French culture extravaganza

A vibrant street festival, a cook-off with international chefs, fascinating exhibitions and the pulsating sounds of bands from exotic locations are just a few of the highlights in a packed cultural programme that the Alliance Française of Port Elizabeth, and their partners, have in store this year.

The French Institute in South Africa (Ifas) in collaboration with the well-established Alliance Française network, which has a very active branch in the Bay, held a media event in Johannesburg last week to share their lineup.

The high point of the programme will be a national tour of Molière’s famous play, Tartuffe – with a chance the classic French masterpiece directed by the award-winning Sylvaine Strike might also make a turn in the Eastern Cape.

Molière, for those unfamiliar with France’s most famous playwright, is considered the William Shakespeare of that country; indeed the French language is often referred to as “the language of Molière”, explained Marion Claudel, Ifas’s deputy director.

Ifas, which falls under the French ministry, enjoys a close relationship with the Alliance Francaise, though branches of the Alliance also have certain events that are organised independently on a local level, Port Elizabeth director Charlotte Jarnet said this week.

“As the only European cultural centre in Port Elizabeth, the Alliance Française’s mission is … to promote the French culture and language as well as the cultural diversity present in the city by means of a combined talented extravaganza,” she said.

Following the Joburg event at Ifas’s headquarters in Braamfontein, Jarnet and her team, including cultural officer Hanna Rochetaing and newly-arrived communications officer Thomas Malet, singled out key events to come.

MARCH:

  • The Alliance in Mackay Street is opening an international photographic exhibition, Objectif Sport, next Saturday March 11 at noon. “It includes 44 images in different formats by Alliance Française photographers around the world and is the result of a competition held in support of Paris’s 2024 Olympic campaign,” Rochetaing said.
    Objectif Sport will run until the beginning of April.
  • Mali musicians the BKO Quintet, made up of five well-established artists from that country, will perform in the Bay on Sunday March 26 as part of Francophonie Month. “This is a worldwide event in March to celebrate the French language and culture,” Rochetaing said, adding the band would tour the Alliance’s Southern Africa network as part of the celebrations. The Bay venue, however, is still to be confirmed.
  • On Tuesday March 28 there will be a screening of the 2006 film classic, Paris, je t’aime. The Alliance is looking for an ideal venue for this and also for other screenings to be held during the course of the year. Paris, je t’aime is made up of 18 shorter films by directors from around the world.
    The monthly screenings are on the last Tuesday of the month, with the SS Mendi documentary having been shown this past week. Demain, on May 30, is one of the upcoming screenings not to be missed.
    “Famous French actress Mélanie Laurent and a small team travelled around the world to find solutions for many of our economic, educational and agricultural problems. The film is in two parts and is a message of hope for humankind,” Rochetaing said.

APRIL:

  • A 90-minute screening of Terra, an acclaimed documentary by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, to be followed by an environmental panel discussion, is on the cards for Friday April 21.
    “All the Alliances in the country will screen the film to mark Earth Day and this is one of several ‘green’ events we are planning,” Rochetaing said.
    Tying in with the green theme, the exhibition Hope Spots opens on Saturday April 22 and centres on ocean conservation.

MAY:

  • KOIF opens on Thursday May 18 and is all about what our hairstyles reveal about us. A project of arts organisations Lerka (Reunion Island) and Vaïka (Madagascar), it is billed as an “artistic and scientific exchange project about hairstyle in its historical, anthropological and aesthetic dimensions”. “Different contemporary artists share their take on the subject through painting, drawing, photography, video and installation art,” Rochetaing said.
    One of the artists, videographer Soleiman Badat, from Réunion, will also be in attendance.

JUNE:

  • September Jive, opening on Saturday June 3, is a double exhibition made up of SA Musical Graphics and My Favourite Sounds.
    The former reflects the history of South Africa through a collection of 150 “interesting, culturally significant and beautiful” album covers released from the 1950s to the present.
    My Favourite Sounds sees music and media personalities like Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Johnny Clegg and Brenda Sisane speaking about their favourite tracks and albums.
  • Saturday June 10 will see the staging of the Alliance Française of Port Elizabeth’s biggest event of the year. “The Fête de la Musique, or Alliance Française Street Music Festival, has become one of the most significant events on the calendar for Port Elizabeth,” Jarnet said.
    International acts to perform at the family-friendly event include Nobuntu, a female vocal group from Zimbabwe, and TGAF, an eclectic band of female DJs who are regulars on French radio.

JULY:

  • Photographer Karen Harvey has documented age-old professions such as the farrier and the blacksmith in France. These images along with others of Paris will be exhibited from Saturday July 29.

AUGUST:

  • An abstract painting exhibition by Bay artist Kathy Botha, who is working on several new pieces for this show, opens on Saturday August 26 and will run until the end of September.

SEPTEMBER:

  • The fourth edition of the Alliance Française of Port Elizabeth’s annual poetry festival will take place in September, with final dates yet to be confirmed.
    “Last year’s event was very successful – we had an open mic session, a writing workshop, a talk by Prof Bertie Olivier and several celebrity performers,” Jarnet said.

OCTOBER:

  • An exhibition featuring the work of four female artists will be held in October (date to be confirmed).
  • After its previous successes, So Chef! returns to Southern Africa for a fourth edition. Top French chefs will again take part in culinary activities and create gastronomic masterpieces, with demonstrations and workshops to be held around the country, including in Port Elizabeth. So Chef! falls within the Department of Basic Education’s National Nutrition Week.

The Alliance Française of Port Elizabeth is at 17 Mackay Street, Richmond Hill. Call (041) 585-7889 or e-mail: admin.pe@alliance.org.za. For more on Ifas see www.ifas.org.za

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