Art Night and creative days at the Cape Town Festival
by Tracy Murinik
Having shifted the dates from the erratic weather potential of early spring in Cape Town to the (hopefully still) delectable warmth of late summer (read March 16-24), the Cape Town Festival appears to be mostly set and sorted and - according to the text that floats prettily on their new website (www.capetownfestival.co.za) - already "hotting up" the city in anticipation of great and wondrous things, no matter what the weather decides to do.
The instruction from the top (the creative vision of festival director Zayd Minty) is "to bring the atmosphere of heat, life, movement and good times to the city during the period ...", with a "sexy new image" and "a seductive and dynamic arts and heritage programme filled with music, performance, visual arts, film, and social dance." From the prospective overall programme line-up, this seems feasible enough; and there is a strong focus on "sexy" - from fashion to music, dance, performance and poetry. From a Visual Arts (that's VA) perspective, the going looks pretty good: it's vast, varied and will be setting out to engage with public spaces within Cape Town and surrounding areas, including the Company Gardens, the Cape Town Station, the Green Point Somerset stretch and out into Khayelitsha and Manenberg. The biennial Month of Photography (MOP) should account for a large portion of the VA in the city, promising to leave a photographic trail that'll span, impressively, over 140 venues. But there will be promising viewing potential in other formats and media too. Many of this year's projects take further the themes of "history, geography, memory and urban space" which were core components of 2000's festival concept. And be prepared for a host of discussion and debate around 'Public Art'.
A meltdown on some of the anticipated highlights necessarily includes the International Symposium on Public Art, organised by Public Eye - sporting an impressive line-up of speakers and panelists spanning various bits of the globe, and launching at the old Moravian Chapel in District Six with a keynote address by the dynamic Professor Jane Taylor, with a paper questioning precisely who "the public" is. See Beyond the Gallery: Art in Public Spaces for the full story and programme.
'Art Night', that fabulous ode to art by starlight that has become a treasured institution in Cape Town: that designated inter-gallery-hopping-street-roaming commitment to nightlife, street suss, window shopping and smugly bad behaviour ... is back on March 20 (Thursday the 21st is a public holiday), in and out of galleries, cafes, shops along Church Street and surrounds. Forming part of the festival's 'Night Vision', this year entitled 'Passion', the night calls for art schmoozing, museum spotting, café society-moding, market hopping, antique browsing, fashion posing, street dancing, eating, wickedly cackling and all-night boogying. This year also including 'Tickled Pink on Somerset', where the prancing and dancing continues. Rikkis will be shuttling between all venues throughout the night.
'Voices in Transit', curated by Roger van Wyk and Liz Broukaert, takes on Cape Town Station as an environment where issues of xenophobia, racism and displacement are explored using an array of cultural means, including art installations and photography, music, drama, Commuter FM radio, poetry, video and film and a pan-African fashion show!
'Changing the Subject' uses the ambivalent reception of the Van Riebeeck Tricentenary celebration in 1952 as a point of departure to look at issues of memorialisation and public sculpture - 50 years later. Curated by Jos Thorne and the Project on Public Pasts (POPP) project, it takes place in the Company Gardens, Langa and other venues around the city.
'Vodacom in Touch', a project which rotates annually to different suburbs and community centres in the city, will take place this year at the Silvertree Youth Club in Manenberg and Oliver Tambo Hall in Khayelitsha on March 17. Crafts, performance, visual arts, film and music - with free poetic bus trips leaving from the Clocktower district at the V& A Waterfront, to get you there.
'Insight - Life in the Northern Suburbs' at the Arts Association of Bellville gallery is a project using disposable cameras to document ordinary lives. Hands, Hearts and Heads brings an interactive crafts display and market to the Company Gardens. The Cape Town Civic Centre will play host to a number of exhibits about Cape Town initiatives including the project on Land Restitution. There is an open studio and activities at Greatmore Studios with resident artists, Thami Kiti, Wonder, Lalitha Jawahirilal, Velile Soha, Ishmael Thayssen, Conrad Botes, Billy Mandindi, Anthony Cawood and Janet Ranson.
And finally kids, too, will be getting their very own fab and delicious VA and popcorn moment, with the Children's Film Festival at the South African Museum, supported by the Indian High Commission, and screening a full programme of Indian and South African films and videos.
Sadly, however, Angela Ferreira's 'Zip Zap Circus' project - a model of a
partial section of an unrealised building to house the Zip Zap Circus
School, designed a number of years ago by architect Pancho Guedes, but which
remains unbuilt - will now also remain unseen during the festival due to a
shortfall of funding that was initially set aside for it in January by the
festival, but which was ultimately not forthcoming from the local Arts and
So, to give real-life substance to the issues bound to be raised in the
"host of discussion and debate" during the symposium and through the aims of
the festival as a whole, here's hoping that public art, of all description,
gets the official support that would allow it to actually happen and be
fully realised, rather than just encouraging thoughtfully conceived projects
to collect on pieces of paper.
A festival supplement accompanies the March edition of the Big Issue.