Uncategorized Afrikaans theatre endangered at Fest

Afrikaans theatre endangered at Fest

It’s not about “praat Afrikaans of hou jou bek”, but about how inclusive the National Arts Festival is of Afrikaans language productions.

Last year, Kobus Burger, the programme manager of the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees, wrote in Cue about the gaping absence of the cream of the crop of Afrikaans shows and music at the National Festival, and he argued for the necessity of a national dialogue to promote inclusiveness of all languages.

But Heike Gehring, creator and director of Hex and a drama lecturer at Rhodes University, says she has staged Afrikaans production at the Festival every year, including Vrypas, Ekspedisies and Lady Anne. Hex, based on the novel Feeks by Riana Scheepers, is a story-telling performance in Afrikaans with English and isiXhosa.

Gehring says it’s important to remember that the Festival is multicultural and performances should contain elements that transcend the boundaries of language, such as visual images, music and movement.

A question of culture?
Gehring says Festival Director Ismail Mahomed has been very supportive of Afrikaans work and says there is definitely a place for Afrikaans performances, especially as audiences do not necessarily have to consist of Afrikaans-speaking members only.
Adrienne Sichel, an acclaimed South African arts journalist, also thinks that Afrikaans language performances should draw audiences made up of more than just Afrikaans speakers. Sichel, who is on the Festival Committee for theatre, dance and arts development, says: “It is dangerous to segregate a culture and a language.” She says she has noticed a core Afrikaans audience at past festivals.

This year Skrapnel, a play by Jaco Bouwer and Willem Anker, has made its way on to the Main programme. It has a short run right at the beginning of the Festival, and Bouwer says it will be interesting to see the audience attendance: “I think people will want to see it.” Bouwer, who received the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Drama in 2008, says the support he has received from the Festival Committee has been tremendous.

Die taal op die Fringe
Hennie van Greunen, director and translator of Dinsdae by Morrie and Shirley Valentyn, two Afrikaans plays on the Fringe programme, says it is important to ask how inclusive the National Arts Festival is, but also how inclusive the other festivals in South Africa are. He says he is here not only to stage shows, but to see shows that can only be viewed at this festival.

Van Greunen says it is definitely a risk to bring an Afrikaans production to Grahamstown as it is expensive to put on a show for the Fringe but he highlights two “quality” Afrikaans performances by the Wordsmith’s Theatre Factory. Chris van Niekerk, who stars in Dinsdae by Morrie alongside Pedro Kruger, says the National Arts Festival is the best festival in South Africa and he predicts that from this year onwards it will see an influx of Afrikaans productions at the Festival. They’re not here to make money, he said, but to be inspired by the Festival, and hopefully to break even.

Other Afrikaans productions on the Fringe are Kruispad by Wim Vorster and Vry! by Danie Matthee.

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