Grahamstown Arts Festival is ready to roll
THE amazing 38th National Arts Festival opens tonight in Grahamstown in a burst of colour and sound.
Ticket sales are believed to be up compared to last year, but festival bosses are keeping their traditional silence in order not to affect last-minute decisions.
Festival chief executive officer Tony Lankester said: "The early signs are good that we are going to have a good year. The weather will be cold, but dry. The posters are going up and the town is waking."
Festival spokeswoman Gilly Hemphill said the 470 shows - 80 on the Main and 390 on the Fringe - are ready to roll.
Lankester said the opening would be attended by an Eastern Cape government delegation led by Premier Noxolo Kiviet and arts and culture MEC Xoliswa Tom.
The festival's creative director, Ismail Mohamed, has again ensured the official launch will offer a tantalising glimpse of the extraordinary spread of arts on display over the next 11 days.
However, tonight's visual landscape will be dominated by four 20kg three-metre high giant puppets.
Sakhuluntu Cultural Group festival team leader and farmworker Hendrick Goliath, 36, worked with Bongani "Cannon" Hloyi, 26, Nomvuselelo Qokose, 19, Hlumisa Goliath, 28, and Mvuleni Ndumo, 32, to tell a story, said Merran Roy, of Hamburg, who is the chairperson of Sakhuluntu.
She said: "The puppet makers were making larger-than-life characters from their own world, which told a story of people living in poverty who are ignored."
Sakhuluntu is working with 200 youths from Grahamstown's Joza township and 20 from Trappes Valley. The youths are choreographing dance, and making drama, art and music.
"The kids are expressing themselves and they practice every day. They have become more confident, they ask questions, and they put themselves forward."
Lankester said: "We used Sakhuluntu because they are an amazing demonstration of how people can turn their lives around through the power of the arts."