Ricochet News

Diverse and dynamic National Arts Festival 2018 programme packs a punch

By Liesl Silverman - Jul 2, 2018
Diverse and dynamic National Arts Festival 2018 programme packs a punch

The National Arts Festival, held annually in Grahamstown, may be in its 44th year, but a fresh and dynamic line-up for its 2018 programme ensured that it packed a punch with audiences. This year it definitely did not disappoint with a diverse and culturally rich programme.

The programme offers an array of acts from national and international artist of the highest standard. Highlights from the opening weekend included Dance, Jazz and Theatre- with stellar performances from South African dancer Mamela Nyamza, Jazz singer Thandi Ntuli, Theatre director Jemma Kahn and American Jazz pianist Aaron Goldberg.

As arts and culture lovers descended on Grahamstown the city came to life. On Saturday the streets were buzzing with music and excited chatter.

With performers from New York to Germany and home grown talent from the Eastern Cape, there was something for everyone.

In particular, special mention must go to South African dancer and performer, Mamela Nyamza. The artist’s autobiographical dance piece titled Hatched,is performed with her son, Amkele Mandla and explores her life as a dancer, mother and her different cultural personas, influenced by her classical ballet training and African roots.

The performance is littered with domestic references such as a dress made from clothes pegs and a washing line and inspects the two worlds that Nyamza must navigate in her life as a performer.

On one hand she is a mother and a black African woman, on the other she is a classically trained ballerina that must conform to the norms and expectations of western society.

At one point in the performance she wraps herself tightly in red fabric, while opera music plays in the background. The red cloth inhibits and restricts her movement, making her appear like an armless Grecian bust , restricted by western standards.

At times in the performance she is like an elegant swan, at other times an awkward duckling, juggling masculine and feminine roles, it is a captivating performance.

“I have been performing this dance for ten years now and always with my son. As my son has grown up he has adapted his performance. When we first performed the dance, he was eight years old and would just draw on stage ,now aged eighteen we added hip-hop music and a drawing easel which present his interests” said Nyamza.

Mamela Nyamza will be performing a dance piece titled Black privilegefrom the 6th to 8th of July at the Alec Mullins hall, which is not to be missed.

Other outstanding performances over the weekend were the Aaron Goldberg Trio and South African Jazz singer Thandi Ntuli.

Jazz pianist Aaron Goldberg, drummer Leon Parker and bass player Matt Penman performed to a pack DSG Hall and received a standing ovation.

The internationally renowned trio, who herald from New York, thrilled audiences with a partly improvised jazz performance, be-pop style jazz and Parker performing body percussion, to an excited audience.

An hour after the trio performed at DSG Hall, this year’s Standard Bank Young artist for Jazz, singer Thandi Ntuli stepped on stage.

Thandi teamed up with DJ Khenzero and her vibrant young band, who performed The rebirth of cool, a reinterpretation of Miles Davis’s seminal 1957 album , Birth of the cool.

Thandi’s interpretation of the album was electrifying and united three generations of music – 1960’s jazz, 1990’s hip hop and contemporary South African jazz.

Images: Jan Potgieter

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