Africa takes to stage at National Arts Festival

Translations will make classic stories available to local audiences in their own language


Africa is to be showcased in many ways not yet experienced at the country’s premier annual National Arts Festival to be staged in Makhanda in just more than a month.
One of the evolving aspects of the event are the Afro-positive works that form part of this year’s programme.
Having over recent years being called into question around what was formerly a more “Eurocentrically-flavoured” festival programme, this year’s event will carry more localised and Afro-centric content – designed not only to entertain, but to educate and provoke thought.
This is according to Nobesuthu Rayi, who, at 32, is the youngest yet acting executive producer of the festival.
This is the second time Rayi has occupied a “hot seat” at the festival, thus bringing with her much on-the-ground experience to build on.
Rayi acknowledges that Makhanda is expected to live up to expectations of what is traditionally exceptionally cold weather during the festival period between June 27 and July 7.
“We are certainly expecting cold conditions, so people should come prepared.”
Continuing, a witty Rayi went on to utter words rarely expressed by any event organiser: “. . . And of course we are hoping it is going to be very wet weather, with lots of rain too.”
She was referring to Makhanda’s severe water crisis which has beset the historic university town for some time.“Having said that,” Rayi chuckled, “we can assure festival-goers that contingency plans have been put into place and we do not expect any disruptions as a result of the water issue.”Turning to the event’s programme, Rayi noted that it was rich in talent and that newcomers to the festival, as well as new, rising talent, would be given the opportunity to gain experience, exposure and the opportunity to grow.“One of the exciting aspects will be the opportunity audiences will receive to be able to enjoy performances of well-known and familiar works in their own languages.”Examples of these are The Gruffalo, Florence and Watson and the Sugarbird Mouse children’s shows which have been translated into isiXhosa as iGruffalo, uFlorence noWatson and noMpuku yoMoba.“These stories do not belong to any single group. Making them accessible to others by translating them into other languages benefits new audiences. The essences and messages these stories deliver are not changed, so it is not so much of a reinterpretation of these stories, but rather making them accessible to others,” Rayi said.Of the overall event, Rayi said: “Our audiences will be taken on a journey of different emotions, they will be challenged when they leave to think and debate, they will be entertained and they will have been communicated to by the artists and receive the messages they want to convey.”Afro-positive performances to keep an eye out for include:Ekasi Lam – An Ode to Kwaito, Un-owed to Kwaito, which is directed by Jefferson Bobs Tshabalala, presents the point of view that there is no genre closer to an accurate portrait of the township than kwaito.Amawethu , which is choreographed and directed by Luyanda Sidiya, tells a human story that seeks to rectify, or rather, reclaim who we are as a people from our culture and customs.Vuma - a Night Light Collective featuring Lungiswa Plaatjies, brings together isiXhosa songs, string and piano instrumentation – an integration of varied sonic spaces, performative techniques, indigenous instruments and forms.

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