Rich pickings for arts lovers as fest does Mzansi proud

DISHING IT UP: Ntomboxolo Donyeli and Andrew Buckland.

DISHING IT UP: Ntomboxolo Donyeli and Andrew Buckland.

Published Dec 21, 2010


The State Theatre’s Mzansi Fela festival was amplified this year and boasted the kind of variety that can only signal its growth.

From music to theatre it was a bumper season of artistic treats. Music acts included the likes of Prime Circle, Lira, Freshlyground, gospel singer Solly Mahlangu and the Tshwane Gospel Choir.

Keeping with the Christmas spirit, a special show called Carols Go Jazz, which has been travelling the country and is headlined by the jazz songstress and Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for Jazz 2010, Melanie Scholtz, was also slotted in.

Theatrical highlights included the three productions in the mainstream theatre programme – Andrew and Janet Buckland’s Breed from the Ubom Eastern Cape Drama Company, Mbali Kgosidintsi’s Tseleng – The Baggage of Bags, directed by Sara Matchett of Mothertongue projects, and Thapelo Motloung’s Spirit and Bones.

Breed and Tseleng are this year’s highlights from the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. Breed deals sensitively and poetically with South African race issues, some of which are still prevalent in rural areas. The play uses the music of Bach as the sound- track and the thread that binds together this tale of loss, anger and denial. It’s a brilliant piece of work that sees the coming together of two different worlds.

Tseleng charms with the way it uses myths and a contemporary narrative to tell the story of a woman with a nomadic lifestyle and a lot of baggage. Mbali Kgosidintsi effectively delivers her one- woman show with a competent script.

Walking into the theatre, you are asked to write down on a piece of paper any issue you are struggling with. At the end of the show, you’re asked to shred that piece of paper and throw it in the washing basket that forms part of the set, thus signalling letting go of your problems.

The show is funny, sad and poignant, easily getting its hooks in you.

Spirit and Bones surprises by how accurate it is in telling its story. Many productions have attempted to depict what happens in the spiritual world, or when one is chosen by ancestors to become an inyanga or a healer. Spirit and Bones comes very close to that.

It also intrigues with its music and spunky choreo- graphy. It enters the spiritual realm with bravery and creativity.

While the State Theatre and the festival improve, they also lag in some areas. Getting audiences for some shows is still a problem. And some miscommunication adds to the disorganisation when some shows are rescheduled or cancelled at the last minute.

But the Manzi Fela fest is stamping its presence on the arts world and we’ll wait to see what it dishes up next year. - Tonight

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