“I like leaving things open-ended,” says Monique Pelser, as she stands in the centre of her art exhibition, Conversations with my Father. “Very layered but intentionally framed so that everybody who comes in has a different experience.”
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Porcupine headdresses and flashy fedoras adorned some of the 100 poets and writers from the Eastern Cape who attended the symbolic launch of this year’s WordFest. With beaded necklaces, djembes and cell phone cameras, the parade of participants was a blend of cultures and backgrounds.
A walk around Festival exhibitions reveals sumptuous delicacies from wafer thin mobiles that float ethereally overhead to tiny paper parcels of images falling down a ladder. Loni Dräger sits in her chair, one of her wooden mobiles hovering overhead. The wood chips appear almost translucent around the edges, summing up the general air of unexpected fragility of her exhibition, Sensus.
The arts are as much about business as they are about performance. While the Festival literally provides a large platform for productions, ticket sales can’t be relied on as the only means of making a profit. Production companies that come up with innovative ways of making long-term profit also manage to cover the extensive costs of showcasing their work, as well as enjoying financial buoyancy for the rest of the year.
From colourful mosaics to history-bound collages – the Carinus Annex hosts a small exhibition with a lot of history. Aidan Westcott’s collages share the space with Riona van der Merwe’s mosaics for the first time. Westcott’s collages are made up of materials he has found in antique stores around the Eastern Cape. One main theme found throughout the works is hand-painted fish. The fish is a symbol of the subconscious noted by Karl Jung.
The stall is full of interesting goodies. Glittering mobiles, intricately patterned bird cages and measuring spoons offering bites of love are just some of the things on offer at the Art at Work stall at the Village Green. Owners Ruth and André Marriott started Art at Work 11 years ago in Somerset West, with a view of assisting women in informal settlements in Cape Town who have been affected by HIV, abuse and rape.
Down a nameless Grahamstown alleyway two guys stand huddled in hoodies, sketch books in hand, occasionally glancing up at the white-washed wall that is soon to be their canvas. Dieter Schonkenchk, more commonly known as ‘Doc’, is part of a graffiti crew from Durban who are collaborating with local and international top comic artists to create a – legal – graffiti wall on Anglo African Street. It is one of the many events related to the CO/MIX exhibition, the main exhibition of which is currently being held at the Monument.
If you don’t have time to visit Mathias Chirombo’s Sacred Spaces exhibition at the Albany Museum, there’s always another option. For the first time at National Arts Festival, a virtual gallery tour has been uploaded onto the internet. The Rhodes New Media class, the geniuses behind CueOnline, have uploaded a three-dimensional tour of Mathias Chirombo’s Sacred Spaces onto photosynth.net.
This exhibition investigates the overlap between the physical and spiritual worlds, and depicts the traditional Shona custom of ancestral communication. “To our knowledge, it is the first time the programme Photosynth has been used by a South African media organisation,” said CueOnline editor Jude Mathurine. The CueOnline team hopes to produce at least 10 photosynths at this year’s Festival.
Click here to see mathias Chirombo’s Sacred Spaces exhibition
A young man is draped across a steel sculpture, wearing black and a devil-may-care look, knowing he should not be sullying the work, but doing it anyway. It’s the face and attitude of a young Alan Crump; teacher, curator, writer, judge, arts administrator and artist extraordinaire. The photograph, which forms part of the Alan Crump: A Fearless Vision exhibition, says a great deal about the man. But who exactly was Alan Crump?
For some people, gazing at an artwork, or even at the accompanying description, is not enough. Some want to ask questions, to talk about the work, to share the experience with others. For these people the Festival offers a series of Art Walkabouts, aiming to bring art viewers closer to the exhibitions.
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