The 15 days of amazing was truly amazing! I enjoyed a lot of paint work on the streets and all the crafts. Much of what I saw affirmed that this continent has a lot of talent. However, there is a need to cultivate innovation. Many of the stalls tended to have very similar art work. For example, if there were, say 50 stalls, then more than half of them would have paintings of women with clay pots on their heads. Believe me, there were lovely! But with some, it felt like one was seeing replicated work that seemed to suggest that the artist had far more potential than reflected on their paintings, if only they were to try something else or dare I say play with more colour!
I also attended a few shows. I went to Sibongile Khumalo with Danilo Perez and attended the gala concert. These were excellent but I am not sure if that had anything to do with the fact that I was with my two beautiful sisters – Shono and Fila. I really had fun! Sibongile is truly captivating and Richard Cock is a wonderful conductor. Part of his charm is that he is comfortable in his own skin, and at his age, he understands that he has very little to lose. Trust me, he is not that old, but frankly: “ho hole mo a tsoang, ho haufi mo a eang”. (Translated with a bit of context: in his journey of life, it is far where he is from and near to where he is heading. In other words, he has run the distance and all that awaits him is ….[hint is from the bible])
In support of Injairu, I went to watch a street performance from a group of disadvantaged youth comprising of street kids. They demonstrated a lot of potential. What I liked the most was their use of rubbish as their metaphor. This was intended to convey the message that what one regards as rubbish to another, it is something more. Part of what they did to convey this message was to tailor their costumes using plastics and all sort of rubbish. They also made musical instruments with it. They used cans and filled 2 litre oros containers with whatever that would produce a rattling sound. Overall, I was really moved. I was reminded of the sesotho saying: “le sehole se setle ho ‘masona”! Translated with a degree of political correctness, this means each child is precious to their mother able bodied or otherwise! In part, I guess this saying came to mind because I realised that the metaphor extended beyond creating environmental awareness to appreciating the humanity of the street kids. I know sometimes it easier to see them as potential thieves, but the truth is that, to someone else, they are precious. Injairu I commend you my sister with your efforts. It is people like you that give humility a new meaning. Keep up the good work and soon I shall be assisting but not on the artistic side…(yes I know that is an obvious ‘duh’ but had to say it nonetheless).
I am trying to keep it short but with so much amazement how can I? I also went to see Judith Sephuma unplugged. Wow, she truly was unplugged! She sang a few of her own songs and songs by other wonderful and gifted artists. Her line up included the following: There’s music in the air; don’t let the sun go down me; wind beneath my wings; cry, smile and dance; etc. I enjoyed every bit of it. There was even a touch of gospel…talk about music being the food for the soul!
As the icing on my cake, I also saw Hugh Masekela and Sibongile Khumalo perform in a musical called: Songs of Migration. It was mind blowing; Hugh not only can he play his trumpet he is still capable of getting right down to the floor when he dances. I wonder how many people beyond 60 can do what he does? Well back to the point, he and Sibongile demostrated that they were multi-talented. They narrated, conducted and sang wonderfully!
This musical is really really worth seeing — all of the people on stage including the band were clearly gifted! I don’t want to deprive anyone the pleasure of enjoying this musical but just so you know what it is about let me offer you a taste… As the name suggests it is about migration. To be exact, songs that capture different scenarios of people who have moved from their native land and the realities of their day to day lives and that of their loved ones left behind. These songs conveyed a number of things using the many languages that South Africa has. For the simple reason that I am not good with languages I didn’t understand many of the songs. However, this does not mean I couldn’t follow! That truly was the beauty of it all! Whatever the language we all as humans share the same emotions. When we are separated from our loved ones be it because of the politics of the day or to seek employment in the city, we worry and experience feeling of longing. Hence, why we may visit our favourite drinking holes (aka shebeens) to numb our pain. Or perhaps sit around and laugh at it all by imitating our so-called bosses or those in our new environment. Yet other times we allow ourselves to be in a complete state of denial. Why? Because it perfectly human for us to want to be in denial. Denial allows us to convince ourselves that we are not the forgotten. Our loved ones will write to us those letters that we so desperately long for. Even if it is obvious that those letters are not forthcoming, denial becomes a companion of hope. And we cling to that hope, on the one hand, because we love them and pray that love will conquer it all. On the other hand, we cling to hope because we are battling with the reality of returning empty handed should things not workout as hoped for. Blah blah blah! I really cannot unpack the whole production but given an opportunity to see it again I will.
Overall, my 15 days of amazing were amazing but I can’t capture it all. Next year I think I will attempt to blog each day. So that I don’t end up lacking the energy to describe wonderful performances like one by the Wits choir – diverse, well conducted, and simply marvellous.
People do visit the Grahamstown arts festival, it is absolutely inspiring to say the least. God willing see you all next year. Much love and peace to all!