UJ Arts & Culture gears up for Vrystaat Arts Festival

UJ Arts & Culture is gearing up for its tour to the Vrystaat Arts Festival taking place in Bloemfontein from 2 to 8 October. A division of the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture (FADA) at the University of Johannesburg, UJ Arts & Culture will be touring to the ‘One festival, many stories’ annual event with four productions.

“The festival caters for a diverse audience and offers space for a broad range of arts and culture events making it the ideal destination for UJ Arts & Culture that has garnered acknowledgment for its interdisciplinary and experimental work,” says Pieter Jacobs, Head of UJ Arts & Culture.

The festival, based at the University of the Vrystaat, has been a part of the South African arts and culture calendar for 21 years and continues to bring multilingual, national, and international work in a range of genres to Bloemfontein.

“We really look forward to this year’s Festival. The diversity of stories seen in the four productions we are taking to Bloemfontein showcases the talent, concerns, and depth of content UJ Arts & Culture produces. They all speak in their own way to the festival’s ethos and mission, bringing valuable conversations to the South African art landscape,” says UJ Arts & Culture’s Producer and Operations Manager, Karabo Legoabe.

Developed in 2020 as part of the UJ Playwriting Laboratory launched by Jacobs, are two new South African texts presented as an experimental double-bill under the directorial hand of award-winning Jade Bowers. The project, titled ‘The Paper Double-Bill’, features two actors, two plays, one set, and one director and comprises ‘Papercuts’ by Tamarisk Ray Glogauer and ‘Waiting for Lift-Off’ by Nomakhwezi Becker.

Directed by Gopala Davies and written by Pieter Jacobs, ‘Macabre’ delves into the experience of senescence and abandonment. This site-oriented suspense play featuring South African heavy weights, Judy Ditchfield and Fezile Mpela, invites small audiences to an experimental immersive theatre work.

Developed during the height of the pandemic and first presented as an experimental virtual play, ‘Mother’s Grimm’ written by Ameera Patel and directed by Jade Bowers, is targeted at younger audiences and is a coming-of-age story rooted in well-known fairy tales.

Recently premiered at the Durban International Film Festival 2022, this unique experiment in theatre-making is director Jade Bowers’ first feature film. Supported by Noah’s Cheese, produced by Karabo Legoabe and written by Pieter Jacobs, ‘Skeletons’ features Jacques Blignaut, Carla Fonseca-Mokgata, Wayne van Rooyen and Mpho Osei-Tutu and will have two screenings at the festival. ‘Skeletons’ casts a spotlight on matters of land and ownership, the vicious cycle of oppression and confronts the notions of home, belonging, and identity.



‘Papercuts’ is set in a papery world somewhere between the old and the new. Embla and Writer search through the detritus in an attempt to find answers, each other, and complete an unnamed commission. The script explores themes of love, loneliness, womanhood, religion, and what it means to write down our stories in a burning world.

‘Waiting for Lift-Off’ features two sisters trying to connect from across oceans and using language, memory, song, and paper planes, the stories of their lives unfold. In their search for each other, they find different ways of taking flight, reaching, disappearing, and remembering.

Director: Jade Bowers

Performers: Carla Classen and Ziaphora Dakile

Playwrights: Tamarisk Ray Glogauer and Nomakhwezi Becker

Duration: 50 min per show with an interval in-between

Dates: 4 Oct 16:00, 5 Oct 16:00, 6 Oct 16:00

Venue: Albert Wessels Auditorium (AWO)

Ticket Price: R160 | R170 at the door


This immersive theatre experience is set in modern-day South Africa. The play delves into the experience of senescence and abandonment. This site-oriented psychological suspense play invites small audiences for an exclusive intimate experience. ‘Macabre’ is a story of guilt, loss, and remorse sparked by the dramatic collision between Maude’s past and Abel’s future.

Director: Gopala Davies

Performers: Judy Ditchfiled and Fezile Mpela

Musical Director: Matthew MacFarlane

Playwright: Pieter Jacobs

Production Designer: Karabo Legoabe

Dates: 3 Oct 19:00, 4 Oct 20:00, 5 Oct 19:30, 6 Oct 20:00, 7 Oct 20:00, 8 Oct 19:00

Venue: Adelante Lodge

Ticket Price: R180 | R190 at the door


This coming-of-age story sees Goldilocks, Shahrazad, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Evil Queen, Rapunzel, and Anansi all brought together in one tale. Thirteen-year-old Goldi has just become a big sibling and can’t stand the new status quo. She misses her mother’s stories as that little gremlin and the evil queen keep pushing her away. Through her mother’s stories, Goldi tells her tales from being the Prince trying to rescue Rapunzel to chasing the stupid baby Anansi away.

Director: Jade Bowers

Musical Director: Yogin Sullaphen

Performers: Carla Classen, Cheraè Halley and Ameera Patel

Playwright: Ameera Patel

Dates: 3 Oct 12:00, 4 Oct 10:00, 5 Oct 10:00, 6 Oct 10:00

Venue: Scholtz Hall

Ticket Price: R100 | R110 at the door


Set in the heart of the Maluti mountains, ‘Skeletons’ grapples with social and political issues. This magical realism film experiment casts a spotlight on matters of land and ownership. As the stories of four multidimensional characters unfold in a space and time of absolute scarcity, and they wrestle to break free from the vicious cycle of oppression, ‘Skeletons’ confronts the notions of home, belonging, and identity.

Director: Jade Bowers

Performers: Jacques Blignaut, Carla Fonseca-Mokgata, Wayne van Rooyen and Mpho Osei-Tutu

Writer: Pieter Jacobs

Producer: Karabo Legoabe

Director of Photography: Bonga Nkomo

Editor: Mzwakhe Dlamini

Shoot location: Noah’s Cheese Farm

Dates: 7 & 8 Oct 19:00

Venue: Visual Media Hub


UJ Arts & Culture, a division of the Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture (FADA) produces and presents world-class student and professional arts programmes aligned to the UJ vision of an international university of choice, anchored in Africa, dynamically shaping the future. A robust range of arts platforms are offered on all four UJ campuses for students, staff, alumni and the general public to experience and engage with emerging and established Pan-African and international artists drawn from the full spectrum of the arts.

In addition to UJ Arts & Culture, FADA (www.uj.ac.za/fada) offers programmes in eight creative disciplines, in Art, Design and Architecture, as well as playing home to the NRF SARChI Chair in South African Art & Visual Culture, and the Visual Identities in Art & Design Research Centre. The Faculty has a strong focus on sustainability and relevance, and engages actively with the dynamism, creativity and diversity of Johannesburg in imagining new approaches to art and design education.


The Vrystaat Arts Festival is one of the key arts festivals on the African continent, offering national and international work in a range of genres for the past 22 years. The festival’s vision is centred on the principle of ‘One festival, many stories,’ with its mission to support the development and presentation of great art in the Vrystaat for all. The festival is the first and only South African cultural entity to follow Khoi-San protocol, recognising the First Nations people and traditional owners of the land in public platforms and the festival programme. Over the last decade, it has become one of South Africa’s most international and multi-lingual festivals, supporting and presenting a wide variety of work by both established and up and coming artists as well as providing space for community arts initiatives and student works. The festival takes place at the Bloemfontein campus of the University of the Vrystaat which is made available for the duration of the festival.