Ubu and the Truth Commission
Ubu and the Truth Commission

IF YOU take into account that there were three South African productions on at the Edinburgh International Festival (the main festival), that’s quite extraordinary.

Two of them, many South Africans have seen – Brett Bailey’s Exhibit B and the Handspring Puppet/William Kentridge collaboration with Dawid Minnaar and Busi Zokufa, Ubu and the Truth Commission – as well as the UK/South African co-production, Inala. That says a lot about our artists who comfortably and in many instances brilliantly play along on international stages.

That our presence was so strongly felt at this year’s festival, can be attributed to the SA/UK season which marked Edinburgh as one of their major destinations. With our Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) working closely with the British Council to promote institu- tional collaboration, there’s hope that this particular season will follow on the success of the France/SA 2012 and 2013 seasons which featured more than 1 000 South Africans in 250 events in 150 cities across France.

From the jazz festival, the book fair, the art festival, Assembly at the Edinburgh Festival (Race, Sunday Morning, Zulu and Silent Voice) as well as numerous choirs including the Soweto Afro-Pop Opera, the Tshwane Gospel Choir, the Soweto Melodic Voices and Township Voices, we seemed to be everywhere.

It was almost a case of the streets are alive with South African music. But that’s what you want at this kind of high-profile event. Not just a few appearances by a few select South Africans. Give them as many impactful artists as you can so that the impressions last.

When you read between the lines of the reviews of these choirs, it is when they honour their roots that the music has most impact, which makes sense. Why would you not? That’s where our choirs excel because the music is so different to what European choirs would produce. The youth choirs and their energetic presence is especially something that’s remarked on.

With this strong artistic presence from Sibande to Bailey, we do more to promote our country and its people because of this power of performance. And when people are urging you to see a South African production – which happened on a few occasions – it’s pure pleasure to say that these are artists from our country.

The one aspect that I missed, apart from the Zulu dancers that are still a part of the popular Edinburgh Military Tattoo until the end of the month, was the absence of our dancers. Witnessing the power of a New Zealand contemporary dance company whose roots especially brought such depth to their performance, this was the one avenue we could have explored more thoroughly.

Fortunately Dada Masilo, who is staging Carmen in Joburg next month, performed her delightful Swan Lake at Sadler Wells recently and there is still much to come from the recent SA/UK season.

Let’s hope our dancers are given the chance to blow their socks off – because they will. As did our artists with work that was different and very much from our continent.