SOULFULLY REWARDING: A New Life core company members are (back) Verushka Pather, Vusi Makhanya, Caroline Smart and Sivanesan Dharmalingam. In front are Tanya Govender (in wheelchair), Khethelo Doncabe, Pauline Dalais, Thobani Malevu and Kiara Moodley.

The rich and productive career, spanning 70 years, of one of South Africa’s foremost visual artists of the older generation, Hannatjie van der Wat, 90, will be celebrated in her latest exhibition.

This retrospective, In Retro, can be viewed from Friday to June 22 in the The Stellenbosch Modern and Contemporary (Smac) Art Gallery, 1st Floor, De Wet Centre, Church Street, Stellenbosch.

Born in 1923 in Frankfort in the then Orange Free State, Van der Wat is a multiple award-winning painter who initially was taught by Maurice van Essche at the Witwatersrand Technical Art School before furthering her studies under Sidney Goldblatt in Joburg.

She has enjoyed an international reputation since the 1960s. Since the mid-1990s she has twice been honoured by the Brazilian Academy of Fine Arts in Rio de Janeiro. In 2005 she was part of the Brazilian National Council of Women’s Ten Women of the Year Awards.

The exhibition opening on Thursday will feature the premiere of a ballet conceptualised and composed for the occasion by Dr Rexleigh Bunyard.

Titled Namaste – my soul bows to your soul (a Hindu greeting), the short ballet references the romance between Van der Wat and her husband, the well-known gynaecologist Dr Koos van der Wat. Six weeks ago they celebrated their union of 65 years.

Musically, Namaste reflects in many ways on the era in which this happy union came about. The story is told in 14 short movements and lasts 15 minutes.

The ballet was choreographed by Cilna Katzke, a freelance dancer, choreographer and core member of Cape Town’s Underground Dance Theatre. She was assisted by Joy Millar. The costume design is by Marianne Fassler.

Four Cape Town dancers who at some stage studied or are studying at UCT’s School of Dance will perform this ballet – Alan Parker, Christy Morcos, Kimberley Burger and Lorin Sookool. They will dance to orchestral backtracks.

Namaste will be seen again on October 9 when UCT’s School of Dance will present their annual contemporary dance programme. – Tonight Reporter