Global fest feast of musos, artists, dancers and thinkers

Abel Selaocoe

The Grahamstown National Arts Festival will draw artists, dancers and musicians from around the world to its stages from June 29 to July 9.

The festival in Grahamstown has also become a homecoming pilgrimage for many South African artists living and working abroad.

Cellist Abel Selaocoe, the 2017 Standard Bank Young Artist for Music, returns from the UK to present an excitingly diverse recital and to perform as a soloist at the Festival Gala Concert on July 8.

Soweto-born dancer and choreographer Vincent Mantsoe, known for his work around spirituality and indigenous heritage, returns from his home in France to perform Konkoriti.

UK comedian Stephen K Amos is including Grahamstown in his World Famous tour with two unmissable shows.

It’s Only Birds is another sure-fire festival hit. Comic Louise Reay, fresh from the Adelaide Fringe (Best Emerging Artist 2017) and Edinburgh Fringe (Groundbreaker Award 2016), performs the play in Mandarin.

Her challenge to her audience is that they will still understand the play through non-verbal communication, with astonishing results.

A one-woman show from the UK, The Crows Plucked Your Sinews, is performed by Subaan actress Aisha Mohammed, with the accompaniment of Oud musician Abdulkader Saadoun.

In partnership with Business and Arts South Africa and the World Fringe Alliance, Macho Macho will be presented as part of the Arena programme, a collection of works that have won a Standard Bank Ovation Award, a Cape Town Fringe Fresh Award or a jury award at an international fringe festival.

Macho Macho explores ideas of masculinity – from bromance to beer drinking – through intensely physical and vibrant stagecraft.

With sell-out runs at London’s Soho Theatre and at the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Police Cops is a slightly different spoof on masculinity – and cop movies – and has claimed a string of awards.

Performance art lovers are in for a treat with a double bill by Swiss choreographer Philippe Saire. Neons tells of the intensity of a relationship through contrasts in light and Vacuum is an interplay of black holes and dazzling lights.

International guests on the Think!Fest programme include Galen Bresson (CEO of Creative Industries and National Events Agency in the Seychelles), Natalie Kombe (Shoko Festival coordinator in Zimbabwe) and Jiggs Thorne (director of the Bushfire Festival in Swaziland).

Professor Emmanuel Dandaura, vice-president of the International Association of Theatre Critics (IATC), will launch a local chapter of IATC and, along with dancer/choreographer Hannah Ma, from Germany, all of these international guests will participate in an International Arts Symposium open to artists at NELM on July 6.

The Standard Bank Jazz Festival will also present an array of international artists. And, in a festival first, audiences can attend screenings of two UK National Theatre productions: Twelfth Night and Amadeus.

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