UJ Arts & Culture set to shine at this year’s National Arts Festival

As anticipation mounts for the 2017 National Arts Festival (NAF), which is scheduled to take place from 29 June to 8 July, the University of Johannesburg Arts & Culture (a division of FADA) is preparing to stage its biggest, most diverse programme yet. Underpinned by sustainable partnerships, this year’s line-up is marked by innovative theatre, thought-provoking discussion and all-round entertainment. With five productions, SA Shorts Vol II #2minutenoodles readings, and Think!Fest’s POP UPS, it furthers UJ Arts & Culture’s growing footprint at one of South Africa’s most important arts and cultural events.

This year’s UJ Arts & Culture student production gets a little playful, with a performance that speaks to the Festival’s younger audiences. Director Alby Michaels, and director-in-training Ayanda Bulose, bring the Roald Dahl classic James and the Giant Peach (adapted to stage by David Wood) to life. The play, set in a giant peach pit and filled with an odd assortment of characters, bristles with Dahl’s signature wit and humour. This whirlwind of adventure is a must see on the NAF’s newly established Family Fare programme.

Performance dates are scheduled as follows: Memory Hall on June 29 @14h00, June 30 @14h00, July 01 @14h00 and July 02 @14h00; Nompumeleo Hall Joza on 30 July @10h00

When children’s voices rise they often tell of an urgent truth – so much more so in the hurly-burly world of heavy politics. Dear Mr. Government, Please May I Have a Meeting with You Even Though I’m Six Years’ Old? is the culmination of an 18-month UJ Arts & Culture residency, incubated at the UJ Bunting Road Campus and supported by The Hillbrow Theatre. Directed by Jessica Lejowa, in collaboration with Cherae Halley and Bongile Gorata, this production is based on the words and experiences of children from Lesotho and South Africa. It is a tender look at the world and its governments through the eyes of children, told kindly and truthfully.

The work premiered at the 19th ASSITEJ World Congress and International Theatre Festival for Children and Young People. The work highlights UJ’s collective motivation and core objective to contribute to the idea of global citizenship and narratives which extend to meaningful conversations around poverty, gender issues and xenophobia.

Performance dates are scheduled as follows: Vicky’s on July 02 @10h00 (FREE), July 03 @12:30, July 04 @14:30, July 05 @18h00 and July 07 @20h30

Festival dance lovers can look forward to Dada Masilo’s reimagining of Giselle, which will appear on the Main Programme. This is her fourth reinterpretation of a ballet classic to make its South African debut at the National Arts Festival, and follows successful stagings of Romeo and Juliet (2008, Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance), Carmen (2009) and Swan Lake (2010). Masilo brings a darker element to the story of Giselle, a peasant girl who dies of a broken heart after discovering her lover is betrothed to another. On her death, Giselle is summoned by the Wilis, a group of ghostly women who dance men to death. They target her lover, but her love frees him from their grasp. Masilo chooses a more complex telling of this tale that focuses on the psychologies of the protagonists and explores deceit, betrayal, anger and heartbreak. She continually strives to create a new movement vocabulary and pushes herself in terms of narrative and storytelling. There will be a preview of this work on 24 and 25 June at the UJ Arts Theatre.

Performance dates are scheduled as follows: Rhodes Theatre on June 29 @18h00, June 30 @14h00 & 20h00, and July 01 @12h00 & 18h00

Supported by UJ Arts & Culture, Down to Earth is an intriguing piece of collaborative performance art, choreographed and performed by Kieron Jina (SA) and Marc Philipp Gabriel (GER), with live sound compositions by Yogin Sullaphen (SA). In a whirling dance of constructed identities, they explore the complexity behind the universal social interrogation of ‘where are you from?’ and ‘what do you do?’ Existing examples of socially-coded dance, music and cultural artifacts collide until alien identities are born and shattered on stage, drawing on the human body as a projection canvas.

Performance dates are scheduled as follows: PJ’s on July 04 @14h00, July 05 @12h00 & 18H00, and July 06 @14h00 and 20h00

Writer and performer Rehane Abrahams and director Sara Matchett (of The Mothertongue Project), head down to the NAF with their new work Womb of Fire. The play is the starting point for an examination of the performing female body as the site of disruption, where the body itself challenges the borders and boundaries of the body politic. Through personal, historical and political intersections, and within a non-Western mythical frame, the play fleshes out and localises the myth of Draupadi from the Mahabharata. The play’s title pays homage to Mahasweta Devi’s re-rendering of the figure of Drauapdi as a tribal activist in a story that forms part of her collection, Agnigharba (Womb of Fire). Matchett and Abrahams started the Mothertongue Project in 2000, with the production What the Water Gave Me. Since then, both Abrahams and Matchett have been separately researching the body as a site for personal and political agency, and embodied performance as a practice of freedom.

Performance dates are scheduled as follows: Rhodes Box on July 04 @ 20h00, July 05 @12h00 & 18h00, and July 06 @11h00

Acting head of arts and culture and producer Grace Meadows couldn’t be more energized by the ambitious NAF suite of contributions this year. “2017 is all about a keen focus on partnerships with creative collaborators. The offering is varied, robust and is something truly unique for our audiences to engage with.”

UJ Arts & Culture, supported by Wordfest and NAF, is proud to present the SA Shorts Vol II #2minutenoodles shortlisted play scripts, in a live reading at Wordfest. Following the call for two-minute scripts earlier this year, 28 scripts were selected by a panel of industry experts. From these 28 another panel of industry professionals will select the top 20 scripts, which will then move through to the publication and production process planned for 2017/18, with a potential premiere at the 2018 NAF. SA Shorts Vol II #2minutenoodles stems from SA Shorts: Quickies for a microwave generation, compiled and originally directed for UJ Arts & Culture by Alby Michaels in 2012, and Short, Sharp & Snappy 1 and 2 (2011), compiled by Robin Malan and Colleen Moroukian. The latter publications were aimed specifically at high schools and published through the inspired independent press, Junkets Publishers.

Performance dates are scheduled as follows: Eden Grove, Seminar Room 3 on July 01 @10h00 and July 02 @10h00

This year UJ Arts & Culture is participating in Think!Fest’s POP-UP series with unique opportunities for festival goers to get more from the experience. Post-Performance Discussions, What’s Your Story and On the Couch all offer audiences the chance to satisfy their theatrical curiosity. Many of UJ Arts & Culture’s productions will offer post performance discussions, providing an opportunity for audiences to participate in a moderated 30-minute discussion with the cast and the creative team behind a production.

What’s Your Story and On the Couch will both be held daily at the Rhodes Theatre Red Foyer. What’s Your Story invites audiences to discover the inspiration and creative processes of some of the creators, makers, misfits, rebels and troublemakers featured on this year’s Main Programme. Be it thought provoking, profound or playful, these conversations promise to never be dull.

Artists featured in On the Couch include Neo Muyanga (featured artist), Nadia Davids (What Remains), Sylvaine Strike (Tartuffe), Hannah Ma (international choreographer), Rehane Abrahams (Womb of Fire), Neil Coppen (Newfoundland), with many more directors, actors and playwrights lined up. Look out for the daily line-up on Twitter @thinkfestpopups, and at the Rhodes Theatre Café. Join creatives and cast members from a selection of NAF productions. On the Couch will take place daily in the Rhodes Theatre’s Red Foyer – interview times will announced on the board at the Rhodes Theatre Café and on Twitter @thinkfestpopups.

For more information, please contact Lakin Morgan-Baatjies on 011 559 4674 or lakinmb@uj.ac.za.


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 SAR 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. Equipped with state-of-the art, custom-built facilities, the Faculty is staffed by highly regarded academics, architects, artists and designers.