Merit Certificates were given to Garth Tavares for his direction of Edges (Waterfront Theatre College), and to Frankie van Straten for her design of Void (Rhodes University).

The National Arts Festival’s Short Sharp Stories aims to encourage, support, and showcase established and emerging South African writing talent. Curated by Joanne Hichens, the winning stories – chosen by a panel of independent judges – have been published in an anthology, The Incredible Journey (Burnet Media). This year’s winner is Andrew Salomon for his story, “Train 124”.

The Standard Bank Ovation Award Panel: Christina Kennedy, Adrienne Sichel, Jaqueline Dommisse, Warona Seane, Lynette Marais, Tracey Saunders, Steven Kretzman, Phyllis Klotz, Smal Ndaba, Harry Owen, Mishka Hoosen, Rudi Sadler, Sheena Stannard, Julian Caddy, Anneke Jansen, Ismail Mahomed. For music and comedy: Tony Lankester, Michelle Constant and Gareth Wilson.

For Adelaide Tambo Human Rights Award for Celebrating Human Rights through the Arts (Fringe category): Ismail Mahomed, Adrienne Sichel and Christina Kennedy.

For Student Theatre Festival, including the Adelaide Tambo Award for Celebrating Human Rights through the Arts (Student Theatre category): Jaqueline Domisse, Peter Terry, Warona Seane and Gez Casey (Live Theatre : UK)

Custodians and advisers for the Adelaide Tambo Human Rights Awards: Albie Sachs, Elinor Sisulu and Mandie van der Spuy.

PANSA Award for Scriptwriting: PANSA representatives Kurt Egelhof and Michael Britten as well as members of the Ovations panel.


See the full list online


  • Woza Albert!
  • The Girls
  • Ashes
  • Tin Bucket Drum
  • Have you seen Zandile?
  • El Blanco: Tales of the Mariachi [Gold]
  • A Man And A Dog [Silver]
  • Searching for Somebody [Adelaide Tambo Award: Fringe]
  • In The Wings
  • Morwa The Rising Son [Silver]
  • Kafka’s Ape [Silver]
  • Johnny Boskak is Feeling Funny [Gold]
  • Making Mandela

Physical Theatre

  • Waterline
  • The System
  • Barbe Bleu: A Story About Madness
  • Father, Father, Father! [Silver]
  • Inqindi
  • Waltz
  • Detritus for One
  • Qhawe [Silver]
  • Unmute


  • Sipping Lapping Slap [AHa Award]
  • Mixed Motion
  • Blue
  •  Barbed Wire Wallpaper [Silver]
  • …If the World Was Listening [Silver]

Contemporary Music

  • Kahn
  • Hatchetman [Silver]
  • Max-Hoba
  • Umle
  • Asanda Mqiki [Gold]
  • Ottoman Slap : An Itinerant Tale Through Music and Dance


  • The Old And The Beautiful


  • Mo Mothebe (from Stand-up 4 Comedy)
  • B!*ch Stole my Doek
  • Stuart Taylor BeSpoke
  • Raiders: The Musical


  • We Didn’t Come to Hell for the Croissants : 7 Deadly New Stories [Silver]
  • 1606


  • Stuart Lightbody: Devilish

Family Fare

  • The Incredible Journey

SPONSORS: The National Arts Festival is grateful to its presenting sponsors: the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, Standard Bank, the Department of Arts and Culture, and the Eastern Cape Department of Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture. City Press and M-Net are our media partners.

ABOUT THE NATIONAL ARTS FESTIVAL: The National Arts Festival, now in its 41st year, has grown to be one of the leading arts festivals in Africa. Its objectives are to deliver excellence; encourage innovation and development in the arts by providing a platform for both established and emerging South African artists; to create opportunities for collaboration with international artists; and to build new audiences.


Gilly Hemphill
The Famous Idea Trading Co
+27 11 782 0085
+27 82 820 8584


Twitter: @artsfestival

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