My Body My Space Public Arts Festival. Picture: Christo Dohe

Art meets tourism at the Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative’s 2018 My Body My Space public arts festival.

This will be The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative’s (FATC) fourth My Body My Space Public Arts Festival, which has grown in popularity since its inception in 2015.

My Body My Space (MBMS) 2018, funded by the Department of Arts and Culture, is a festival of public performances, installations, happenings and exhibitions curated by FATC and takes place in public spaces throughout the Emakhazeni Local Municipality (ELM), in rural Mpumalanga.

This year, MBMS aims to bring the countryside alive with dancing, art and music, from March 20 to 25 March.

Speaking to PJ Sabbagha, the brains behind the festival and the FATC, he said the FATC, when formed in 1995, was part of his desire to carry on with his creative work and give university students, where he was a lecturer at the time, a semi-professional space to work in.

In its 23 years of existence, Sabbagha said their greatest success is what’s happening now.

“We want to give people access to the arts, to arts education, to form collaborations between community-based artists, professional artists, and form bridges linking to formal arts training. Having the centre there helps us achieve this in a better way,” he added.

My Body My Space Public Arts Festival. Picture: Christo Dohe

Sabbagha added that a key point to FATC’s success is forming collaborations with other dance practitioners in order to save the arts.

“This is part of the agenda we have been driving for many years. We have developed strategy documents and dialogues. A few years ago when we’re still based in Joburg, we had weekly meetings of the dance organisations, dancers to lobby government, and the National Arts Council etc.

“That’s why we’re called a collaborative, and not a company. Although we are a company, our strength is collaboration and partnerships, “ he said.

The My Body My Space festival is an example of how these partnerships and collaborations can push the agendas of growing the arts beyond our metropol.

Sabbagha said the key is understanding the process of dialogue, of negotiations, and the landscape where the product is unfolding. Only then would breathing life into ideas such as these would yield specific successes.

Sabbagha said the point for him, when they sit as a collective to curate the festival’s programme, is to provide access - crossing boundaries and breaking borders.

My Body My Space Public Arts Festival. Picture: Christo Doherty

“Because theatre is a part of our colonial legacy, we’ll only be fine with it if we can access it. Where the theatre is placed, also makes it inaccessible. And where the theatre industry is positioned, it’s not accessible to the rest of the population. It’s elitist.

“So the first objective of the festival is to tackle and disrupt that notion. Every curatorial choice, must be a disruption. Whether the disruption is as simple as providing access to a child who’s never experienced the arts, or the actual ideas of the productions, this is a disruption.

“This is a theme that flows throughout the programme,” he said.

“The festival is about crossing the socio-economic and political boundaries. We live in a country that has been sculpted in this way. The spatial planning has also been used to enforce a certain kind of division. (We want) to move people within an arts experience, to move someone in an under-served community and take them where they’ve only ever heard about, or take some elitist person to places they’d never go,” he said.

The MBMS festival comprises three programmes: the Arteries Programme, the Central Nervous System Programme (CNS) and a Workshop and Training Programme.

The Arteries programme takes place from March 21 to 23 March and includes a programme of works for and by children in the towns of Machadodorp / Emthonjeni, Belfast / Siyathuthuka and Dullstroom / Sakhelwe.

My Body My Space Public Arts Festival. Picture: Christo Dohe

The programme is made up of children’s theatre works by Wits’ Drama For Life Theatre Company and Human-Rights Day focussed performances by the children and youth of FATC’s ongoing Arts Education Programme in ELM, funded by Rand Merchant Bank.

The CNS programme takes place in Machadodorp, Emthonjeni and surrounding areas, from March 23 to 25 March, and is made up of a selection of commissioned performances by local, national and international artists.

This year, the festival will host international artists from Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Reunion Island and Spain, with talented artists from KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Gauteng and Mpumalanga.

It’s opening programme will feature a performance by Musa Hlatshwayo, who is the recipient of the 2018 Standard Bank Young Artist Award for dance.

Joining Musa as part of the festival opening programme on March 23 from 6pm, at Millys of Machadodorp, will be Soraya Thomas (Reunion Island) and McIntosh Jerahuni (Zimbabwe).

Songstress and composer Jennifer Ferguson and her son Gabriel Nyberg will take the audience on a personal musical journey called Songlines, which spans home and exile, memory and forgetting, the child and the wo/man, loss and wonder.

The festival runs until March 25 in Mpumalanga. For info where to stay, tickets, etc contact [email protected]