Theatre inspired by words

“What we have seen in the festival this week, is words that have inspired, conspired, interrogated, critiqued, analysed and reflected and I could add a lot more to that,” says Ismail Mahomed, Artistic Director of the National Arts Festival.

“Artists have always found inspiration somewhere,” says Mahomed. South Africa has a history of producing dynamic and empathetic works particularly during times of oppression and suffering.  The struggle brings people together and provokes stories portraying the indomitable human spirit.


The authors of My Johannesburg

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Will the 1820 Settler’s Monument be renamed?

The recent #RhodesMustFall campaign provoked vital conversations about the colonial heritage of the country.  Understandably, the monuments and artworks representing colonial history created a sense of unease among the students, which was emphasised by the institutional racism of the university. Brenda Schmahmann discusses the impact of these monuments, their naming and the particular changes underway for the 1820 Settler’s Monument in Grahamstown. Schmahmann is the South African Research Chair in South African Art and Visual Culture at the University of Johannesburg. Continue reading

Women pursuing cultural leadership despite challenges

Women are slowly making their way up in the world with things shifting and changing considerably over the years. The arts industry in particular is showing good signs. It was recently announced that 80% of this years National Arts Festival programme is written, created, directed or headlined by women.


Lliane Loots speaks to an audience member after the roundtable.

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Creation and appreciation of the arts remain a privilege


Michael Barry, Aidah Nalubowa, Pauline Bullen and Angelo Kakande join Ruth Simbao (not pictured) in discussing the way forward for decolonising the creative industry.

With the onset of the National Arts Festival in a town with a strong economic divide, it’s important to consider what seperates and excludes some people from creating and appreciating the arts.

Decolonisation is not a simple process, but is multi-faceted. “It is a worldwide hegemonic process that has been going on for centuries,” says panelist, Michael Barry. “It’s like a hydra, [even] if you chop off [the] economic arm of colonisation there’s [also] the cultural arm [and] the spiritual arm, it is something that is not going to just go away overnight.”

Barry was joined by Angelo Kakende, Pauline Bullen and Aidah Nalubowa in a panel chaired by Ruth Simbao. The discussants interrogated “the extreme importance for us in the South African art scene to engage with, collaborate with, learn with, unlearn with [and] have conversations with artists, writers and performers from other contexts …on the African continent,” said Simbao. Continue reading

The value of art goes beyond the price tag

Jen Snowball’s talk was a fitting kick-off for Think!Fest as it offered insight into the broader impact of arts, culture and creativity on the South African economy.

During the National Arts Festival, hundreds of people are employed in various festival related jobs. Several people get a platform to perform and sell their arts while others travel across the country and the world to pay for and celebrate art. Altogether, these activities have a great influence on  Grahamstown and Eastern Cape.

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