Arts fest to remember

Edward Tsumele

Edward Tsumele

The programme for this year's Grahamstown Arts Festival from June 26 to July 5 will be as extensive as it promises to be an arts event to remember.

"A gathering of all these incredible artists all in one place, at one time, for ten days," said festival director Lynette Marais, "makes you aware of the richness of the talent in South Africa".

"Normally these performers are dispersed across the country and, increasingly, the world. But suddenly, at the festival, they are all in Grahamstown."

"You saw it first at the Festival" is a slogan that has never been more apt than this year. Every single one of the productions on the theatre programme is a South African première, with seven world premières. The music programme features events that will probably never be repeated with the same casts.

The festival programme offers everything from theatre, music, dance, and the visual arts.

In terms of music, Janine Neethling directs a line-up that includes Sibongile Khumalo, pictured, Themba Mkhize, the Bala Brothers, Sibongile Mngoma, Zanne Stapelberg, the Debbie Rakusin Dance Company, Jannie Moolman and the Standard Bank Jazz Trio - Concord Nkabinde, Shannon Mowday and Mark Fransman - all Standard Bank Young Artist Award winners for jazz over the past three years.

With regard to jazz, the gigs to look forward to are the rising stars on the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Festival mingling with performers at their peak, like dynamic young pianist Mark Fransman. South Africa's best will present once-off collaborations with their peers from Israel, Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Canada, Australia, Norway, Britain and the US. Where else but at the festival can you hear diva Sibongile Khumalo in concert with Dutch piano maestro Mike Del Ferro? Or bassist extraordinaire Carlo Mombelli squaring up to avantgarde Australian/German trombonist Adrian Mears?

Theatre lovers can check the work of young thespian Jaco Bouwer.

He will collaborate with writer Saartjie Botha in an innovative piece called Untitled. The play engages with the silent void between what we feel and what we express.

Dada Masilo will also present her work as the Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for 2008.